Recently, my mom and I were driving in the car and listening to a classic rock radio station. A Janis Joplin song came on and we both started singing along, familiar with the song for very different reasons. My mom listened to Joplin in her early teens, while I have heard her music only on classic rock stations. After the song ended, we started talking about how music has changed over time. I brought up how I thought it was amazing that we have come from listening to things as raw, gritty, soulful and beautiful as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and the Beatles to things as technologically-based as Skrillex’s dub-step and T-Pain’s auto-tune. The juxtaposition of these two extremely different musical styles represents how we have progressed as a culture. Many people say that music is straight from the soul. If this is the case, then the above point implies that our societal soul has changed much over the past few decades.
In the conversation that I had with my mom in the car, I mentioned that music sounded so much more simple (and, in my humble opinion, much more pleasing to ear and easier to listen to). My mom responded with a quick, teasing comment referring to how this is due to the fact that “music just used to be people and instruments.” In other words, there was no synthesizing or doctoring; at least not to the extent that is done to songs today. After the Joplin song ended, my fourteen year old sister asked that we switch the radio to a pop-station. A Chris Brown song was playing, and I took this opportunity to point out what my mom was referring to: the background music sounded as if it was completely computer-generated and Brown’s voice was clean, cut, and smooth; in other words very synthesized. My sister rolled her eyes and we commenced singing along with the simple, catchy lyrics.
In no way am I implying that the direction music has gone is negative in any way. I just believe that it reflects where we have come as a society. We are so hooked to our technological devices that they have become both directly and indirectly the sources of our entertainment. Not only can we stream almost anything we want anytime and anywhere we want it because we are always connected, but the literal content of what we listen to and watch seems to reflect the technological advances of the past few years. With this being said, it seems that it has become significantly easier for people to become “artists”. For example, many of us have basically the same computers that million-dollar record producers use when mastering records. This means that virtually anyone has the potential to make something that may get them somewhere. In my opinion, this is great, but it also cheapens the market so-to-speak, in that more artists means more content. Whether or not this has effected the quality of what is released these days is based solely on opinion.
What never ceases to amaze me is that people are still singing about the same problems that they have always been singing about. Undoubtedly, music has become more explicit, but this, too, reflects where our society has gone (something I do not have enough room to talk about in depth here), but it is generally still about love, loss, and just plain living/life. Music is a simple concept, hence why it appeals to almost everyone. Today my friend tweeted “You can’t go a day without listening to music.” At first, I took it literally, but now I see this statement in its figurative sense. Music is from the soul and speaks from the soul. It allows people living different lives to connect and relate in a life that leaves us feeling so full at some times yet so empty at others. Music makes us feel good and I think that the trends in content and sound directly reflect everything about our society.
This also makes me think about the future. Where can we possibly go from here? Music went from being made with solely instruments and voices to currently being made with instruments AND computers, and with real voices AND synthesized voices. What will be playing on the “classic” radio stations when we are driving in our cars with our kids?