My thoughts today on current pop music would probably insult the teenagers whose tastes lean heavily in the direction of songs that are now heard almost everywhere we go. My concern, however, over offending the young is minimized by the fact that it will be highly unlikely that any teens would be reading this blog. Also, I believe strongly that anyone who listens regularly to such music is probably devoid of the tenderness of spirit to feel or even recognize an insult when it’s hurled at him. Yes, I’m horribly intolerant in this matter, especially when I’m forced to listen to rubbish that so many call “music” in our public places.
Last Wednesday while bowling at a local place for two hours, I listened, however unwillingly, to song after song at volumes strong enough to shatter steel beams, every one of the songs in common time with the same mind-numbing tempo and repetitively mindless lyrics, to the point that my brain began to feel immobilized by the utter dullness of the listening experience. I’d like to blame my bad bowling scores on the music, but that would be going too far, I suppose. Without earplugs I felt at the mercy of the dreadful music and being forced to hear what was surely more a phenomenon of electronic sound enhancement and technology than of actual musical talent or originality of performance. The term “performing artist” is way overused nowadays.
Maybe we’ve reached the point where we really don’t want to be stimulated mentally by background music but rather deadened by it as robotic accompaniment to whatever else we’re doing. I guess we’ve all become multi-taskers anyway. That kind of pop music seems paralyzed by a sameness that desensitizes life in a way that texting and cellphones do. Primitively inarticulate, the music becomes as pervasive as a stupefying companion uttering the same word over and over again until it loses all meaning.
I’m old enough to remember that our pop music of the 1950’s through the 1980’s could certainly be dumb too, but at least it didn’t all sound exactly the same. I’ve come to that juncture in life, where I can hear several pop songs in a row and not be able to tell they weren’t all done by the same performer. Part of that is due to the aging process and my remembering fondly the music and lyrics by people like the Gershwins, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, Oscar Hammerstein, Jules Stein, Stephen Sondheim, and Irving Berlin, but a big part of it too is that much of the pop music of today is just inane. From a sense, however, of compassion, pity, or condolence, I won’t mention any of its specific names. JB