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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why Music is Less Relevant Than It Used To Be, and Where Art is Moving as a Form for All Mediums

Listening to my copy of CSN, by Crosby, Stills & Nash, I was wondering why a band whose first studio album came out in 1969 was still a common name. When they came back to putt out “Looking Forward”, as Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, how did they still reached number 34 on the billboard top 100 with “No Tears Left”, the single (Crosby Stills & Nash award list). How did The Rolling Stones premier “A Bigger Bang”, in 2005, at number 3 when they put out their first album came out in 1964(Rolling Stones award list)? All of these artists surviving for up to 50 years while Vanilla Ice peaked at number 1 with “To The Extreme”, and then never even reached 200 again during subsequent 5 album run(Vanilla Ice award list). Asking anyone else, you would get a simple answer, “good music lasts, so time will tell” but time has already shown that “good” is decided by the relevancy, lasting itself. Music lasts based on what it attaches itself to, by becoming part of history rather than just talking about it; artists have done it with their lyrics, with their sound, but most of what makes them so attached to the fans that keep them in the limelight, are the emotions they appeal to.

Then, Older artists used their influences and inspirations as references in their music. Quoting, “The king is gone, but not forgotten, is this the story of Johnny Rotten?”, Neil Young is asking the same question this is trying to answer in his own music (“Hey Hey, My My (into the Black)” off of the album“Rust Never Sleeps”). Without knowing it, he is also creating an important piece of history. . Song writers like Neil Young would still rather write about the lead singer of a band that only lasted 3 years, only because he changed his stage name. In a way this is a partnership; while this is an example, Neil Young has been famous for writing about historical events well before he wrote this song, which make his music source material for common opinions, but by writing about Johnny Rotten's change to John Lydon he is also adding even more context to what the Sex Pistols already had. Even then, some of the most popular bands can still be forgotten after a breakup, Paul Revere and the Raiders had 10 top 200 studio albums in their 18 year run, but that’s because they didn't write about anything of importance (Paul Revere & the Raiders award list). When lyrics read off the page like a history book, they become as important as one.

Now, most artists are either not giving recognition to their influences or they don’t have any. the only artist still making the same kind of effort in recent years is Maroon 5 with their single, “Moves Like Jagger”, a billboard number one hit (Maroon 5 awards list). They’re riding on the backs of The Rolling Stones who have survived for a solid 50 years and are still getting their albums in the top 5 billboard chart positions (The Rolling Stones award list). Now that most listeners are focused less on what the artists are saying and more on the choruses they can sing along to a song like “Moves Like Jagger” gives their fans a friendly nod to a band, that has inspired everyone, in a chorus that is stuck in a generations head. It’s hard to believe that people will ever walk around saying “Who is this “Jagger” guy?” and as long as current musicians still care to bring him up, neither of them will lose relevance. Hip-Hop is becoming more and more referential to it’s past as well, and most top 40 rappers feature each other on tracks, which in the short run is helping them all stay alive. It’s a very young genre though, at least at its current level, so it doesn't have the same wealth of influences to pull from.

Not all music is lyrical though so this explains the sudden rise popularity for music highly based on production, hip-hop and many other forms of instrumental electronic music, but it doesn't explain the immediate respect that each passing generation is giving it. The simple explanation for that is that most of the artists involved in that culture are creating a sound exclusive to the age of its popularity. While it can easily be seen as repetitive, as well as derivative, there are artists who are guaranteed to come out the other end of the era as legends and forefathers. It’s the result of a necessary death; a genre that comes in, over saturates itself and then leaves like, gritty, 90s Hip-Hop did at the tail end of it’s popularity and swag rap is doing now.

Considering that the past and present share a common pattern in this way more than any other and it’s easily seen that sound is still more important than a fad. Nirvana was not the first band to do what they did; Kurt Cobain even admitted that he was trying to rip off a Pixies song when he wrote one of their biggest hits (Kurt Cobain interviewed by Robert Frick for Rolling Stone Magazine), “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hitting the billboard charts at number six (Nirvana award list). Nirvana also admits to admiring bands like the Melvins who took influence from other bands, like Joy division and Soul Asylum who put out their first albums before they had their chance. Bands like Megadeth and Metallica are still selling albums off of the relevance the gained in the dead thrash metal scene that died in the 80s, Megadeth’s 2011 release, Th1rt3en, hitting number eleven (Megadeth award list) and Metallica’s , Beyond Magnetic EP, reaching 29 on the billboard top 200 (Metallica award list). They keep their fans coming back because they all want to hear an album that puts them back in the scene that used to thrive.

All fans have very strong connection with the music they listen to; it’s a part of their personality so it has an amazing emotional appeal. It takes a rightful place as part of their personality. The reason why our parents still keep their vinyl recordings, why our parents still buy CDs, and why this generation is obsessed with downloading singles on MP3 are all for this reason. The two previous reasonings are reasons why this kind of attachment exists but what makes emotion such a strong comparison between present and past musicians is that they both take it drastically different ways. The way casual listeners have been hearing music through the last decade is based almost exclusively on an emotional appeal that doesn't connect, legitimately, to the other two varieties, almost, at all. In the past few years boy bands and pop punk/new metal bands have been appealing to young people in ways that, in any other case besides music, would not hold up in the real world. While the newer acts are getting younger, groups like N’ SYNC and The Backstreet Boys had men, whose ages average out to about 20 years old, making music about love for girls budding into puberty from ages twelve to seventeen. Emotion like that can’t be considered real and nothing makes it harder to stay relevant than giving something fake to a generation approaching an age that allows them to realize that, even when your first album hits number 4 on the billboard charts (The Backstreet Boys)(Backstreet Boys award list) or you break the new millennium with a number one album (‘N SYNC)(N’SYNC award list). Even when artists like Justin Bieber or One Direction are closer to an appropriate age, they still follow the exact same song format, which is usually not even written by them, which is still fake. On the other hand bands like Black Veil Brides, Three Days Grace, A Day To Remember, and Blessthefall are all appealing to the angst of the side that rejects what pop stars are doing. They create a form of art that can only be attached to one age group or one generation and it cannot be passed down. It would be ignorant to say all radio music is like this, but that’s the exact reason why some current artists will still be able to continue moving with a healthy fan base and stay relevant.

The point of bringing all of this up is to expose what is becoming a more visible truth. Even though music goes through paces just like any other art form there is a much more linear way of seeing what will happen. In terms of what people like, and what people want on the radio, things will stay the same. This means that the level of variety will alternate as it has every decade, but as each decade goes by less artists within the popular field survive. This means that constants are becoming less and less common and when the ideas and people who remain constant leave all you have left are artists who die off with the art form itself. Music will not die, no more than literature is dead but it is still a far cry from the blossoming culture that music proved itself to be in the past. As a music lover this is my plea to see that people change the way they pay attention, and a an art lover I want to expose this as a possibility for all forms of entertainment.


"Charts and Awards for Crosby, Stills & Nash on AllMusic." AllMusic. Allmusic, 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2012. <>.

"Charts and Awards for A Bigger Bang by The Rolling Stones on AllMusic." AllMusic. Allmusic, 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2012. <>.

"Charts and Awards for Vanilla Ice on AllMusic." AllMusic. Allmusic, 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2012. <>.

Young, Neil Percival, Front-man, and Jeff Blackburn. "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)." Perf. Frank Sampedro, Poncho, William Hammond Talbot, Billy, Ralph Molina, Nicolette Larson, Karl T. Himmel, and Joe Osborn. Rec. 27 Aug. 1979. Rust Never Sleeps. Neil Young and Crazy Horse. David Briggs, 1979. Vinyl recording.

"Charts and Awards for Paul Revere & the Raiders on AllMusic." AllMusic. Allmusic, 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2012. <>.

"Charts and Awards for Maroon 5 on AllMusic." AllMusic. Allmusic, 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2012. <>.

Fricke, David. "Kurt Cobain: The Rolling Stone Interview." The Rolling Stone 27 Jan. 2012: 1+. Rolling Stone Archive. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. <>.

"Charts and Awards for Nirvana on AllMusic." AllMusic. Allmusic, 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2012. <>.

"Charts and Awards for Megadeth on AllMusic." AllMusic. Allmusic, 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2012. <>.

"Charts and Awards for Metallica on AllMusic." AllMusic. Allmusic, 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2012. <>.

"Charts and Awards for Backstreet Boys on AllMusic." AllMusic. Allmusic, 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2012. <>.

"Charts and Awards for *NSYNC on AllMusic." AllMusic. Allmusic, 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2012. <>.

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