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Rhythm and soul: Bad pop

By Kathleen McWilliams
On April 10, 2014

As I was sitting down to write my column for this week I automatically went to basketball. I soon realized, however, that every column in the past week has been basketball themed and I am feeling that it is time to strike out into some new territory.
I'm a devoted news junkie and it's rare for me to find much music news from the media organizations I frequent. Yet, just this morning I saw an article from The Washington Post about how most people hate the music that "kids" are listening to these days. Now, I'd put myself into that category for the most part. I sing along to "Timber" as loud as the next person and, yes, "Get Lucky" is still my go to motivational tool, but on the whole pop music aimed at under 18-year-olds is on the decline in terms of quality.
The Washington Post piece said that "42 percent of surveyed Americans think that it's already the worst decade for music." I have to say when the claim is phrased that way I have to agree that the 2010s has been the worst decade for music. Thinking through the artists who made it big this decade- Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus- it became apparent that creativity and individuality are lacking. But, you may say, Lady Gaga wears dresses made out of meat and supports the oppressed minorities? The latter is certainly commendable, but when it comes to her music it is all over produced and hyper-mainstream.
With the prevalence of auto-tune and the emergence of major songwriters who back individual talents, most popular music is very similar. Even in rock and indie genres, groups are gravitating to the sounds that sell, rather than the creativity that lasts forever. Banjo music, whether in pop songs from Mumford and Sons or alternative music such as The Civil Wars, has already gotten old because it's been over-used. The instrument is not used as a primary instrument, but rather as a secondary compliment to a woodsy sounding melody. In a word: trite.
My secondary complaint with modern music is the fact that the album has practically disappeared. Singles and EP's allow artists to release smaller sections of their content that they know will be popular and earn them a lot of money. When they do release an album, it might have one or two great songs, leaving the rest to fall away. Back in the day, groups would release full length albums that one could listen to all the way through. I can still put on each Beatles album from "Please, Please Me" to "Abbey Road" and listen to every song. It is partially because each song is unique and different, but also because more thought was put into producing great content on your records.

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