If Music Is My Radar, Then I’m Becoming Seriously Lost At The Moment

     Ah, Britain. Home of fish and chips, queues, tea-drinkers and the Queen. The bringer of television, the telephone and tennis. And, of course, the musical playground from which came The Beatles, David Bowie, Queen and my personal favourite musical genre, Britpop. Only now, that same landscape seems barren and bland. Contemporary music in Britain is in steep decline; one need only listen to the Polyfiller records of the day to ascertain a serial apathy towards the creation of genuinely good music…
     First of all, the artist du jour, Tinie Tempah. Aside from a truly preposterous stage name (the lexicographers for the Oxford English Dictionary presumably come out in a rash each time they see the name in print), his music is the equivalent of… well, there is nothing to compare him to that truly sums up the lack of ideas, originality, coherence, purpose, irony and audacity. The only thing binding its lyrics together is a sense of idiocy – in the chart-topping ‘gem’ Pass Out, lyrics about visiting Southampton but not Scunthorpe and keeping clothes in his aunt’s house are painfully awful (and, often, grammatically appalling). Anyone versed in pop music can say they have heard lyrics that exist merely to rhyme with a previous one, but the song ceases to tell a story or express a sentiment – it’s pap which has lyrics that read like a random list of meaningless sentences. It cannot even be merited as dance music, that rubbish tip of looped beats and vacuous, repeated lines, as Pass Out and Frisky can lay claim to two relatively dull backing tracks. Put it this way; I can’t see Beyonce doing any booty-shaking to it.
     Then there’s the mind-numbingly generic sounds of Cheryl Cole, a woman who has made a solo career out of having plastic mannequin-looks, crying at mediocre voices on The X Factor and being cheated on multiple times. The screeching, polyphonic ringtone voice of La Roux, a throwback to the 80s in all but age. And, of course, everyone’s favourite brain-dead, condom-hat-wearing chavs, N-Dubz. The less said about these artists – and what is there to say, when they’re so bland and pointless? – the better. 
     Just to prove that these opinions aren’t based on a proclivity towards bashing mainstream in the way that the writers of NME are wont to do, lest it make them seem superior to everyone else, there’s also the current indie totem-poles Mumford & Sons. Steeped in critical acclaim for their folky sound, they have breached the top 10 album chart with their debut album. Unfortunately, they appear to have neglected several things; decent lyrics, interesting guitar parts – indeed, an ability to make their songs distinguishable from one another – or any sense of opening a door to a new music scene, a counterculture to supersede the current handful of inane and superficially beautiful pop stars. Folk music may not be about guitar solos or debauched lyrics, but, as Laura Marling has shown on her two impressive albums, it doesn’t have to be so dull. In my opinion, they’re a glorified, recycled indie version of Scouting For Girls, who – despite being surprisingly good live – are not the most impressive reference point.
     So, what of American music? In fairness, it cannot be said that American music is in ruddy health at the moment; drab rap, R&B, country, American Idol winners and rock are all in dire straits. Can anyone honestly claim to be able to tell one artist from another in any of these genres? Even Weezer, who offered a fantastic eponymous debut that stepped light years away from Nirvana’s self-important depressed-teenager tirades of loathing in 1994 and then reinvented themselves to bring ’emo’ music (and not My Chemical Romance-style) to the mainstream in 1996’s ‘Pinkerton‘ with some wonderfully expressed sentiments of ineptitude and isolation, have been steadily in decline since then; last year’s ‘Raditude’ was depressingly generic, made more concrete by the appearance of the ubiquitous rapper Lil Wayne. Seemingly, most artists are in thrall to the success of Beyonce or Eminem, and offer cut-price versions of their music (indeed, both artists are virtual caricatures of their early work). No wonder the music business is draining away down the plughole; if current music is so ephemeral and lacking in legacy or musical potency, then why should the market buy it legally when it’s only required for a quick fix?
     However, in both countries, there are a few who rise above the tides of turgid trash. In terms of British music, our musical reputation is riding on the continued originality of the aforementioned Laura Marling, The XX and Muse, whose grandiose manifested in another impressive Glastonbury performance last week; America, on the other hand, is indebted to Lady Gaga. In terms of image, whilst obviously overblown and verging on ridiculous most of the time, she sails above the seas of Christina Aguilera Stripped-era wannabes (hello Kesha) and the increasingly decreasing hemlines of Britney Spears, and the intrigue she maintains in an era of constant surveillance and invasions of privacy is remarkable. Her musical quality is debatable (it always takes a few plays before it worms into my head and demands to be downloaded), but she’s a mile ahead of the rest of the popscene. In terms of indie, America is revitalising with some strength – Hole, We Are Scientists and The Strokes are all resurrected and in impressive form, and debuts from The Drums and Surfer Blood (particularly the latter) bode well for the future. They’re exciting and energetic, if not pioneering or visionary.
     The question is, does the public want to replace their fast food-music lifestyle? Is it too much effort to listen to mind-bending guitar solos (and no, not the shrieking, squealing, self-indulgent patterns propagated by Avenged Sevenfold and their ilk) or ambiguously poetic lyrics these days, and too easy to gorge oneself on anodyne constructs such as those artists condemned above? Because if The Sex Pistols or The Rolling Stones are vindaloo, Britain and America are currently living on korma. Just saying.

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2 responses

  1. […] censorship-crazy Senior Management, free to my whim, but totally open to the knives of my peers. The article in question bemoaned the state of contemporary music, sounding a death knell for Britain and America’s pop […]

  2. […] reason I explain this is because, when I ranted last year about the demise of good music, I was ignorant of the existence of a load of brilliant up-and-coming artists on account of the […]

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