My uncle sent me a video explaining exactly why millennial music is awful. I disagreed with various points of the video and this was my response to his email.
I have a couple of thoughts about that video . . .
The main point of the argument that “modern music is terrible” is based off of what you hear on the radio. In other words, main stream music is terrible, a fact of which very few will deny. The entire world didn’t stop producing “good” music all at once, in fact, they never stopped. There are amazing bands everywhere, you just have to find the ones you like. There’s a rock bagpipe group I love and what makes their music awesome is the blending of cultures and generations with their covers of songs as well as original songs. If you turned on the radio in the 1960’s, you would probably hear terrible music as well. Rolling Stone took a poll and even the Beatles made their list of worst songs of the ’60’s. Every generation has a Beatles and the bad bands sort of fade away.
This video used timbre as a measure of “good music, which is essentially what makes sound different. The timbre of a violin is different than the timbre of an electric guitar, even if they play the same note. Timbre is also the difference between a screech and a correct note. Just because a song is filled with timbre does not make it better. Two different instruments playing wrong notes would have a ton of timbre, but two different instruments playing correct notes sounds better. Nasally chants from Indonesia or Buddhist prayers are filled with varying timbre but we wouldn’t consider this music “bad” because we don’t fully understand its cultural significance nor consider it mainstream.
On the subject of chord progression, the video got a few things wrong. Bach and Mozart are often quoted to be the grandmasters of music, yet they had many works that were 4/4 or 3/4 beats – the same beats that this video called tiresome and repetitive. The same notes that this video claims every song uses is called Diatonic Tuning, and the oldest record of it was written on a bone nearly 45,000 years ago. Diatonic Tuning is how music developed the standard 12 music notes per octave we have today. I have a textbook on music theory if you would like to borrow it. The video also kept referring to polls done by researchers without ever really offering the names of the studies or providing sources for its claims.
Furthermore, a development in the modern music is the rise of minimalism during the 20th century. I had the privilege to watch Phillip Glass’ Koyaanisqatsi; Glass is arguably the most famous and notable minimalist composer of all time. He composed a minimalist score for The Truman Show, a movie that no doubt left a large impact on the public. The power of music undoubtedly changes the mood of a situation; you can believe minimalist music is “bad”, but you can’t deny its power to change perspective – and a change in perspective is seldom a bad thing. Another major change in perspective was the rise of the internet. This allowed many individuals an opportunity to create music on their own and share it with their community. Before the internet, popular songs were professionally recorded and released on a label by those already talented with instruments or their voice. Popular songs nowadays may come from a funny internet video or a viral educational tool and need little to no formal training or professionalism to reach a willing audience. Music can come from a more diverse area and represent more walks of life thanks to the internet. In our society, music has become a way to interact with the world in the same way that Simon and Garfunkel made amazing anti war songs.
Lastly, the video argued the lack of sentimentality and originality of song lyrics. It argued the superficiality and basic-ness that infests every popular song but I have a strong counter. These are the song lyrics to the Twenty One Pilots song Car Radio:
Sometimes quiet is violent
I find it hard to hide it
My pride is no longer inside
It’s on my sleeve
My skin will scream reminding me of
Who I killed inside my dream
I hate this car that I’m driving
There’s no hiding for me
I’m forced to deal with what I feel
There is no distraction to mask what is real
I could pull the steering wheel
In the song, a man’s car radio was stolen and he has no other choice but to ponder his mortality and purpose in life. Both this song and band is extremely popular in society. While there are a few stinkers out there, not every popular song is worthless. It’s also worth noting the variety of timbre included in this song from voice effects to change in instruments, to sound effects. Furthermore, Led Zeppelin and ABBA both received bad reviews during their time, the only difference, in my opinion, is that Led Zeppelin was actually good. Kiss’ Love Gun had amazing (that was sarcasm) lyrics:
Let’s get together, we can get hot
No more tomorrow, baby time is today
Girl, I can make you feel okay
You pull the trigger of my
Love gun, (love gun), love gun
Love gun, (love gun), love gun
Compare the lyrics of this classic rock song to any of the “superficial” songs you hear on the radio today and you’ll notice that not only is the message the same, but the lyrics, chords, and beat are eerily similar.
In summary, modern music has many categories. The simplicity of minimalism does not discredit its legacy. While you may call some music “bad”, there is no way to completely understand its cultural implications nor impact on a society. Just because a certain tune may not align with your taste, that does not mean there isn’t history and hard work behind the song. Music is a subjective way for individuals to express themselves. Attacking their expression by asserting your “perfect taste” in way belittles their attempt to find a voice in a loud world filled with constant communication. Music should not be judged by those of us who cannot understand its intricacies. There is no perfect form of music, it is made to share and be shared, not to stratify. We all came from the silence but stayed for the music.