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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Where Has All The Real Music Gone?

Every generation has  a great sound. In the ’50s they had swing, the ’60s hailed classic rock greats such as The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and The Doors. In the ’70s , Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and other amazing bands captivated millions. In the ’80s the greats like Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins made amazing music with new technology.

In the ’90s, the hard sound of Nirvana, Alice In Chains and other grunge bands featured music soaked with pure emotion. As we continue down this path and look at each decade progressively, we reach the new millennia. Here we find that the selection of good music begins to become more and more sparse.

Flip on MTV today and there is no more music. VH1, same story. All of these channels have thoroughly sold their soul to the collective idea of money over substance and opted for reality TV. Gone are the times when Kurt Cobain could appear on an MTV program with nothing more than a guitar and a chair. Turn on the radio and the same 10  or 12  popular auto-tuned songs of the week are mind numbingly repeated over and over again.

The true problem is not just the lack of traditional media exposure for musicians, but the overall downhill trend of what it takes for music to be considered good. Today it is iTunes and YouTube that allow good musicians to still be heard.

Defining good music is one of the most subjective topics that a person could ever discuss. Substance is what makes music great. It is that feeling you get when you know that the artist truly believes every word they are saying, every note they are playing, and every little variation in their voices and  their instruments let us know this music comes from the heart.

Substance for me is defined as being iconic. Good music comes from a place of down to earth intentions. Take a look at the music of the ’60s and ’70s, it is probably the most popular music on college campuses, with almost every person having some Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd on their iPods. This music is extremely expressive.

Music, since the beginning of time, has always been  a vehicle for expression of emotions. When our ancestors danced around a campfire celebrating the end of a successful hunt, they were genuinely happy and letting others around them know in the best and most expressive way that they could.

Pink Floyd’s album, “The Wall” is a perfect example of music that tells a story.  It is about a fictional young man named Pink, who grew up in England,  recounting the pressures of his childhood as well as those of turning into a rockstar.

As the album progresses from one song to the next, the listener realizes that on the outside Pink may seem normal and successful, but internally there is something wrong. Pink closes off from the rest of the world and begins to feel numb to the world. He does not know who his friends are and is trapped in a private hell symbolized by the title of the album. At the end of the album, he breaks this “wall” down and reconnects with his humanity and who he is.

In  Jimi Hendrix’s song “Machine Gun” he sings about the common humanity  of men, even between opposing soldiers on the battlefield. He sings “evil man makes you kill me, evil man makes me kill you, even though we’re only families apart.” In these lyrics, he is expressing his belief that all people are more similar and related than not, and it is only the sad circumstances of the world that forces them to kill each other.

One would be hard pressed to find any measure of true meaning comparable to this in a modern Lil Wayne song. My argument is not one for rock and against rap, most popular music today is hip-hop derived and has those types of elements.

Once again, it is not the genre that defines this lack of substance in today’s music. Take a look at the music of Tupac,  growing up he slept on a dirty mattress on the floor of an apartment in a housing project. Still however, from all of the constant violence and aggression around him, he was able to pull himself up to a successful career in rap. He rapped about thanking his mother for all she did despite their hardships and how he had never had the chance to spread his wings and become a fulfilled person.

He brought a serious understanding of street life to many people who would never have even imagined what it was like. When he reached the top, did he sell out and begin making songs about cars, women and money? No, he criticized himself and the violent culture he came from, encouraged young people to become educated and avoid the street life. That is real substance. Take a look at Lil Wayne’s music when he was still an inconsequential rapper in New Orleans trying to make it. His music was much better then, as he was still trying to make it and prove himself.

This definition of real music does not extend to only serious music, but to more easy listening as well.

When it comes to genres like electronic dance music, a listener can still discern if the artist is trying new things and pushing boundaries. The so called “musicians” of mainstream modern music have a basic recipe, they throw in a cheap looped beat, an auto tuned chorus and lyrics about clubs and dancing. This would be okay if they actually made something else , yet every single song seems to copy the last and every single artist just copies the money-making formula. It all leads  to  an entire generation of music that sounds almost exactly the same with a few rare gems thrown in there.

Maybe what we really need to do is examine today’s consumer, our generation, and what we really value. When we as a collective youth begin to slow down, and try to appreciate life, we begin to yearn for music that has a deeper meaning and passion behind it.

As a generation what do we want to be remembered for? Auto-tuned songs about dancing in a club, is that the mark we want to leave in history, or do we want people in 2040 to still have posters of our artists up on their walls and in their iPods? When we look for substance in our lives we begin to look for substance in our music.

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