Afternoon gents, it’s Max from the Young Gentleman’s Guide here! So today’s article is sort of going against the grain of what I normally post, but this is something that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a long time, and I feel like this is the best place to do it. Now before I continue, I must address that I actually favor and advocate for free-market capitalism as much as the next guy. It may have its flaws, but I believe it’s a fair and sound economic ideology that has done an inordinate amount of good for the societies where it has been implemented. But as with any good thing, there will be people out there who try to exploit it, and that leads quite nicely into the meat of this article.
As much of a proponent as I am for capitalism, it pains me to say that its implementation in American society has led to a serious degradation and stagnation in the world of music. Of course, anyone who knows me knows that I love music, so it brings me no pleasure to say this. Instead of powerful, emotional, and experimental masterpieces like Gabrieli’s Sacrae Symphoniae, Mozart’s Magic Flute, Debussy’s Clair de Lune, Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and others, we have the repetitive, recycled, uninspired droll of artists like Ariana Grande, Post Malone, and Katy Perry, among others. And I’m not just talking the simple harmonic structures, though that can certainly be a contributing factor. Even with jazz, classic rock, and R&B, as simple as the structures of those styles can be, many artists back in the day were still able to implement some form of experimentation, whether it be in the form of improvisation, instrumental choices, or storytelling through the music and lyrics. Artists like Miles Davis dabbled in and was a pioneer of multiple different jazz styles, Bob Seger told very deep and heartfelt stories through his lyrics, and the members of The Who were able to write a surreal messiah story in the form of Tommy. Nowadays, most modern pop artists seem to just seem to be the masters of mundane. They wrote mundane songs with mundane structures about mundane subjects. So many of today’s modern hits are just songs about subjects that have been done to death; broken relationships, heartbreak, sex, love, or even just everyday life. While there have obviously been countless songs about all these subjects in the past, artists in the past would often use those subjects to tell a deeper story or have a deeper moral. Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely was written as a heartwarming ode to his daughter. Bob Seger’s The Fire Inside, for as simple as its chord and harmonic sequence is, is a heartfelt tale about the struggles of finding love and how the pain and memory of love lost never really leave you. Many songs by the Beatles utilized unorthodox chord progressions and key changes that kept listeners interested from start to finish. And of course, there’s the entire treasure trove of classical music with its multitude of stories, emotion, and themes. Nowadays, however, many pop artists are just expected to write simple, repetitive, and mundane songs to please the masses. I don’t entirely blame the artists for this, however. I believe it’s mostly the fault of their producers, which leads me to believe this is the result of capitalism.
One of the core tenets of capitalism is the concept of supply and demand. While the details of both supply and demand are entirely too complex for an article like this, the basics of it is that if there is a high demand for a product, those who own the business will need to continue putting out said product to meet the demand. This is exactly the way the music industry works. These young, marginally talented artists are being picked up by major record labels and music producers just as a means to sell more of their music in order to meet the demand of the people, and as a result, make more and more money. While this kind of business model is perfectly understandable and seems just fine on the surface, it has unfortunately led to a complete stagnation of creativity and experimentation. On top of that, it’s not even important to these producers that artists are even talented. All that’s important to them is that they’re marketable. This had let to not only stagnation in musical creativity, but also on a reliance on lip-syncing and autotuning, meaning the artists who are supposedly playing and singing these songs don’t even need to actually have musical talent. Now, none of this is to say that there is zero musical creativity out there today. There are a number of independent and self-produced artists out there who I’m sure would appreciate as much support as they can get. What bothers is me is that these modern, over-marketed pop artists are what most people are exposed to. It’s what’s played on the radio, in department stores, on TV, and anywhere else that allows it to be heard by the masses. And because it’s so often heard by so many people, it makes them think that music like that is the pinnacle of musical talent, and they’ll never be able to appreciate the genuine talent that many unheard artists, musicians, and composers actually have.
Apologies if this turned into such a downer, this subject just really gets under my skin. In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading today’s article. Please be sure to share the article, follow the blog, follow The Young Gentleman’s Guide on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and support us on Patreon. And on that note, this is Max from The Young Gentleman’s Guide, and I’ll see you next time!