While I’m whinging about the lack of loud guitar music in modern rock/alt-rock, other people are taken a dim view of popular music in general. And who’s to blame for the state of music? Those damn Millennials and their progeny with their stupid smartphones.
Bowie producer Tony Visconti delivered a keynote at SXSW this week and his message was pretty dire.
“It can’t get any worse,” Visconti said after reading out a half-hour short story set 10 years in the future, in which there was only one worldwide record label which had entirely stopped signing artists as they were too expensive and troublesome. Instead, records were made by compliant, malleable pop stars and sold through the lottery.
In a rambling speech, Visconti said that today’s record labels were simply repeating the formulae of the past, with diminishing returns. He described mainstream pop, aimed at a teenage audience, as “a computer and a vocal that was doctored to goodness knows how much”. On the other hand, he said, there are songwriters like Sun Kil Moon, “who just wrenches you and will tear your heart out – that’s an album I can’t listen to without tears falling and my dear friend David Bowie turned me on to that album.”
The producer said that record labels need to reacquaint themselves with the notion that they are selling culture, and discover artists of the calibre of Jimi Hendrix or Joni Mitchell. Fans, he said, “used to put a vinyl record on a turntable” and play it hundreds of times. “None of that goes on today. There are great people all around us – the next David Bowie lives somewhere in the world, the next Beatles, the next Springsteen but they’re not getting a shot, they’re not being financed.”
Streams on Spotify, he added, don’t pay artists a living wage but rather the price of “a nice steak dinner”.
You can read the rest of the Guardian article here. But have a stiff drink handy.
Another article in the Guardian moans in a slightly different direction until the headline “Pop, Rock, Rap, Whatever: Who Killed the Music Genre?”
Pitchfork, widely viewed as the world’s leading alternative music website, relaunched this week. Along with a rather pleasant new look, it announced “a significant new feature”, the ability to view the site according to genre.
At first glance this might suggest that genre boundaries – like pop v rock – are as robust as ever. But it could mean the opposite.
What does it mean that a site whose name has become synonymous with a specific type of alternative rock, is offering readers the chance to read about nothing but pop, or metal, or rap? And what does it mean if Rostam from Vampire Weekend works with Carly Rae Jepsen, and The Weeknd works with Max Martin? What if the likes of David Guetta and Calvin Harris call on a wide array of singers and MCs, with little concern for genre boundaries? If Rihanna covers Tame Impala, and Ryan Adams covers Taylor Swift (13 times)? How about Miley Cyruscollaborating with the Flaming Lips, or everyone working with Sia?
The 1975 have just scored a transatlantic No 1 with an album whose influences range from Yazoo to David Bowie. If you look at everynoise.com and key in, say, Lana Del Rey, you’ll find her listed under “pop, indie R&B, indietronica, chamber pop, synthpop”; she’s all of those, a bit, but at the same time not completely any of those. All are representative of a strain of artists who are post-genre. They now straddle, or exist beyond, genres that seemed set in concrete as little as 10 years ago. They represent a cross-pollination that makes it harder than ever to definitively state that you like or dislike one genre or another.
Follow up here.
Finally, the always curmudgeonly Gene Simmons has declared rock to be dead:
KISS rocker Gene Simmons believes Lady Gaga is the future of good music – if she can cut out the disco and pole dancing.
The KISS star was being interviewed by Rolling Stone to mark the 40th anniversary of the band’s acclaimed album Destroyer, when he took aim at today’s artists for failing to produce the same quality of music as he and his bandmates did years ago.
“As far as I’m concerned, rock is dead,” he told the magazine. “There ain’t no new bands.”
But Gene insists there’s still a little hope – in the form of Gaga, adding, “As far as I’m concerned, if Lady Gaga dropped the disco and the pole dancing and all that stuff and put together a rock band, that would be legitimate, because she’s got the musical goods.
“She can write songs, play instruments and can actually sing. And she understands the fearless quality of spectacle. I’d love to see her do Queen-style music. She can do it.”
Gene also has time for Jennifer Lopez, Ciara, Shakira, and Madonna and “all the girls with names that end in ‘a’.” He adds, “They’re very talented in their own way – but it’s dishonest. They have a backing track. It’s really a karaoke bar. Karaoke is more honest, because you know it’s karaoke.”
Read the rest of his analysis at VVN.
Anyone want to comment on any of the above?