On the Evolution of Pop Music


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This is not my analogy, but I like it: pop music is candy - feed it to people and they will want more. Some people believe that if you feed a child all sorts of different food early in their lives, they won't be as picky when they grow up, and they'll be open to trying and understanding new and different things... same idea with music... if you only give someone pop music growing up, they're going to be into the "pop music sound" when they are older, and they might just continue to consume whatever the masses feed each other throughout their lives.

Now, consider the past:
In 1970, Miles Davis' album "Bitches Brew" somehow went gold in a matter of months, and #4 on the Billboard R&B Albums chart:

In 1974, Yes' album "Tales from Topographic Oceans" - with ridiculous songs like "The Ancient" - was #1 in the UK and #6 on the Billboard Pop Albums:

Can you believe that something like this would be on a pop chart anywhere today... let alone a #1 album? "Tales" went gold on pre-sales... before the album even came out... the hype surrounding Yes must have been incredible.

I'll admit I took some of this information from Wikipedia.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the thinking is that "better" musicianship was marketed once upon a time, whereas nowadays Soulja Boy can have a #1 song for 7 weeks in a row with music that a 2nd grader could learn how to play. I'm pretty sure none of the stuff linked in this post could get play on any sort of mainstream station today. So there was a time when people thought differently somewhat about what "pop" should be.

Most of the pop music that is played today likely won't last as noteworthy music beyond our collective memories and as nostalgic tokens or trivia questions. I'm not saying they were the best thing ever but there's a reason why teenagers still listen to The Beatles now but few listen to the Monkees (and fewer have even heard of Herman's Hermits). In general, pop musicians are good (and at the truly professional level, amazing) at entertaining the masses. Most of us can't pull off that kind of show - not that we'd necessarily want to.

Of course, most of the "art" music that is made today won't ever be marketed well-enough to be heard by anyone of real structural consequence. Not only that, but I think historically many artists have not been very good at being noteworthy while alive... posthumous fame is not uncommon for artists who "deserved" recognition. So even if you were good at making groundbreaking music, you might not even know it until years after you're dead.

dr greenthumb wrote:It's just with the internet it's easier to share said shitty noise. That might be a draw back but it also leveled the playing field for really talented people to reach more people with their music.

The Internet is a communication tool, right? It resembles real life in that the best pop marketers will use it to their advantage and flood the media with their products/ideas. It's certainly easier to find random music from across the world, like the latest death metal from Sweden, or this thing - I don't even know what to call it - but for the most part if you're browsing around the Internet, you'll get the same mainstream marketing as you normally would on the radio or TV. So, while the Internet reduces (not my phrase here) "temporal boundaries" - I don't have to wait a week for someone to bring a tape from Japan back to the States to watch a Japanese movie - pop music is still going to be the bulk of music that people hear, because there is so much pop music fed to people in their day-to-day lives.

Here's my own analogy...
Avant-garde and music as art is cutting edge research; pop music is the functional application of certain aspects of research.

Without furthering art music and trying to be cutting-edge, there is no "advancement" or "progress" in the overall music world. But without pop music (something accessible to people), there would be no one to bring the new developments to the masses.

Of course, with no funding for music as art, one could argue that pop music devolves into "shitty noise" - and what's worse - passion for music does not necessarily mean you get noticed... at least not right away... so you can give up your dreams of making beautiful art all day long if you want to live. It's not valued, even if you love it and die for it. But that's honestly besides the point.

My perception of pop music is that it's not very good musically (and it wasn't 10 years ago either), but because I have the Internet, that doesn't really matter to me personally, and if I cared enough to bring "anti-pop" music to the masses, I'd be trying to get all my friends to expand their diets, because sucking down candy all day is probably not healthy in the long run. People get toothaches.

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