the magazine of the columbia daily spectator
May 1 2013
Mmm, baby: The very best in food porn
April 27 2013
Alternatives to Butler
April 19 2013
Red Bull and relaxation
April 17 2013
Back to the kitchen: A short journey through sexist pop culture
April 12 2013
Bikinis and big booties, y’all
April 8 2013
Azealia Banks Did What?
April 5 2013
More stories from Columbia’s military veterans
April 3 2013
Sing, O Muse, of some sappy story
April 1 2013
Missed the Cliterary Open Mic? Check out the highlights here
March 29 2013
Sex & Low Beach
At 3 a.m. in a very small town in southern India, I lay stark naked on a wooden bed, having just done something of which I was quite ashamed. I was very sick at the time, and, as I was confined to my bedroom, my iPod was my only stimulation. Wiping off the sweat from my forehead, ass, and upper lip, I took my headphones off, tried to stomach a Nature Valley Bar, and started to come to grips with the fact that I had just added songs like Sean Kingston’s “Letting Go (Dutty Love)” and We The Kings’ “Check Yes Juliet”to my iPod’s “Recently Played.”
On my flight home, still awash with regret, I began to ponder why it is that hipsters, indie kids, or any clan of the musically enlightened (read: elitist) so detest this sort of mainstream, Billboard music. I know—it’s an old, beaten topic—but bear with me.
I find that it’s not, as some claim, because these musicians are talentless. You may abhor John Mayer’s mega-sensitive frat boy aesthetic, but there’s no denying that he’s a gifted guitarist and singer. Nor is it because these radio stars have high-profile teams of producers and engineers who are paid wagonloads to make them sound good. Surprise!: The Antlers’ underground breakthrough album “Hospice” was mastered by the same engineer responsible for Foster The People’s “Torches.”
No, the real reason we hate mainstream pop music comes from our infatuation with Romantic-era notions of the Artist. We hate Flo Rida because Flo Rida doesn’t really exist; he is merely a vessel for Billboard music ideals: Clubs! Heartbreak/Sex! Parties! Any Flo Rida song could easily be a Pitbull song, a Sean Kingston song, an Enrique Iglesias song, etc. By now, Ke$ha could sing anything Fun. sings, and Adam Levine could step in for any one of Katy Perry or P!nk’s singles. Unique, genuine experience plays no part whatsoever in these artists’ music. Instead, recycled industry themes take precedence over honest human expression.
In fact, “mainstream” American music shares this quality with other genres—including country music (America! Alcohol abuse! Heartbreak/ Sex!) and even contemporary Christian worship music (God’s Grace! Salvation! Unworthiness!). Toby Keith, Carley Rae Jepsen, and MercyMe are all mere mouthpieces for the thematic uniformity hovering above their respective genres.
We really praise alternative music, then, because artists are encouraged and expected to venture out into genuine songwriting, unhampered by prescribed themes and industry protocol. And so, with righteous anger and denim-scented idealism, we may pound our fists on major record labels’ boardroom tables and shout, “This is what real music should be!”
And we would be wrong. In fact, the foundation of the Western musical canon—i.e., medieval religious choral music—shows us quite the opposite. For a long time, these songs were passed on orally, with no mention of who had written what. Music back then followed its own thematic formulas (e.g., lauding God’s power and holiness), prizing generic ideals rather than lyrical experimentation. Even the term “Gregorian chant” comes from a legend which tells how one man transcribed much of this music from birds, who carried the melodies to him directly from God. Much like 3OH!3, he was merely a vessel.
So the next time we’re listening to The Microphones, ranting about how today’s music is nothing but a rusty ship sinking to rock bottom, we must realize that, though the themes may have shifted over time, certain methods of Western music are just as they were in the (admittedly glorious) beginning. Indie music represents a unique sort of musical expression, in which the artist is prized over the music—and, while this relationship is different from that of other, more traditional genres, it does not make indie music inherently better. In the end, it’s just another factor to consider in our search for musical salvation.
But, if you’re ever puking your guts out in Sathankulam, “Rude Boy” can really do the trick— trust me.
We're looking for comments that are interesting and substantial. If your comments are excessively self-promotional, or obnoxious you will be banned from commenting. Consult the comment FAQ and legal terms.
© 2011, The Eye :: Spectator Publishing Company, Inc.