A question raised at every age, about every generation: what the hell is wrong with pop music today? Throughout pop culture's existence this question has been asked constantly. They asked it in the seventies, they asked it in the eighties, the nineties, the 2000s, there were even some dingbats that raised that question back in the sixties. Unfortunately this inquiry has never been more valid than it is today.
Take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 today. I went through it planning to find out how many and at which positions one could find respectful or at least decent artists among America's top songs at this moment in history. The answer is zero. The chart this week is comprised of a lot of idiotic pop-dance tracks, harmless hip-hop, the shameless pandering of country-pop softies and that's about it. Nothing close to rock music, snowball's chance in hell regarding metal or anything deeper. Even on one of those genre-themed side-charts named Hot Rock Songs there's no rock, instead its top spots are held by acts like twenty one pilots, Lil Wayne with Imagine Dragons and Coldplay...
I also got through the albums chart, the Billboard 200, to see which was the first album I could find that D//E would gladly write about. Prophets Of Rage's new EP went straight only on #84 on its first week. The next one I found was Metallica AKA The Black Album by Metallica. An album from 1991 is in the charts today on #95 and that's not the only case as such. The Eminem Show from 2002 is on #71, a Notorious B.I.G. compilation from 2007 is on #80, Nirvana's Nevermind is on #109, Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits is on #114 and so on. Right now this albums chart feels like a haunted mansion at which the hip kids went to spend the week among ghosts of a better past. It's quite pitiful.
Let's go way back and work our way through to present day. The number one song in America according to the world's most renowned chart, the Billboard Hot 100, this week fifty years ago was You Can't Hurry Love by The Supremes. A classic pop-soul song by a wonderful all-female act on a legendary record label which helped shape popular music, defined and inspired a whole generation with the countless hits and great artists that it introduced to the public. It's an exemplary number one hit song and it still sounds crisp and elegant half a century later.
On the same week in 1976 the number one song was You Should Be Dancing by The Bee Gees, who had already indulged into that questionable disco turn into their career, right amidst America's disco craze. Time validated it as one of the most recognizable disco tracks of all-time, certainly different to what the band used to sound like on their earliest material, but still valuable, still decent.
On this week in 1986 a new wave band called Berlin had a huge international hit with a track featured in the hit movie Top Gun. Take My Breath Away was the top track in the US, after which Berlin disappeared from the map and cliched a spot among every list that includes history's best 'one-hit-wonders' ever since. What I'm trying to prove on the last three paragraphs, begins to show right about here and it gets clearer with the next US #1, ten years later, which was that dreadful Macarena fiasco. Yes, it's been twenty years since Macarena hit Billboard's top spot (for many weeks too) and it still sounds awful today, no case of nostalgia can be made about it. So, it's plain to see now how from 1966 to 1996 the quality of the tracks that were on number one deteriorates, showcasing how pop music had already began to crumble and lose its former shine.
This week in 2006 the number one wasn't worse, but then again there are not many things in life that could be considered uglier than Macarena, so it doesn't prove anything that Justin Timberlake's SexyBack was America's favourite at the time. Which brings us to the current charts according to which the top track today is Closer by The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey. That's the best the Billboard chart, ranked by radio airplay, sales (it used to be just that at some point), streaming and other components, could come up with at this point in time. It's embarrassing at the very least.
Man conquers space, technology evolves more rapidly than most people can grasp, the internet is in full bloom, meaning that all the information one needs is on the tips of their fingers at all times, images are getting brighter and clearer, sounds are getting crispier, and somehow our music is getting dumber. It's an unhealthy equation which works the other way than it should, it goes against the grain. While humanity progresses as a species, how come the music that most people listen to makes me feel dumb as a pile of rocks? While everything else seemingly improves, how come music goes downhill? At this pace what will the world be listening to the most in twenty years? Will it be a turd hitting on a xylophone?
I don't want to acknowledge any more of today's stars by mentioning their names on this blog, while doing the comparisons about how for every Prince and Michael Jackson, there's a crappy 'this' and a worthless 'that' these days. The furthest back in time you go, the better pop music becomes and that is utterly sad. If this piece of writing offends you, good for you, it means you have a conscience, but I couldn't care less. I don't care if my viewpoint makes me an elitist, a snob or a grumpy old man who yells at the birds to get off his property. I care about music and the better music will always been found in the underground; it always has, it always will. Even when pop was still good, music was still better if it was away from the mainstream. Thank goodness there's still incredible music being created today and I'm certain that there will continue to be, because as a form of art, therefore a form of expression, there always be the need for it. I don't worry about its finesse, proficient music will never end. However, the good kind of it today can't be found on the Billboard charts. It's on the independent blogs, it's on the bandcamp pages left and right, it's on your uncle's vinyl collection and on small live venues everywhere.
When you eventually see that turd with the xylophone gaining hype, try to do your part as a human being for the common good. Think of the rest of humankind for once and boycott it. Don't buy it, don't stream it, don't even mention it and it will quickly go away to hell where it belongs. Be responsible, show some dignity... Listen to something that's worth your consideration and try to increase that tiny attention span of yours. Otherwise we will all be condemned to ultimately live in a state like the one in Idiocracy, and right now it seems like that scenario is moving towards becoming a reality pretty fast.