Monday, March 05, 2007

Today's Music

211 Today’s Music

It’s partly generational. But today’s music sounds more like howling and whining and screaming and crying than it does like anything resembling music. (We’re not talking about rap or hiphop here. Those genres have been covered – and defended – here before.

It’s pop. Can you understand any of the words to any of the current hits? If so, you’re at a distinct disadvantage. Because if you can, you realize what’s missing today, beside artistry, musicality, and message.

Singers of yore sang TO you. The current crop sings AT you. (Sing is a relative term. It never used to be, but modern times demand the change.)

Those of us who believe that Sinatra was the most overrated performer in the history of performance, but he still knew – or faked – singing to and for the people who were out there listening. Even the worst of that kind of crooner (that would be Jerry Vale) had a grasp of that.

Some magazine or television show recently took a one question survey, and evidently has either not finished counting or has decided it doesn’t like the result and decided against disclosing it. The question was “Who did more for music, Elvis Presley or James Brown?”

The proper question probably should have been “who did less damage to music?” The answer to that would have been Elvis. In his prime, you could still understand the words, hum the melodies and understand the thought. Not the case with Brown.

Before you hurl accusations that we’re being the Ann Coulter of music, please understand that the position here is “James Brown was not worth listening to,” as opposed to “Black men can’t do music,” which is utterly ridiculous. Let’s add to that that the Beatles were in the same boat after their first US-released album, “Meet the Beatles.” Okay. We met ‘em. Following which they turned from a British imitation rockabilly band into four mouths filled with sponges. Would that they could sing some of their songs as well as they wrote them.

Today, falsetto is king. (Johnny Mathis could make it work, to a point.)

Clogged noses replace open mouths as the exit wound for the song. Contortions and gyrations replace stage presence. (After you SEE Celine Dion, you can’t stand to listen to her anymore. Plus, she doesn’t need an audience. She’s plain-old singing to herself.

Make no mistake about it, there were plenty of lousy singers before the current American Idol wannabes. It’s just that they weren’t chart toppers.

Can you imagine Peggy Lee or Nat Cole singing anything that was written today? And can you imagine any of today’s “singers” trying to sound as they did?

Country music is almost an exception. It’s still corny, you can still understand the words. You can still hum the tunes. But the presentations are getting more elaborate than opera with a full symphony orchestra. And it’s only a matter of time before these guys catch the infection that pop music is spreading.

Could Hank Williams or Hank Snow or Hank Thompson make it to the top today? Not likely. What about Kitty Welles or Rose Maddox or Maybelle Carter?

If you find yourself agreeing with all these, you can try foam earplugs with a noise rating reduction of 29 decibels or more. (The house brand is usually made by Flents. Same as the name brand, but a bit cheaper.)

Meanwhile, at the secret mountain laboratory, we’re working on a reverse hearing aid.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

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