“Though meaning might be missin’, we need to know the words after just one listen so, repeat stuff”
-Bo Burhnam “Repeat Stuff”
The Industry Today
Music these days tends to be very polarizing. People over the age of 20 have quite the scorn towards the music that one hears on the radio today. Was it always this way, though? Did people get so up in arms about Bob Dylan, the way we see folks get so up in arms about the next Justin Bieber song? Has the industry lost all of its balls? It certainly would seem that the big companies have no interest in supporting the truly remarkable over the truly marketable.
Music used to stand for something. The truly memorable artists had things to say, pain to work through, struggles to overcome. What does Justin Bieber stand for? Besides acting like an asshole in public, and putting out the most bland, toothless music. One couldn’t picture Biebs putting out a song with such emotion as Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”, because that might not strike with the broadest audience as possible. In 50 years, will people be listening to The Beatles, still, or Justin Bieber? There’s no longevity to his type of music. Is “Baby” a more of a timeless classic than “Let it Be”?
Don’t people get tired of listening to music from people bragging about all of the expensive shit that they have that most of the fans never will? Repetitive, paper-thin music that holds up to no scrutiny whatsoever. Music is an easy thing to get snobby about but, fuck me, some people like shitty music.
Is this really what people want?
I would argue that it’s provably NOT what the population, over the age of 10 anyway, want. I say this because nearly every time someone comes along who actually has something to say, they gather a following who clamor for more. Kendrick Lamar is popular rapper of today, born and raised in Compton, who’s making it quite big. It’s no surprise to me that he lived a harder life… creativity comes from adversity. Compare him to Drake who, admittedly had a mother with health problems, but was an actor on the Canadian show “DeGrassi”. Drake did not “start from the bottom”. Now, I’ll admit a bit of ignorance when it comes to rap and hip-hop these days, I fell out with rap years ago. When I hear that type of music these days it seems like most aspiring rap stars just make non sequiturs that rhyme, instead of having a consistent theme throughout the song.
I saw a video recently of the rap duo Rae Sremmurd reacting to comments left on the Youtube page of their song “Black Beatles”, and a few things struck me as interesting. Firstly, they come across as cocky douche-bags, telling people who don’t like their music to “suck their cocks”. Whoever reads the comments is nearly illiterate; one guy keeps making the onomatopoeia for tires squealing. They seem incapable of taking any criticism that comes with the territory of being at the top of the charts. They say “we’re not comparing ourselves to The Beatles, we’re the Black Beatles.” which makes no fucking sense. The one with the blonde dreads says something like “I can play any instrument… digitally”. He’s boasting that he can do something that literally anyone with any combination of fingers could do.
The song contains lyrics such as: “Rocking John Lennon lenses like to see ’em spread eagle”, and “Black Beatle, bitch, me and Paul McCartney related”; these are not only really stupid lyrics, it sounds like connecting and comparing to The Beatles to me. The Beatles have a large and eclectic body of work, completely unrivaled by anybody who has come after them. Their music may have started off as the pop love song stuff, but it evolved into something so much greater. I’ve never seen a video of Paul McCartney telling critics of his work to suck his dick, that’s all I’m saying.
One of my favorite musicians is Maynard James Keenan, of TOOL, Puscifer, and A Perfect Circle. He’s a fantastic lyricist and has a great vocal range. He also has a dedicated fan-base of millions of people clamoring for something new from his bands. He’s never put out a video attacking critics of his work. He supports charities, and is mostly reclusive, and has been in the music industry for nearly 30 years. His lyrics are ambiguous, emotional, and best of all, are not just about how great he is and how much he loves to party.
If I were in pursuit of a career in music I would take the smaller audience of dedicated fans over the fickle fans who listen to the Billboard Hot 100 tracks before moving onto the next popular thing like Roombas or Pokemon.
I had to re-watch the reaction video a couple of times, read the lyrics to Black Beatles, and watch the music video in preparation for this rant. I have to wonder if their behavior is an act to get people talking about them, in good ways or bad. I’ve spent much more time listening to them and thinking about them than I thought I ever would. I’m convinced that these clowns will not have a lasting music career. Their time in the spotlight will pass, and they’ll be forgotten just like nearly every other musician to ever chart.