I am getting tired. I hear the same music again and again and again. The charts are driving me crazy. Because I like this kind of music. In the shadow of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and The Fame Monster, the 2010s saw the reinvention of music through R&B (Anti) and alternative pop music (WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO). The 2020s are certainly technologically advanced. But what is the artistic cost of this endless fourth-dimensional ear candy? Quite a lot, I think.
I see two issues with contemporary music. It’s either bland technical nonsense, epitomised in the diktats of the self-proclaimed gurus and colleges, online and offline, or it’s straightforward robbery of someone else’s artistry. We are lost in tiny details. We have completely forgotten the big picture. Half the time (an exaggeration, though a tolerable one) I just listen to the albums of Ye (the rapper, producer, and critically acclaimed music artist formerly known as Kanye West) because this is a musician who knows how to make masterpieces — such as Yeezus, The College Dropout, and so many more than I can name in one post. But that is only half the story.
The other half of the time (again, exaggeration) I look for the new Michael Jackson, the new Elvis, the new Kanye of modern music — Kanye being the latest in the sequence of great musicians, from J.S. Bach to Miles Davis. (I say this as a matter of musical judgement; not as a matter of taking sides in today’s politicised culture war about reliving historical trauma of centuries gone by, in which countless souls have lost their lives to slavery, totalitarianism, and genocide — a long war in which music, art, and philosophy offer a precious and much-needed escape from ongoing strife.) So the logical question for music historians and practitioners is: Who’s next? Will the real modern Mozart please stand up?
But it’s not as simple as that. I don’t just want individual musicians to do better. I want music as a whole to do better. I want something genuinely new — i.e., original, deep, and substantial. Style is imitative; and technicality is a shadow of artistry. So let’s paint a new portrait for our musical landscape, which is fast turning into a desert of mediocrity. Time for a new hegemony. For as the old dies, the new is waiting to be born. On the shoulders of giants we stand. But higher and higher we must aim. This is our time. Seize the day.
Disclaimer: Any similarity between names mentioned and actual individuals is purely accidental and largely theoretical. These are fun ideas to entertain but, as always, I may be mistaken. After all, what do I know?