When I was a boy, my grandfather would tool around in his car listening to big band music or classical. The former was the music of his youth, while the latter was what he thought sophisticated people liked. He was not wrong about that. In his youth, the kind of music you could dance to was for proles, while the sophisticated people appreciated classical and opera. It was not as clear cut as that, but the early 20th century was a time when people still looked up for guidance and inspiration. That included entertainments.
The thing I always hated hearing from my grandfather was how modern music was terrible and not fit for civilized people. He was a man of his age and class, so he used colorful euphemisms to describe popular music. Even as a kid, I understood that every generation has their soundtrack. Maybe never having known anything but a world where pop culture dominated, this came naturally to me, while my grandfather still recalled an age before everyone had a radio and television. Maybe he knew things I couldn’t know.
Either way, I’ve always just assumed that once I passed my mid-20’s, pop music was no longer for me. Some stuff would be appealing, but most would be aimed at kids and strike me as simplistic and repetitive. There were some good bands in the 90’s that I liked, but most of it was not my thing. By the 2000’s, I was unable to name popular groups or the songs at the top of the charts. Today, I have not heard a single note from any song on the current top-40. On the other hand, I’m sure I’ve heard some version of all of it.
That may be why music sales have collapsed. A 15-year old can go on YouTube or Spotify and find fifty versions of the current pop hits, gong back before their parents were born. They can also find stuff from previous eras that was remarkably well done and performed by people with real talent. Justin Timberlake may be very talented as a singer, but no one is confusing him with Frank Sinatra. It’s simply a lot easier for young people to see that pop music is just manufactured pap from Acme Global Corp.
That’s another thing that may be plaguing pop culture in general and pop music in particular. When I was a teen, your music said something about you because you felt a connection to the band. In the sterile transactional world of today, no one feels an attachment to anything, much less the latest pop group. There’s no sense of obligation to buy or listen to their latest release. Supporting a type of music or a specific act is no longer a part of kid’s identity. The relationship is now as sterile as society.
That is the funny thing about pop culture in our Progressive paradise. It is a lot like the pop music of totalitarian paradises of the past. The Soviets manufactured their version of Western pop, but it was never popular. Just as we see at the Super Bowl, comrades can be forced marched to an arena and made to cheer, but no one really liked it. There’s a lot of that today, as every pop star has the exact same Progressive politics and uses their act to proselytize on behalf of the faith. That’s not a coincidence. It is by design.
The West does not have a competitor that embraces freedom and liberty, so the past has become the competition. Look at YouTube and you will see that old songs and bands have enormous amounts of traffic. Given that the people who listened to Sinatra in their prime are mostly dead, it must be younger people discovering and enjoying the old stuff from when the West was still in love with itself. I’ve often been surprised to see young people, particularly young men, into music that pre-dates me, but it is not uncommon.
As an aside, I include music clips in my podcast, mostly to break things up, but also to entertain myself with inside jokes. The number one question I get from people is about the music. Every week I get e-mails asking about some clip and the e-mail is always from a younger person. If I use a clip from an old crooner, I get compliments from people of all ages. Nostalgia certainly plays some role, but most of it is people looking for enjoyable music, because the current popular music just don’t work for them.
What’s happening to pop culture is a reflection of our age. We’ve been turned into Pandas by a smothering, soft totalitarianism. The feminization of the culture means we’re ruled by mothers, who refuse to ever let us wander from the nest, physically, spiritually, creatively or intellectually. That has had all sorts of effects, like the drop in sperm counts and the collapse of popular culture. A deracinated people, kept in adult daycare centers and tended to by belligerent spinsters is not going to have a lot to celebrate or live for.
The great philosopher Homer Simpson said, “Why do you need new bands? Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact.” There’s a lot of truth to that as per capita music sales peaked in the 70’s and began a decline until CD’s forced everyone to repurchase their music. But that peaked in the late 90’s and there has been a precipitous decline ever since. Two factors driving it would be demographics and the fact that our most musical people, blacks and Jews, no longer play instruments.
Pop music is not art, but like art it does hold a mirror up to society. In the heyday of pop music, the society it reflected was one that was optimistic and happy. Today, the society it reflects is the gray, featureless slurry of multiculturalism and the vinegar drinking scolds who impose it on us. It’s not that it is low quality or offensive. It’s that the music is a lot like the modern parking lot. It is row after row of dreary sameness. Like everything in this age, popular music has the soul of the machine that made it.