Friday, October 13, 2017

Thoughts inspired by the New York Times article "Return of the ’80s! Synth-Pop Bands Stage a Middle-Aged Comeback"

I often repeat ad nauseum a number of theses to any of my full-blown Millennial students who will listen. No, I state ad nauseum a number of facts. Facts are facts, therefore they are self-evident. But allow me to characterize or explain a number of facts about music of the '80s and early to mid '90s.

Number one: '80s and to some extend early to mid '90s music is far superior to the music which is being produced today. I support this fact by explaining how nearly all of the 14 year-olds running up and down the comments of YouTube are constantly opining how today's music isn't very good at all ("it sucks") and that they wish they were "living in the '80s."

Number two: Analog was, is, and always will be better than digital. Support? Vinyl and cassette are all the rage among the youngins' these days. Who would have thunk it? Analog has that "warm" feel that digital doesn't. It's more authentic, rich, and full despite not usually being as bright and crisp. But in the brightness one loses tone. An atmosphere revolves around tone rather than clarity.

Number three: The fact that each artists' release had to be curated - that what contributed to the album overall was the placement of each song - meant that each release had its own atmosphere. Today, though, there is Spotify and "the playlist." But anyone can put any song on a playlist. To the argument that bands can release albums" as mp3 downloads, which means a specific order - well, not everyone downloads each song, nor listens to those songs in a specific order, nor has to go through the trouble of fast forwarding/rewinding or picking up the needle to move through the songs.

Number four: the proliferation of music is not necessarily a good thing. The very aesthetic enjoyment of music has changed due to the fact that via mp3s (which lop off huge amounts of high ends and low ends - again, tone is everything) one no longer has to "stay" one one song or a group of songs for much time. We scroll through our mp3s like we do our news feeds, and pay as much attention to each song and care about it for as long as we do for those headlines. In essence, mp3s allow one to have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of songs at one's fingertips, and so one isn't even allowed to actually focus on, re-listen to, any one song individually. I mean, one can do that. But the tendency is - given that they are available - is to just scroll through and hit upon whatever one happens to land upon. This also means that one quickly forgets which songs are good and which ones aren't. Soooooo many bands/artists to choose from, and given data holding space, one will soon be able to have them all.

Number five: the proliferation of artists is a good thing. Any Millennial with a laptop and keyboard now has their own band. Go to bandcamp to see this in action. Spot FM (and probably soon Spotify) furthers the fragmentation of these bands further and further into sub-genres, into sub-sub genres, into sub-sub-sub genres. Postpunk or New wave becomes synthwave becomes retrowave becomes darkwave becomes cold-dark wave until finally the niche-carving nature of the datasphere (internet) makes a new "genre" for each and every single individual artist/band!!!

Number six: Following this, you do NOT require talent to be a muscian today. When I listen to music from, say, the '50s, '60s, '70s, and especially '80s and '90s - you had to be able to play your instrument as there weren't computer programs to create it for you. One could object that music is always ever-becoming technologized: the lyre becomes the guitar becomes the electric guitar. But you still need to know to play a guitar. And in fact, with a distortion pedal hooked up to it, you can achieve even more unique sounds and tones to couple with that musicianship. No auto-tuning, no sampling and feedback loops. Nothing. Just you and the instruments and possibly whatever electric medium they pass through. Here my point is: a laptop can create a song for you, rather than you using the laptop to create the song.

Am I a disgruntled Gen-Xer (technically Xennial) yelling at the kids to get off my lawn? Absolutely not. YouTube, the public commons of music lovers galore, has all of the evidence one needs. Teenagers and young people of today will most emphatically tell you that they "wished they lived in those times," or that the music of today "was like that."

On the other hand, is today's music lost? Absolutely not. Why not? Read THIS New York Times article. YouTube kids opine for the "nostalgia they never knew" not because their just a nostalgic bunch. They long for music that actually means something. And in the music of the '80s/'90s they get that.

Hence why so many bands today reach for that style today.