Sunday, June 1, 2008

Banality killed the radio star.

American Idol. Eurovision Song Contest. What is happening to music these days? While this has been a process that has been going on for about the past decade and a half, if not longer, it is sad to hear what passes for musical craftsmanship. Has all originality gone out the window?

Perhaps I am a bit of a dinosaur, but I feel very lucky growing up as part of the last generation to experience rock/pop/ punk, and whatever other tag you want to apply, as original and creative music. I remember all my friends and I would be glued to the radio to WNEW-FM in NYC to hear what new groups were out there, and what DJ's like Scott "The Professor" Muni would let us be privy to. This is when radio DJ's had a tremendous amount of freedom to play what they wanted to, and this allowed a huge array of talent to be brought to the forefront of America.

Originality. It is something that seems to be so sadly lacking today. Sampling has taken the place of any original ideas. Stealing others work passes for the lack of any real talent. There are very few artists that have caught my attention over the last 10 years or so. Have I not been paying close enough attention? I don't know. I will admit to liking Fatboy Slim, for reasons I cannot articulate. (Yes, he tends to sample, but he seems to have an original style as well.) If anyone has other suggestions to things that might catch my ear, I am open to them.

I got to thinking about this while watching one of my favorite concert films, "The Last Waltz." The Band was one of the most influential American (Canadian-American, if we want to be precise.) bands that ever existed. For those not in the know, they started off as a back-up band to Ronnie Hawkins, an American rockabilly singer living in Canada. They were known then as "The Hawks," and through a series of events, wound up in Woodstock, NY backing up Bob Dylan. (They were Dylan's back-up band when he went electric.) Simply known then as The Band, they were so influential, that Eric Clapton tried for quite sometime to join them. They took so many musical influences and came up with music so original and so their own.

I would highly recommend getting this DVD, if you are not familiar with it. Here is a little taste:

I have to wonder why it is that as I have gotten older, I have less embraced new music as much as gotten more into jazz and blues. They seem to speak to me more. While I am not a musician, I appreciate good musicianship. I appreciate craftsmanship. I have no doubt that stems from my own work as a theatre and film actor. Creation of a character is akin to creating a piece of music; it comes from somewhere deep inside of a person. It is an expression of themselves.

Somehow, too much of today's music is less about personal expression, and more about style over substance.

P.S. - If you want to know more about The Band, look here:


Jay said...

I know what you mean. A lot of music these days is very ho-hum, and I can't stand the 'new' style of singing which is all wibbly and makes me think they're afraid to hold a note for more than a second at a time.

I think the only new band I've heard and liked in recent years is The View. They're very young, but I like the sound and they might mature interestingly. Other than that, I've found an awful lot of bands who've made one song I've loved, but looking deeper, well, it's the only one I do like. For instance, I love Dry The Rain by The Beta Band, and Cold Blooded Old Times by Smog, but I don't like either of the bands' output enough to by an album.

I've heard quite a bit of The Band, since they're a favourite of the Other Half's, along with the Floyd and Dylan etc. We have an interesting collection between us.

We both love The Traveling Wilburys. I really wish there was more of that stuff.

gemmak said...

Bring back the 70's!! ;o) Ok....perhaps not the 70's....

having my cake said...

My teen is always amazed that I know all the words to the newest tunes! And she just wont accept that I heard the catchy bits of the latest song 20 years ago :)

Galoot said...

The filmed version of "The Weight" with the Staple Singers is pretty damn cool. I remember watching that video on MTV back in the '80's. I was too young to start collecting them at the time, but began, in earnest, during college. Love The Band.

Mr. Nighttime said...

galoot - sorry for taking so long to respond, but life is nuts at the moment. Yes, the Staple Singers doing "The Weight" was very, very cool, as was "Evangeline" with EmmyLou Harris.

Galoot said...

I've read both "This Wheel's On Fire" and "Across The Great Divide". Both coming at The Band from different perspectives. I highly recommend both.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Wibbly? It's not 'wibbly', Jay. It's BLEATING. Argh, I hate that new style, like they're bleating.

Music today...well, the kind I hear on the radio and see on music videos on that music? I think what we're experiencing is the 'dumbing' down of things.

I grew up on the stuff my brothers played...Led Zepplin, Janis Joplin, and love it all.

Though, like junk books, I enjoy some of the 'junk' songs today. But I long for songs with depth, meaning, music.