by Hilary Crowe
There comes a point, every so often in music, where, in an attempt to sow a fresh, new crop of young, talented artists, record companies and music executives lay the manure on so thick that instead of fertilizing a creative movement, they smother it.
If you haven’t taken a sledgehammer to your radio yet or replaced it with iTunes and a music library that stretches to infinity and beyond (probably filled with stolen music in a last ditch effort to “stick it to the man”) because it is rewriting the creativity and experimentation out of music today (you know, picture the big guy at Atlantic with the corner office), then turn on your radio. I challenge you to listen enthusiastically to two songs consecutively without changing the frequency. It’s impossible.
And, if you’ve ever been played cuts from old Hendrix, Dylan, Zappa, Clash, or Fugazi albums, you won’t fare much better in a CD store like Tower Records.
Something appears to be missing in music today. Something that is difficult to pinpoint, but makes music potent when present and abysmal when absent. What is it? Passion.
Passion is severely lacking in the music industry today. The very word “industry” connotes a cold, hard, and unfeeling environment in which nothing vulnerable and subsequently ephemeral can hope to survive. Unwavering passion, conviction on the path toward reaching a certain creative nirvana, is the only weapon burgeoning artists have in the face of mass-produced apathy. Were Hendrix’s guitar and Jim Morrison’s voice always in tune? Did Minor Threat and the Ramones know any more than three power chords? No. And who cares? Everyone.
Today’ artists continue to pay respects and dues to these bands and others like them. Bands that weren’t always or perhaps ever popular, yet managed to inspire countless followers with their power and determination. But followers aren’t revolutionaries, and what music is in need of now is a revolution, for its evolution is becoming increasingly lugubrious and laced with purported “bands that define this generation,” as championed by the half-century-old columnists and editors of Rolling Stone.
It appears that the only thing that can save music now, as in the past, is to let the ground lie fallow. Build up underground talent, then, when frustrated woe-weary youths need it most, a movement will blossom on its own. But what will be the impetus of this new growth in music? And when can we expect it to occur?
In my mind, general dissatisfaction with the way the media portray and attempt to shape our generation (those made in the 1980s) accordingly will give rise to protest songs of a new kind. However, it is difficult to gauge when that dissatisfaction will turn into rage and finally into action. What I do know, however, is that the time is ripe. In the ‘60s and ‘80s, war overseas and terrorist paranoia abounded, and another 20 years later, American youths find themselves in the same environment. It’ll be interesting to see what we make of it this time.