Music of Today and Yesterday. The day before that, too.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
My opinions on the music of our generation and what preceded us.

Submitted: October 22, 2009

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Submitted: October 22, 2009

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I recently updated my MP3 player’s playlist and came across a revelation.

Let me start with a bit of detail: This player had belonged to my sister for about a year and she had thrown her share of songs on it, which remained there until it was passed to me after my second iPod was stolen. At first, when I plugged it in to my computer and began uploading my own song list, I was not surprised by her taste in music. She was into the popular ‘Scene’ music that everyone seems to be in to. Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers, Fergie and all assortments of rap music were present. I left them there, not giving them a second, I didn’t even bother deleting them, and after all there was more than enough memory to supply to my heavy metal overhaul of the player.

For years I have been listening to the same songs, avoiding her pop music and listening only to what I consider ‘Heavy’ rock. Being a guitarist and singer myself, I enjoyed substance in my music, surely the guitar from metal gave me all the excitement and chills I could want, but I found that overall song quality was lost in the process. I didn’t do anything about it though, just kept listening and screaming along with the vocals, which were certainly not my forte.

Recently I updated my player, a huge overhaul for the first time since I received it from my sister. I figured that I had more than enough modern music than was necessary, and I noticed I had so little music from previous decades. I began flooding songs in, to the point when the memory of the 1 gigabyte player was completely filled. I knew it was time to drop some songs.

You would guess what I dropped first; all the pop music that I never bothered to listen to. It wasn’t my music, in my opinion it had always lacked substance. Granted, it had a nice beat and catchy sound, but that’s all it was. So I dumped it all off and began to add from the 80’s and 70’s. While doing this, I texted my girlfriend, telling her about my overhaul, and I was totally shocked to find that she didn’t know who Boston was. I asked her about Pearl Jam, she said no, nor did she know anything from Radiohead and couldn’t recall a song from Journey. This seemed to be the norm as I continued to talk to my friends and ask them about these bands, I received slightly better results, but still a lack of full understanding in the music of generations before us.

Then I began to think, each decade always had some type of music that stuck out as unique to that generation. The 50’s had Elvis, naturally, the King was known by all of my friends without a second thought. The 60’s were a bit less known, I got mild feedback on Bob Dylan, and they only knew the Rolling Stones because of the magazine. Although the Beatles were just as easily recognized as Elvis himself, which seems just natural considering the legacy they left behind. Clearly this was not going exactly how I thought, but I ventured on for the sake of discovery.

The 70’s were definitely better recognized, all of my friends quickly recognized names such as Iron Maiden and Journey, though few songs were actually named. Black Sabbath garnered mild feedback, but no songs were really well known among this group of peers, other than Paranoid of course. Boston was still left unrecognized for the most part, which shocked me considering their hits. (For those who don’t know, Foreplay/Long Time and More Than a Feeling are the most widely known chart-toppers)

Finally, we were making a bit of progress, the 80’s were by far the most widely known of the decades. Everyone knew the names of bands like Metallica and Guns N’ Roses, albeit very few song names were known other than Enter Sandman and Welcome to the Jungle.

Pop began to become more prevalent in this decade than any other. People could easily name tens of hundreds of songs from the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna, which came as no surprise considering how many people had listened to the king of pop since his death.

The 90’s are my personal favorite of any decade, the grunge generation, heavy guitar and meaningful lyrics with wacky time signatures. Unfortunately, the people were not as fair minded with the bands of the time. Barely anyone had even heard of Soundgarden, and those who knew of Pearl Jam couldn’t name any songs from them. Nirvana was well-received, but not once did anyone mention anything about teen spirit, which left me heavily disappointed. How could these people have not truly heard of the Seattle grunge explosion? I found myself at a loss of words for the first time in a long time.

And so we come to today’s music, and look where it has brought us. I finished my miniature survey and looked on at my music list and asked myself this question:

What will our decade be known for when it’s over? In the year 2010, only months away, what artists will people look back upon, bands that made such an influence on their lives with music?

I cannot find an answer I like.

Let’s look at it this way, each decade is categorized for its well known ‘Style’ of the time:

50’s: The beginning of rock and roll, there’s not much else to say.

60’s: The start of true solos and rock bands. Guitarists learn what their instruments are truly capable. Bob Dylan is on top of the world for 10 years.

70’s: Classic Rock. Hard rock solos with the ‘Fight the power’ and ‘Peace and love’ style of lyricism. Along with a softer side of rock, bands like Journey and Boston that still know how to rock a heavy solo. The Beatles are the new kings of the music world.

80’s: The origins of Metal. Bands like Metallica and Guns N’ Roses rock heavy solos. Screams and almost grunted lyrics become commonplace, but people aren’t really listening for the lyrics now, it’s the guitar that’s bringing them in herds, and it’s well deserved. Obviously Metallica is the chart-topper here.

90’s: Grunge. A return to the old days, lyrics bring back the old style of protest with a stronger message. More depressed than any other decade, most of the music is more sullen than upbeat, but with the accompanying guitar and awkwardly successful time signatures, things work out great. Bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana top the charts almost every day. Smells like Teen Spirit is still considered among one of the best of all time, regardless of genre.

00’s: Pop music? Catchy sing-along choruses and pointless lyrics of optimism and menial musical value? Is that what it’s come to? Do we really want to be known for the Backstreet Boys, N’Sync or Fall Out Boy? Are the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus really the best we could muster up over the course of over 3,500 days?

I no longer have any modern music in my player, nothing from the year 2000 and up, nada. I listen long and hard to the classic music of decades past, to find the meanings behind the music and styles used for the time. The 200-2009 era, in my opinion is a total disaster. We need to do much better, and we can do just that. We need to bring back the heavy guitar, we need insightful lyrics and strong vocals. We’ve had glimpses of this in bands like Avenged Sevenfold and AFI, along with a slew of lesser known bands such as Atreyu, but nothing truly mainstream. I don’t want the next decade to be fully screamo, but this bubbly optimism music is nothing but filler for the next great thing.


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