I was working at the Cornish Maize Maze about a week ago. I got there for a summer job in order to earn myself a little extra money. The person in charge of the daily running of the maze also decides what goes on the radio that plays in the cafe, and because it is a Cornish Maze she plays Pirate FM because it is the local station. So when I’m working nearer to the cafe I have to put up with listening to the radio, which shouldn’t be much of a problem because, as you probably know by now, I’m a great fan of music.
However, after listening to the radio for 6-7 hours each working day, I have realised something. Yes, the radio plays music, but always the same music, by the same artists, in the same genre. If I were to summarise the regular playlist, it would go something like this:
Adele – Rihanna – JLS – Adele – Lady Gaga – Rihanna – Adele – JLS – Lady Gaga – Rihanna
Of course another artist would be thrown in every few songs, but this is the general theme, three artists seemingly on repeat, with about 2 songs each.
“So what”, I hear you ask.
The radio playlists reveal a lot about the society we live in these days. What is it about these artists that mean that they get repeated over and over ad nauseum? And then, why is it that such artists will likely be unknown after another 5-10 years?
It can be seen in a few different ways. First, money. Money is everything these days, and I mean EVERYTHING. Think of anything you do, and see if it relates directly or indirectly to money.
Music used to distance itself from money. Music was about… well, music! And nothing more. It was about feeling good, expressing emotion and uniting people. Nowadays, things are completely different. Top artists like Rihanna buy their way onto the radio in order to get people to buy their downloads. Unlike years past when artists had to advertise through gigs and word of mouth and luck, today’s top artists simply force their music onto people, no matter how deserving. Record companies pay millions in order to bribe the radios into playing their music.
Not only that, but artists like Rihanna don’t even write their own songs! The record companies pay writers to think up her songs for her. Rihanna’s job in the whole process is to sing into the microphone when they call on her and rake in the money when she’s done. Forget all the artists who spend years writing their own material from scratch and singing WITHOUT autotune. They don’t have the money to afford radio-play.
At the end of the day, it’s all a big game the record companies play in order to earn some more money. The reason these artists are repeated so much is not because it’s good music, but that it makes people want to buy it because it’s seen as an ‘in-thing’. Like trends, these artists will last maybe a year or two, maybe stretching to five, but that’s usually it. It’s human nature to be part of the crowd, and the companies utilise that and turn it into a money-making scheme. This also explains why everything in the charts sound the same, almost literally! Give me two Lady Gaga songs and I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart if the lyrics were taken from the mix. It’s all part of a trend that will have changed in the next couple of years (thankfully). Pre-teen girls will soon grow up.
The second reason could easily be part of the whole trend explanation. Music connection with todays fashion and celebrity industries.
As you all know by now, todays society is obsessed with celebrity life, to the point of fanaticism in some cases. This strange phase in our culture has unfortunately spread to the music industry, and the artists are no longer seen as artists but as celebrities. As celebrity culture is so closely tied with the fashion industry, artists are more and more expected to be fashionable. Rihanna and JLS fit this example perfectly, seen not as musicians but as celebrities. Unfortunately most of todays audience have confused the words celebrity and musician and expect our musicians to be celebrities. Artists who care more for music than the clothes they wear are put at a disadvantage from the off, which is the opposite of what should be the case.
There are extremes of this example, like Lady Gaga, who likes to dress like a slut or a barbeque. It’s a similar case but instead of trying to conform to the fashion crowd does the complete opposite by dressing like a maniac. This is attention seeking, controversy for the sake of controversy and publicity.
Beneath the over-the-top image of these artists is nothing. The music is boring and vacuous, and above all repetitive. The lyrics always tell the same old story of a made-up love in one of two varieties: a break-up, usually done as a ballad; or falling in love, employing so many cliches that the songs just become one big cliche. Then you get Lady Gaga who just sings (or auto-tune-sings) about being a slut and being date-raped. There could be a reason, though one that makes me seems a little arrogant. I’ll say it anyway. The people who enjoy this music are philistines whose lives are so boring and cliched that the only music simple enough for them to comprehend also has to be boring and cliched. Of course there are exceptions, but from my own experience this is often the case. The reason it’s mostly children who like this stuff is because their young and a lot of them haven’t experienced life enough to know that it isn’t always repetitive and boring. Life is dramatic, life goes up and down to so many extremes.
Again there are exceptions, as with everything in life. I can name a few. I may seem arrogant but as a musician myself I feel insulted by todays lazy culture, where celebrity life becomes more important than our own lives. Music has become something that it shouldn’t be, and the public has done nothing about it. It’s a sad day when money corrupts even our music, but it’s already happened.
As a final note, I would like to compare the system of the music industry to the creationist movement (because, afterall, this is a blog site about skepticism). The record companies don’t care about what is good music and what isn’t, they just want people to buy into it. In order to do that they throw their money around to advertise, to put themselves on radio and on TV. The creationists, similarly, don’t care that what they do isn’t good science, or even science at all, but throw their money around to make sure people are hearing about supposed gaps in evolution, etc. Real music and real science is seen as boring and too complicated to understand and go mostly unheard by the public, but when a new Cheryl Cole look-a-like comes onto the scene or a creationist comes up with a new counter-argument to evolution, everyone seems to hear about it.
Rant over. =) Thanks for reading.