An Obituary – The Death of Modern Western Pop Music

It is with deep regret that I wish to inform you all of the untimely (but blatantly obvious) death of modern Western pop music.

Sadly, ‘Pop’ as it was fondly called was ailing for sometime, and no one seemed to notice when it finally bellied up.

‘Pop music’ was renowned for bringing us many great hits over the decades. Some of these ‘hits’ date as far back at the 1940s, and over the decades there were many memorable songs from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

One can even dare say that popular music from each age and from other parts of the globe (Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic) have also stood the ultimate test of time, with the works of numerous composers being studied and performed to this very day.

But something strange happened from the dawn of the new millennium. At first none took any notice, but by the end of the next decade it was painfully clear.

There was no innovation and originality anymore. In fact most artists, regardless of musical category all started to sound the same, as if all these musical groups were being manufactured out of the same warehouse. It didn’t matter if you were pop, dance, electronica, hip-hop or rock ‘n roll (although I doubt the latter two will truly make it onto a mainstream radio playlist), all music had the same flow, the same chord progression (I, V, vi, IV), the same breaks, dynamics, and almost all the singers sounded exactly like one another.

It was terribly formulaic. It was too obvious not to notice, yet there were no cries for change.

Everyone seemed to be deaf to what was playing.

This writer believes the death was caused by three culprits, almost like the three legs of a good chair. But like anything else after a while with wear and tear, the legs of this musical chair started to rot, and there was no carpenter to fix the problem, so the legs became wobbly and the chair eventually collapsed.

The three legs were: Record Labels, Radio and the Artists themselves.

Record labels sprang up around the mid 1920s as a way to record, produce, market and distribute the music that was happening at the time. There were A&R departments (Artist&Repertoire) that sought out new talent and developed a roster of artists/groups that would ‘sign’ to that label and sell records to the buying public. But alas, the record execs became greedy and lazy over the years and have all but stopped their A&R departments. The bottom line is, you as an artist, you gotta have it all, ready to go for a label to jump in on your bandwagon. And you gotta be sell-able. If you’re not cute, sexy, young or be hip with whatever gimmick is the latest trend, then you won’t sell. It’s that simple and crude. A label is nothing more than a bank now, and they want a great return on their investment. And the artist is the investment. The three main labels that are left now (because the others got swallowed up over the years) couldn’t care any less about real music than a bank cares about helping low-income earners get a loan.

Next up: Radio.

In its’ infancy, radio helped build an awareness of a new, hip trendy music that was taking the world by storm. The first radio news broadcast occurred August 31, 1920 and shortly after music performances began to be aired. The new trendy music didn’t have a name as yet, but all that was about to change.

America was sitting on a goldmine, and along with British kids, musicians took to the blues and jazz, mixed it all up and gave it their own twist. Next thing you knew, Rock n Roll was born and the music of the late 1940s and 50s had spunk and VOLUME.

Rock n Roll brought music of the working man right to very doorstep, it gave birth to many sub-genres – Heavy Metal, Indie, Alternative, Grunge, Shoe-Gaze and Pop music all owe their life to Rock n Roll. It’s worthy to note that each sub-genre bore their own children, so we can say that Rock n Roll had many children and grandchildren.

To have a look at the children that Rock n Roll will leave behind (courtesy of Wikipedia, just head to Google).

But Jazz and Blues also had another offspring around the same time – R&B, a term sadly coined to differentiate music of African-American origin from Rock n Roll. Absurd and truly racist, but it is a term that ‘stuck’.

Thus, Jazz and Blues leave behind two kids – R&B and Rock ‘N Roll. Both had their fair share of radio airplay in the early days. Both kids helped to make Pop what it was.

But as the story goes, there came along a thief – Payola.

Thanks to the labels, they made sure that the ONLY content on radio, was theirs. Soon mainstream radio was nothing more than paid advertising for a label. If you don’t believe me, turn on any mainstream Top 40 station and leave it on for a day or two. The station will play a handful of songs at least about five times a day. So there’s only a couple songs on radio for airplay? Never mind there are hundreds of thousands of musicians/artists/bands worldwide, only a handful of songs get played on mainstream radio.

Which brings us to Artists: it seems that most artists these days all want to be famous and rich (if that’s even possible with the label and entertainment lawyers owning everything. And rather than writing anything of creative substance, most modern-day pop artists are out to make an instant hit. The term one-hit wonder can’t apply to them because the terrible hits keep coming. They should re-name ‘Artists’ to ‘Factory Clones’ because in almost every music genre there’s a few that mostly sound/look exactly alike.

And then came along the worst part – the disease to end it all – Autotune (the device that made a terrible single a star)

Together, these three along with their man-made disease helped kill the pop music industry.

Sad that no one saw it coming, maybe something could’ve been done.

But it is too late, and we have now are just the memories of when music used to mean something.

When we could remember a song from the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s.

But can you remember any pop song from the new millennium?

I sure can’t. And for the most part, I don’t want to, it’s that terrible.

Rest in peace Pop, we had fun for a little while.