The Future of Music

Music. It makes the people come together, if Madonna is to be believed. So I’ve been thinking about music lately, more precisely, where music is right now, and where it’s headed. I’ve thought, over the past few years, about what is generally regarded as the “degradation” of music. Though I feel that this degradation is similar to the “degradation” of culture in the world, which apparently works under the assumption that everything was just peachy in an age where blacks couldn’t vote, women couldn’t hold jobs, and gays could be burned at the stake. Things are apparently much worse now, we’re not near as “refined”. Whatever.

But basically, the degradation of music theory goes like this: at some point in the past, be it the thirties or 1300’s, music hit a peak. It was the best it would ever be. Since that point, music has been degrading steadily. Look at the time line for a minute, and it appears true: the “classics” of Beethoven, the classic Presley, Beatles, Jackson and such. At any given time, music was better yesterday. But that’s the thing. We only regard these songs as classics because they’re old. At the time they came out, no one knew that the songs would be classic. Sure, people liked them, but they were no more novel to the listeners than any other song out there, and the “classics” were more than likely regarded as better. In fact, the Beatles were once denied a record deal, with the company saying “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” Yeah. The Beatles. And yes, guitar music. Obviously not true, we can see that now, but at the time, people who made their living predicting who would be hot and who wouldn’t turned down the quartet from Liverpool. They weren’t born classic. They became that way, the more we reflected. That, after all, is what makes music classic, it’s timelessness. Who’s to say whether Bonanza by Akon or Low by Flo’ Rida won’t some day fit that same category? Joan Osborne’s One of Us was despised by many when it came out, due to its suggestion that God was “just a slob like one of us.” (Christians, really? But more on that later) But now it’s fairly well remembered, and I’d say we’ll continue to see it on airwaves for quite a while. It’s not that music is degrading, its just changing. We’re just not used to the new stuff yet, so it doesn’t seem as good. That, and humans are psychologically conditioned to like the past better than the present.

Okay, now that I’m done explaining that there’s no way to predict music, I’m going to try to predict where music will head for the next ten years. You’ll notice that it’s 2012, not 2010. There’s two reasons for that: one, I have no control over the flow of time (at least not yet) and two, I’ve always found that a given genre doesn’t really get its sound until a few years into the given decade. For instance, Rush, Rush, by Paula Abdul, the Billboard Number One on the day I was born in 1991, has a very ’80s sound. Many songs that came out in the early ’80s sound more like ’70s songs than ’80s songs. And so on. So I feel that, if music is going to change, it’s going to do so in the second through fourth year of it’s decade. A bit like Harry Potter. Another important observation is that music does, in fact, change every ten years or so. It’s a gradual change, so it’s hard to put exact numbers, but it’s generally a decade. Eighties pop saw metal-like guitars over synthetic drums. Nineties pop saw subtle synths, such as string pads, and other sounds that didn’t “sound” like techno. 2000’s (we really need to find a name for that decade…) saw sawtooth and squarewave-like sounds coming into prominince, and saw the rise of rap music, specifically West Coast rap, which has repeating high riffs over a main beat, whereas East Coast rap is more strictly drum and bass. Towards the turn of the decade, we saw musicians like Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga, who were bringing singing back (thank God), though still laying it down over rap-like beats.

So, what does the future hold? Well, first, lets talk about what the future doesn’t hold. I don’t see indy or reggae taking over. The closest thing we’ve seen to that is bands like 311, who are willing to blend the reggae/indy sound with hip hop and rock elements, and genre experiments like Sublime’s Santeria. Leaning towards more towards other hipster-y music, I don’t see acoustic indy doing much either. I absolutely love Decemberists and Frank Turner, and I could perhaps see either landing a single song on mainstream airwaves, but I don’t see the acoustic types taking over, if for no other reason, than because we’re far too ingrained into our electric sounds. Not that the above bands don’t use said sounds, and not that either isn’t a fine band/singer to listen to (I recommend The King is Dead and England Keep My Bones, respectively), but I don’t see them forcing their way into the mainstream, at least as it is now. A shift in musical tastes in the coming decade could make people more open to those sounds, but if my prediction for the next decade is correct, then that shift isn’t coming. I think too many of us regard indy bands (possibly correctly) as basically Beatles tribute bands playing original material. We like that, but we’ve had that. I don’t see us getting hungry for more for a while. I also feel I can rule out country, because while country has never been “mainstream”, it has always held a close second place, and also, as with indy, we’ve already heard it. We want something new. We’re insatiable, us listeners.

So here it is, and it kind of kills me to say it: dubstep. Not dubstep in its current form, of course, but a new form based off of current dubstep. Fact is, although many listeners in todays mainstream audience enjoy dubstep, I think right now it’s more as a novelty or in small portions. The fact is, most dub doesn’t have any lyrics, or has very few. It’s not singable, and singability is actually incredibly important to the success of a given genre. What I see is dubstep backing more traditional vocals. For instance, rap verses with a sung refrain (like in the early 2000’s). A good example of this is the band Hadouken! who use heavy techno while still having a pop-y sound and singability. Another example, and one achieving more widespread recognition is LMFAO. I could see performers like Skrillex paving the way for this, along with current pop mainstays such as Lady Gaga. This would be a music style that would perhaps utilize dubstep’s heavy editing and effects to produce new and interesting vocals. Autotuning (or more accurately, deliberate autotuning, as autotuning has been used by singers like Brittney Spears for years now) has already started to add a techno-like sound to vocals, and I could see more effects attached in patterns and combinations to produce a vocal performance unlike anything performed raw, a true vocal performance, but true to the dubstep roots that the music has. I have my fingers crossed, because I could get into this, if I tried. I’m already okay with industrial, so I think I could stand this dubstep-pop blend. Like Backstreet Boys or Billie Piper if they were darker and heavier (which would be legit). So, here’s hoping.

Now, a list of bands, genres, and other music I mentioned above:

Joan Osborne – One of Us –
Paula Abdul – Rush, Rush –
Billy Idol – White Wedding – (’80s sound)

*Nsync – Bye Bye Bye – (’90s sound)

Lady Gaga – Bad Romance – (’00s sound)

2Pac feat. Dr. Dre – California Love – (West Coast Rap)

311 – Time Bomb –

Sublime – Santeria –

Decemberists – Calamity Song –

Frank Turner – If Ever I Stray –

DJ Afterparty – (Dubstep)

Hadouken! – Rebirth –

LMFAO – Party Rock Anthem –

Skrillex – First of the Year (Equinox Remix) –

Billie Piper – Day and Night –

Go forth and rock, brothers and sisters.


About J. K. Gray

A romantic, a thinker, a lover, and a blogger.
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