What’s wrong with today’s music? Could it be that it’s just not very good?

[This was my column for GlobalNews.ca. The blowback has already begun–but hear me out. – AC]

On warm summer nights, the park across the street from my house is filled with people playing dribbling soccer balls, playing volleyball, or engaging in aggressive games of Spikeball.

Nearly all of them will have music playing through Bluetooth speakers, usually from the Spotify Top 100. And if I’m honest, none of this music is any good. All I hear is mumbled lyrics tunelessly rendered (well, except for the overuse of Auto-Tune) and beats so quantized that they could be substituted for an atomic clock.

I just re-read that last sentence. Harsh stuff from someone who doesn’t understand the music of today’s yoof? Or am I scratching the surface of a problem facing the recorded music industry?

Consider the following:

  • Kate Bush’s 1985 song Running Up That Hill hit number one on the U.K. singles charts and has reached the top five in other countries around the world. Hounds of Love, the album which spawned the hit, peaked at #8 on the Canadian charts earlier this summer.
  • Metallica’s 1986 track Master of Puppets has been given such a boost by its appearance in Stranger Things that it’s currently in the U.S. Top 40. This eight-minute metal song is competing for attention with the latest from Lizzo, Beyonce, Justin Bieber, and Cardi B.
  • Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours is one of the top-selling albums of the year so far. It’s number nine in the U.S. Rumours is also one of the top-selling vinyl albums of the year so far.
  • The Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen from 1977 is the top-selling vinyl single of 2022. Further down the list, you’ll find that the Clash’s Rock the Casbah (1982) is the eighth best-selling vinyl record.)
  • This past week, Queen’s Greatest Hits (1981) just became the biggest-selling record of all time in the U.K. with seven million copies sold after more than 1,000 weeks on the British charts. Last week, it was number 24 in Canada, a couple of positions ahead of Yer Favourites, the Tragically Hip’s greatest hits collection.

Older music is certainly having a moment this summer and much of this interest is not being driven by nostalgic oldsters but by the same kids playing Spikeball across the street.

Don’t stop here. I have plenty more things that people will find sensitive/controversial/enraging/life-affirming. Keep reading. Oh, And here’s one more article worth reading on the subject.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

4 thoughts on “What’s wrong with today’s music? Could it be that it’s just not very good?

  • July 25, 2022 at 10:12 am

    You are spot on, Alan. Friday I was out for dinner with a friend for my birthday, and a local three piece band got up and started playing a lot of old hits, and it was pretty good. Quite enjoyable. Then, as soon as the band was on break, on comes the stereo system and the music that the wait staff likes, mostly younger, attractive young ladies, and they are just grooving away, and it’s the most awful crap I have ever heard, and they are loving it! What is wrong with people’s ears today? They don’t even know what real music is anymore?

  • July 25, 2022 at 7:14 pm

    it would help if gatekeepers wouldn’t keep selling nostalgia. only thing worse than being stuck in the past is borrowing someone else’s. programmers suck balls when they play 3 songs from two dozen bands over and over on an endless loop and then keep self congratulating that streaming hasn’t killed them yet with diminishing percentages of the audience each year. eg the edge stuck on the worst of 97: green day, rhcp, foos… sprinkle some hip to fullfil cancon, rinse and repeat. people, on air, that can program is what makes stations since the beginning of time different. today bean counters are in charge and “talent” are useless.

  • July 25, 2022 at 7:24 pm

    You DO have a point, which is why I listen to CFNY and not any of the traditional classic rock stations I used to listen to.

  • July 25, 2022 at 8:21 pm

    the edge sucks as much as the boomer stations, it’s just aimed at 50 yr old people instead of 75. sirius, stingray, accuradio all show that you can target those some audiences without going for lowest common denominator and do it with human curation. hell, lots of college stations do. double hell, the dock or the wolf, and other sister stations to the toronto big market crap, do better jobs with exactly the same mandate. we keep copying the worst ideas from the us just because they make money short/medium term. and aaaaal of those programmers know it. they will go to the humongo dome and get bottle service when u2 comes over and then keep playing the same 3 joshua tree songs immediately after. nobody is even trying.


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