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Is there enough 'heart and soul' in mainstream music today?


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Old 25-01-2013, 16:59
Jay Bigz
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This question goes out to all music lovers, and fans, of any age!

Do you feel there is enough heart and soul in commerical music today?

I personally feel the 60's, 70's, 80's, and even 90's contained a lot of heart felt stuff, where you could really appreciate the emotions, chords, and harmonies in a great piece of music. This kind of stuff was popular, and it sold.

Fast forward to 2013 - the charts is full of manufactured rubbish, in my opinion. Good music has been replaced with monotone rubbish, it seems - and there's about a million great chord progressions, and notes that are just not used anymore...Why?

Loudness, or volume, seems to be the most important factor now.

As a music producer, who is currently working on a new 'sound' (will be promoting stuff later in the year) I'm very keen to know if music lovers, of all ages, and taste, are happy with the quality of music today? Would you be open to more 'melodic' music like we've seen in the past? Or is 'melodic' stuff not cool anymore?

Jay
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Old 25-01-2013, 17:21
Eraserhead
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Maybe I'm just getting old but pop music these days seems to feature very little music at all. It's all vocal-led and music seems to be almost an afterthought - stick on a backbeat and a half-assed keyboard riff and you're done.

Nice and cheap, loads of dosh for the producer / record label.

Perhaps the likes of Adele puts heart into her songs but they're still devoid of any decent musical accompaniment as far as my ears can detect.
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Old 25-01-2013, 17:27
Jay Bigz
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Maybe I'm just getting old but pop music these days seems to feature very little music at all. It's all vocal-led and music seems to be almost an afterthought - stick on a backbeat and a half-assed keyboard riff and you're done.

Nice and cheap, loads of dosh for the producer / record label.

Perhaps the likes of Adele puts heart into her songs but they're still devoid of any decent musical accompaniment as far as my ears can detect.
Spot on to how I feel.

As a half decent piano player, I often stick chart stuff on and jam along with it to see what scales, or progressions they've used - I'm often staggered at how some of them consist of about three notes, and a shite melody, when there is so much more they could have done with it. It's actually painful, and makes me angry - and what's worse is that people like this stuff too? They must do, if it sells.

I fear for the future of commerical music if this is now an acceptable standard to consumers

p.s I can't wait until this 'dance' era is over - it's not even 'dance' music in the traditional sense is it? Shit synth sounds, a couple of notes, and volume, volume, volume. - Dance music should make you want to actually dance....
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Old 25-01-2013, 17:35
mimicole
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Spot on to how I feel.

As a half decent piano player, I often stick chart stuff on and jam along with it to see what scales, or progressions they've used - I'm often staggered at how some of them consist of about three notes, and a shite melody, when there is so much more they could have done with it. It's actually painful, and makes me angry - and what's worse is that people like this stuff too? They must do, if it sells.

I fear for the future of commerical music if this is now an acceptable standard to consumers

p.s I can't wait until this 'dance' era is over - it's not even 'dance' music in the traditional sense is it? Shit synth sounds, a couple of notes, and volume, volume, volume. - Dance music should make you want to actually dance....
I totally agree.
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Old 25-01-2013, 17:58
Eric_Blob
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I agree about the watered down dance music dominated. It's the worst period for music of all time by far.

People complain about the mid-00s when there was all the guitar music dominating, but that was nowhere near as extreme as the blanket domination of dance-pop that we experienced recently (particularly in 2011).

The dance-pop era is almost over though. You can tell. In my opinion when Thrift Shop gets to #1 in the UK that will officially mark the end of the dance-pop era.

The success of the likes of Disclosure is really pleasing to me. It shows the general public are starting to go back to actual dance artists for their dance music, rather than US R&B singers like Usher, Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj like they've been doing since 2007.

Something New by Girls Aloud is one of the worst songs of the dance era imo. It's literally just one note through the entire song. They just get away with it because it's SO loud that it sounds epic and chaotic even though it isn't. And it doesn't make you want to dance at all.
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Old 25-01-2013, 18:09
royllsroyce
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I challenge anyone in the top 20 just now to sing this live without voice technology aiding them

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csRsweTRXdU
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Old 25-01-2013, 18:13
imarsh
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With chart music I totally agree, but to be honest chart music has always been the lightweight end of the music spectrum.

If you go off and listen to the non-chart stuff of most genres, although dance music probably doesn't work here, you'll hear plenty of emotion etc in the lyrics.
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Old 26-01-2013, 07:06
iseloid
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I challenge anyone in the top 20 just now to sing this live without voice technology aiding them

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csRsweTRXdU
There are still brilliant singers out now. They just aren't hammered. Adele being the only decent singer with airplay. Also musically complex songs take time and don't always sell. It's a business sadly. If We Found Love sells 10m WW why wouldn't a business want to copy it? And Tina did it better :P
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Old 26-01-2013, 10:29
mushymanrob
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Maybe I'm just getting old but pop music these days seems to feature very little music at all. It's all vocal-led and music seems to be almost an afterthought - stick on a backbeat and a half-assed keyboard riff and you're done.

Nice and cheap, loads of dosh for the producer / record label.

Perhaps the likes of Adele puts heart into her songs but they're still devoid of any decent musical accompaniment as far as my ears can detect.
i think youre pretty much spot on here.

melody and lyrical content appear to have been dropped to a large degree.

mainstream is lead by business, business is dictating what gets produced when imho it should only be facilitating it, giving the youth of the day their chance to creat their own identity. this has been my main argument against manufactured music since s/a/w.
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Old 26-01-2013, 11:03
madiain28
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The problem is mass media and public crave instant fame. The market is flooded with reality and z listers churning out synthesised pop as well as any wannabe being able to book a studio and release something. The reality tv star was born which gave instant recognition for being a nobody. Unfortunately the majority of truly passionate artists are swamped in a market that's saturated with greedy moguls who are just interested in making quick money fast with cheap production costs, cheap karaoke style concerts and merchandising. That's the reason why once in a while a truly talented passionate artist will come along like Adele and blow the charts away. Although not a fan I do have a lot of respect for artists like Rihianna etc who appear to have passion and work really hard. My main gripe is artists that just appear on a tv show and churn out trash as although many if them may have a good voice there is no real passion and they have no identity.
The music industry needs a shake up I think we need a new chart format were mass produced moguls cheap acts are separated from true artists who write, perform and produce their own music. I also think artists who tour without a live band should not be allowed to sell it as a live concert but should be sold as performs Karaoke.
Most goods we buy are labelled to hell with warnings and information to ensure the consumer gets exactly what they paid for yet the music industry must be the biggest consumer rip off market.
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Old 26-01-2013, 11:16
gold2040
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It's all crap pretty much
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Old 26-01-2013, 11:38
PJ1893
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I think generally dance music tends to fill up the single charts but underperforms on the album chart (obv there's exceptions). I think people tend to want a bit more substance to their album purchases.

I don't think music now-a-days is totally without heart and soul. I know it's subjective, but 'Beneath you're beautiful' was one of the bigger songs of the year and I think songs like that stick out and last because they've got more to them. And Emeli has done extremely well this year.
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Old 26-01-2013, 12:05
Eraserhead
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The problem is mass media and public crave instant fame. The market is flooded with reality and z listers churning out synthesised pop as well as any wannabe being able to book a studio and release something.
Lots of good points in your post but I wanted to pick on this one in particular.

I think we can all agree that a lot of pop music is made cheaply for reasons of company profit and risk aversion. The problem with cutting costs is that the cheapest way to make music which is still listenable is to create it on a computer. If you don't use musicians with real instruments you can save a lot of money and studio time.

The problem with synthesised music is that it sounds synthetic. Anyone who has ever done so much as prodded a piano keyboard or twanged a guitar string will know how much the note it produces has depth and "fullness". You can also play those instruments as loudly or quietly as you like depending on how hard you actually hit the instrument's keys or strings. Those same key or string sounds also have a natural sustain.

Synthesiser approximations of instruments, however, do not have that capability. In the early 80s the synthesiser became an instrument in its own right and became the focus of a number of very popular bands (many of whom I loved) but they made the limitations of the keyboard more expansive by using several keyboards played together or by augmenting the sound with guitars etc.

Then came the sequencers and emulators which took synthesised sounds to a whole new level - the ability to recreate almost any noise. You could take a sample of a dog barking and use it on a keyboard. The early use of sampling was used to very good effect by pioneering bands like the Art of Noise but, perhaps unwittingly, producer Trevor Horn heralded a future where synthesised sounds would be the mainstay of pop music production and not just a tool in an arsenal of instruments.

Cue Stock, Aitken and Waterman and the creation of the hideous Hit Factory. This, in my view, was Ground Zero for the death of properly crafted pop music, heralding an industry which was business-focused and where (as record label boss Alan McGee frequently lamented) the industry was taken over by men in suits. Music had to be made cheaply and that meant using young and malleable singers performing a song with a synthetic backing track (no musicians to pay etc.) with a simple and (admittedly) catchy melody to pull in the public - in particular a young audience who would also be eager to buy tie-in merchandise with songs which had an almost nursery rhyme simplicity to them.

But even the heyday of SAW almost has a naivety about ti looking from today's perspective. The rise in the last decade of the pop talent TV show has placed even more emphasis on the vocal as the only attribute worth paying attention to in a song to the point where I now listen to recent pop songs wondering where on earth the music is at all.

And when there is a bit of music it's largely synthesised stuff, devoid of the depth of real instrumentation so it all sounds dull and lifeless even if the vocal is a soaring R'n'B wail (so to compensate for dull instrumentation just turn the volume up...)

No wonder Adele sitting at a piano or some generic pretty girl with an acoustic guitar is doing so well. Even a little authenticity is better than mass-produced plastic pap.

And meanwhile almost any artist which plays real instruments is relegated to being "indie" because most major record companies won't touch a band who write their own music and play their own instruments and who probably want to guide their career trajectory on their own terms, not unless they're dull, bland bands like Mumford and Sons who probably aren't very likely to start experimenting with non-commercial experimentation or to trash hotel rooms or blow the advance for their new album on cocaine and prostitutes
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Old 26-01-2013, 12:14
mal2pool
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Was just thinking this myself. Watching old editions of TOTP, noticed how much variety of music was in the charts back then. Where are the new reggae stars, rock stars,etc. All i hear is dance music. The top 30 is very similar. Every song sounds about the same. Cant really tell them apart.
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Old 26-01-2013, 12:30
mushymanrob
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Lots of good points in your post but I wanted to pick on this one in particular.

I think we can all agree that a lot of pop music is made cheaply for reasons of company profit and risk aversion. The problem with cutting costs is that the cheapest way to make music which is still listenable is to create it on a computer. If you don't use musicians with real instruments you can save a lot of money and studio time.

The problem with synthesised music is that it sounds synthetic. Anyone who has ever done so much as prodded a piano keyboard or twanged a guitar string will know how much the note it produces has depth and "fullness". You can also play those instruments as loudly or quietly as you like depending on how hard you actually hit the instrument's keys or strings. Those same key or string sounds also have a natural sustain.

Synthesiser approximations of instruments, however, do not have that capability. In the early 80s the synthesiser became an instrument in its own right and became the focus of a number of very popular bands (many of whom I loved) but they made the limitations of the keyboard more expansive by using several keyboards played together or by augmenting the sound with guitars etc.

Then came the sequencers and emulators which took synthesised sounds to a whole new level - the ability to recreate almost any noise. You could take a sample of a dog barking and use it on a keyboard. The early use of sampling was used to very good effect by pioneering bands like the Art of Noise but, perhaps unwittingly, producer Trevor Horn heralded a future where synthesised sounds would be the mainstay of pop music production and not just a tool in an arsenal of instruments.

Cue Stock, Aitken and Waterman and the creation of the hideous Hit Factory. This, in my view, was Ground Zero for the death of properly crafted pop music, heralding an industry which was business-focused and where (as record label boss Alan McGee frequently lamented) the industry was taken over by men in suits. Music had to be made cheaply and that meant using young and malleable singers performing a song with a synthetic backing track (no musicians to pay etc.) with a simple and (admittedly) catchy melody to pull in the public - in particular a young audience who would also be eager to buy tie-in merchandise with songs which had an almost nursery rhyme simplicity to them.

But even the heyday of SAW almost has a naivety about ti looking from today's perspective. The rise in the last decade of the pop talent TV show has placed even more emphasis on the vocal as the only attribute worth paying attention to in a song to the point where I now listen to recent pop songs wondering where on earth the music is at all.

And when there is a bit of music it's largely synthesised stuff, devoid of the depth of real instrumentation so it all sounds dull and lifeless even if the vocal is a soaring R'n'B wail (so to compensate for dull instrumentation just turn the volume up...)

No wonder Adele sitting at a piano or some generic pretty girl with an acoustic guitar is doing so well. Even a little authenticity is better than mass-produced plastic pap.

And meanwhile almost any artist which plays real instruments is relegated to being "indie" because most major record companies won't touch a band who write their own music and play their own instruments and who probably want to guide their career trajectory on their own terms, not unless they're dull, bland bands like Mumford and Sons who probably aren't very likely to start experimenting with non-commercial experimentation or to trash hotel rooms or blow the advance for their new album on cocaine and prostitutes
great post, especially the bib which echos my thoughts but written far more elequently!
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Old 26-01-2013, 12:57
Mallaha
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I agree with a lot of the sentiments on here regarding recent pop music, but I'd like to defend the synth as an instrument.

In the hands of a skilled musician, the synthesizer is just as capable of producing sounds that can move you to all kinds of emotions as any other instrument.

I suppose the problem is that a skilled synth player doesn't come cheaply.
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Old 26-01-2013, 13:33
lil lexie
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the problem is that the financial backers have way too much power and control and it's something that has effected almost all the creative industries from music and film right through to fine art. They monopolise the industry, call the shots but have little knowledge or even enthusiasm for the medium that they fund, it's about making money and as an artist, the only way to succeed or even breakthrough is to appeal to the financial backers tastes, or rather lack of, thus creating a rut, a lack of creativity and vision.

Yes, we now have the internet, a more democratic approach for artists to reach a wider audience but it simply isn't working. Outside the high profile, commercial platforms is a sea of creativity, where every Tom, Dick and Harry who can think they have something to say is vying for your attention, trouble is the great and good get lost in a quagmire of mediocrity and shite. And most of those creative people's dream is about trying to appease those funders in their ivory towers anyway.

It would be good if there was a high profile platform that brought great artists to the attention of the masses without it being controlled by misguided business men but that isn't gonna happen. Where there's a quick buck to be made..
The funders aren't adverse to infiltrating the Land of the Free that is the internet either. Do you really believe that this mediocre singer has really had several million hits on her stupid youtube video? Bullshit, but you're gonna check it out anyway and then they really do have several million hits on their youtube video and well, job done really.

all in all it's a bit of a mess.
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Old 26-01-2013, 14:13
Tejas
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There is plenty of music with heart and soul around, and artists that make it can still sell albums and gig tickets - but for some reason most of them struggle to sell singles anymore. There are a few exceptions of course, but I certainly think that the single chart often gives the impression that popular music is very samey!
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Old 26-01-2013, 14:40
Eraserhead
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I agree with a lot of the sentiments on here regarding recent pop music, but I'd like to defend the synth as an instrument.

In the hands of a skilled musician, the synthesizer is just as capable of producing sounds that can move you to all kinds of emotions as any other instrument.

I suppose the problem is that a skilled synth player doesn't come cheaply.
Yes it's not the instrument itself but the way it's used. While I said earlier that synths lack the "warmth" of a "real" instrument, in the right hands they can make amazing sounds.

The problem is that many modern song writers cannot or will not use them for anything other than creating simple songs with a bit of a plink-plunk of a few keys either side of middle C. In most cases, I suspect, on the demand of a record company desperate to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.
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Old 26-01-2013, 16:49
Eric_Blob
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I make music myself, and I use nearly 100% synths for it.

But you see me in this thread complaining about the dance songs in the chart and songs like Something New.

I have nothing against synths at all, it's just the style of music which is dominating the charts atm. In the mid-00s there was a lot of crunk music about, which was synth heavy, but I didn't mind that since it was generally a lot more creative and great for dancing to. But now that isn't really the case. The worst producer is RedOne. His songs are incredibly basic, and he always uses the same pre-sets in every song. It makes me so angry when I hear his songs on the radio, he doesn't deserve his success at all. Other producers like Dr. Luke, I know a lot of his songs sound the same, but as a beat-maker myself, I can tell that Dr. Luke at least put some effort into his beats.
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Old 26-01-2013, 17:39
Blondie X
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Just as I'm reading this thread, The Jones Girls has come on and proves to me the short answer to the OP is a resounding No.
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Old 27-01-2013, 02:00
Jay Bigz
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I make music myself, and I use nearly 100% synths for it.

But you see me in this thread complaining about the dance songs in the chart and songs like Something New.

I have nothing against synths at all, it's just the style of music which is dominating the charts atm. In the mid-00s there was a lot of crunk music about, which was synth heavy, but I didn't mind that since it was generally a lot more creative and great for dancing to. But now that isn't really the case. The worst producer is RedOne. His songs are incredibly basic, and he always uses the same pre-sets in every song. It makes me so angry when I hear his songs on the radio, he doesn't deserve his success at all. Other producers like Dr. Luke, I know a lot of his songs sound the same, but as a beat-maker myself, I can tell that Dr. Luke at least put some effort into his beats.
'Synth' can create a beautiful sound when used properly - I have lots of expensive, high end, analogue synthesizers (warm and clean) and some of the sounds blow me away...When a decent, and bright, synth sound is played like a piano, with the same intensity, and precision, great stuff can happen.

I'm actually disgusted with the quality of the chart stuff at the moment - I can't ever remember a time when commercial has been this tacky, and shite.

A music revolution needs to take place - I feel sorry for this kids of today, who don't know what real music is, due to a handful of idiots in the industry pushing out all this rubbish.
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Old 27-01-2013, 02:02
Jay Bigz
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the problem is that the financial backers have way too much power and control and it's something that has effected almost all the creative industries from music and film right through to fine art. They monopolise the industry, call the shots but have little knowledge or even enthusiasm for the medium that they fund, it's about making money and as an artist, the only way to succeed or even breakthrough is to appeal to the financial backers tastes, or rather lack of, thus creating a rut, a lack of creativity and vision.

Yes, we now have the internet, a more democratic approach for artists to reach a wider audience but it simply isn't working. Outside the high profile, commercial platforms is a sea of creativity, where every Tom, Dick and Harry who can think they have something to say is vying for your attention, trouble is the great and good get lost in a quagmire of mediocrity and shite. And most of those creative people's dream is about trying to appease those funders in their ivory towers anyway.

It would be good if there was a high profile platform that brought great artists to the attention of the masses without it being controlled by misguided business men but that isn't gonna happen. Where there's a quick buck to be made..
The funders aren't adverse to infiltrating the Land of the Free that is the internet either. Do you really believe that this mediocre singer has really had several million hits on her stupid youtube video? Bullshit, but you're gonna check it out anyway and then they really do have several million hits on their youtube video and well, job done really.

all in all it's a bit of a mess.
Love this post - Just sums up everything I'm thinking!!!

It is indeed a vicious circle - maybe if piracy crashes the industry, the big wigs will move to more 'thriving' sectors to make their money (greedy gits) and then maybe we'll get somewhere.

Operation - 'Don't buy any music' must take place
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Old 27-01-2013, 10:22
mushymanrob
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'

A music revolution needs to take place - I feel sorry for this kids of today, who don't know what real music is, due to a handful of idiots in the industry pushing out all this rubbish.
i dont think it can... i dont think theres the feel for one within todays youth who seem to (not everyone obviously) worship the likes of katie price, x factor, towie, speidi, all unreal imagery.

imho its all been done before, so i cant see where a musical revolution can come from without it being yet another retro revival .

just look on here, the music lovers here are very aware of retro tracks, many loving bands/eras from before they were born. that was all but unheard of in the 60's 70's 80's (ok there was a rock n roll revival in the 70's, and the 60's were hip post punk). IF young music lovers raid the archieves and regard retro acts as that good (which they are...lol) then why should they try to better it? wheres the need for something new when to them retro acts are new.

for us older buggers it was new, we created it, we made it 'ours', that what i believe every generation of pop music lovers have done from the mid 50's onwards until business and manufactured took over in the late 80's and grew to dominate todays mainstream.
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Old 27-01-2013, 10:47
mgvsmith
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There are so many good points here I can't requote them all.

Synths

The way synths contribute depends on the musician ( or non-musician) . The way synths were used in the late 70s and early 80s (e.g. Joy Division, Human League, Numan etc) was much more creative than now. There remains a lot of very creative ambient and modern electronic music but most is not mainstream.

Wannabe Generation

The reasons for people wanting to get into music and then the kind of music they perform is clearly influenced by reality tv and celebrity culture. Real musicians are around but they are squeezed out by the wannabes to a great degree. It's not obvious what is going to stop this. The revival of a platform like the Old Grey WT or TOTP might help?

Girls Generation

On a more positive note, girls music is more dominant in the charts these days and as an old rocker it has taken me a while to get my head around that. I thought girls music was mainly for girls (with some exceptions) but I have reassessed that and find that Amy, Adele, Rihanna, Ellie, etc, have more substance than I first thought. Nicola Roberts' Cinderella's Eyes is a really innovative piece of work and I'm sure there's much I have missed. Don't expect the revolution to be lead by four guys playing guitars!
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