Recently, I found myself reflecting on all the musical greats to have blessed us with their genius (both on and off-stage) in the past 60 years: the catchy and inventive pop of the Beatles; the powerful operatic voice of Freddie Mercury; the gritty and psychedelic vocals of Axl Rose, Kurt Cobain, and Liam Gallagher; the funky and ebullient sounds of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. Not one of those artists seems to have been successfully re-invented, which seems to raise important questions about the future of music. For instance, can artists today survive without digital bolstering and social media exposure?
The answer, of course, is 'No'. Commercialisation has the music industry by the short and curlies. The only creative freedom available to musicians now is how to make themselves look even more of a douche bag than Dappy. Music videos have often completely removed the line between a credible and often awe-inspiring video and a mini, X-Rated porno. Remind me what industry this is?
I must disclose that I am in no way against digital technology, if the artist uses it to enhance their sound and manages to avoid too much of the dreaded vocal manipulation. However, it appears that such manipulation is now the definition of pop music. The vocals now match their digital production; a fusion of man and machine designed to imitate machine. The days of artists being discovered for pure talent are rapidly coming to an end thanks to the prevalence of talent shows such as X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent.
Are artists so desperate for exposure that they are willing to let themselves be used by corporations that purposely set out to control them? Cheryl Cole’s belated return to X-Factor is just one of the many signs that suggest the soul and integrity of pop/rock music may be gone forever. Collectively, we have a better chance of witnessing Justin Bieber acquire a sex change.
I could sit here and witter on about how Simon Cowell has turned record labels into money-hungry hyenas but the real criminals are the consumers. They are oblivious to how their purchases are affecting the record sales of unique and authentic artists, because One Direction merchandise is like LSD – teenage girls can't stop trippin’ out over those miniature Zane dolls. Wake up World!
So the prospect of seeing real music re-surface into mainstream culture is slim. Popular artists now are a product of clever marketing, targeted at prepubescent girls and men with guilty-pleasures - meaning the next Slash, Brian May or Pete Townsend will go unnoticed because they don’t fit into the category of heart-throb or borderline porn star.
When did the music die? Well, it’s still dying, folks - a slow and painful death.
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