Tuesday, July 8, 2008

the certainty of sucking

I recently got around to reading an article I clipped from LA Weekly last year called "Sucking in the '70s," by Kate Sullivan, who writes about listening to a rerun of American Top 40 from March of '78 on XM Satellite Radio and being amazed at how many of the songs are still in our collective consciousness and how many have stood the test of time as examples of excellence in pop craftsmanship. All this despite 1978 supposedly being a bad year for the quality of pop music, with disco invading every corner of the mainstream, and punk rock giving it the finger over in the margins.

All this music was the most commercialized crap the record industry could crank out. And most of it gets played on radios, stereos, iPods and jukeboxes every day, bringing pleasure to millions. But 1978 is even more impressive when you add to the equation what was happening off the Top 40 chart—in punk, new wave, metal, electronica, folk, reggae, rap. Pretty amazing, right? It's difficult to imagine almost anything from the Top 40 of the past few years enduring for decades to come; sadly, the same goes for the indie scene.

I often feel like a curmudgeon when it comes to things like people cursing in public more and more often, as if the F word is so commonplace now I should just get used to it, or riding their bikes on the sidewalk long past the age of 12, but I try not to be a curmudgeon about music. I love the music of the '70s more than that of any other decade, but my heart belongs to plenty of songs from the '80s too (which is when I started becoming aware of what was on the radio), especially ones I've heard for the first time in the last few years thanks to blogs like Lost in the '80s. The '90s produced a ton of classics as well, and though radio has gone through a lot of changes since the early '90s, when I was in high school and stopped listening on a regular basis, I'm still happy when a sunny pop song like Sara Bareilles's "Love Song" can break through on radio and reach lots of people.

Music has absolutely gotten worse. Except it hasn't. And if you think the music of today is the best ever, you're absolutely right. Except you're wrong. This argument will never be settled, and most of it has to do with one's age. I love the music of the '70s, but in the early part of that decade, when my parents were the age I am now, they might've thought the product being pushed on AM radio didn't come close to matching what Motown, Stax, and bands like the Beatles were creating in the '60s. And they're right. Except they're wrong.

Music will never die. And neither will our valid opinions about its quality. But in the end they are just opinions. So the next time you're riding your bike on the sidewalk and you don't hear me yelling at you because your iPod ear buds are blasting the latest, greatest hip-hop single that's making you happier than any song in recent memory, embrace that feeling and don't let anyone tell you music was better when they were your age. But first and foremost, please get the fuck off the sidewalk.

1 comment:

  1. Amen brother. Wow...I'd love to hear some old American Top 40 shows. I wonder if XM has a free trial thingy.