We are living through a day and age where lauded songwriters program drum machines and spew abhorrent gibberish in underwritten lyrics. Some say hip-hop culture, or the death of Kurt Cobain, caused this current downturn. I am not of that mindset; a gut feeling tells me otherwise. My dark theory is that popular music has been inherited by under-talented, over-privileged grandchildren. These grandchildren rely on a crutch, and that crutch is the prior; i.e., their grandparent's former glory. Instead of pushing things forward, things are being pushed sideways. Ideas are not stolen anymore -- they are recycled, rewritten, repackaged, and renamed.
It is possible, however, certain 'artists' do not realize that they are just lazy filters to the past, being that producers 'create' their material... but this is no excuse. If you are lucky enough to become a professional musician it is your duty to archive, study, and know what came before the current trends. I liken this to a law student performing case studies. Build a solid foundational knowledge of what precedents have been set before trying cases in the court of law.
Sadly, for right now, it is as if all the Trustafarians in the United States decided to start reggae bands without ever having heard of Bob Marley. Directionless jam sessions - fueled by bong hits - became a bore, so they hired someone's cool drunk uncle to write a bunch of tunes. Of course, this drunk uncle would seize the opportunity for possible nubile pussy and fame. Having zero songwriting abilities, and a deadline to meet, he would be forced to turn towards plagiarism. "Could You Be Loved" morphs into "I'mma Be Loved", and the Trustafarians have a hit song on their hands.
This is where the public enters the discussion. In my opinion, massive amounts of garbage are being consumed with relish. The major bulk of material on current FM radio makes it hard not to climb up on a soapbox and preach about poor quality and plagiarists. What concerns me are the adult consumers who accept this junk and seem to enjoy it. Teens and preteens don't know any better. Shit, when I was a kid I bought tapes and CDs I am now completely ashamed of owning. I will never reveal their names. The fact of the matter is, youths will purchase anything presented to them as popular within their epoch. It is a rite of passage. It is part of a process: the weeding out of dreck and the forming of personal preferences. So, what is the excuse for today's garbage-loving adults? Is it simply because recycled music is safe, familiar, and dripping-wet with nostalgia? Surely that is part of it, but another possibility: they are slaves to trends. This makes me wonder though... what kind of music did these trend-setters grow up listening to? My only answer is video game muzak from the early 1980s.
Maybe I am a curmudgeon past my prime, and my opinion is worth less than than a pack of gum. I accept that. Parents didn't understand Heavy Metal at one time. That might be the position I'm in now, only instead of Heavy Metal I don't understand Soggy Garbage.
I do believe excellent, awe-inspiring music is being created in this day and age. Everything is just shattered, scattered, and broken. In order to find true excellence, we are now forced to actively seek it out. In the long run, this is a far more rewarding experience than having greatness served up on a silver platter. Hunters will be compensated with the blood of a fresh kill. Loafers will be stuck with the stench of a rotted meat. I will hunt, that is, until trends change and we enter a new musical renaissance. I won't hold my breath, but I will wait in anticipation. There will always be crap, but hopefully not on such a grand scale. Here's hoping that tomorrow's songwriting grandchildren wise up and shun their grandparent's current musical missteps. My fingers are crossed.