LAST TIME I POSTED about the MTV Video Music Awards. More than any other force, the music video is responsible for shrinking pop music from an art in its own right, into mere background material for dazzling imagery and fancy filmwork. Accordingly, the VMAs provide an annual snapshot of the decline of pop music, largely since the late '90s. Some of the worst trends in our video-driven pop culture, in my book:
10) Timbaland, Neptunes, and Lil Jon producing everything
8) Simpering whiny-boy vocals in R & B
7) Female artists obliged to sing angry-bitch man-dissing songs
6) Every R &B single using the same drum sounds and synths borrowed from trance music
5) Hip-hop replaced by snap rap
4) Abandonment of chords and chord progressions (this was actually deteriorating in the mid-90s but has really hit rock bottom in the last 10 years)
3) Abandonment of melody (Covering a 2-or 3-note range in an entire song barely qualifies as melody.)
2) The loudness wars, -- leading to fatiguing all-loud-all-the-time recordings, lacking space and dynamic and emotional range. *
* I mean, have you listened to anything on vinyl lately? Check out anything from the '60s, '70s, '80s, even '90s, and compare with stuff released in the last decade. This digitally laser-polished, glossy-finished, over-compressed, up-in-your face, all-loud-all-the-way-through sound that's been going on in pop and rock music for the last several years is nice as an occasional effect to signal "this is some extreme shit -- check it out." But any extreme effect used all the time becomes fatiguing. Especially when it's on every fricking song.
The other day I was listening to Frankie Valli's "Grease" and some '70s Hall & Oates stuff, like "Bigger Than Both of Us." What a reminder of how refreshing it was when recordings allowed space -- space for loud and quiet, for surprises. You remember how good the sizzle of a high hat sounds against a mellow background that's not all up in your face. You know. Percussion? Remember that?