By Joseph Iemma
Earlier this week, I came across a quote from Van Christian Andersen. If you don’t know who he is, I’m sure you’ve heard of his work; he’s actually kind of a big deal. Andersen is best known for writing, “The Ugly Duckling,” “The Nightingale,” and yes, he even wrote “The Little Mermaid” (and you thought it was all Disney). Anyways, the quote reads as follows: “Where words fail, music speaks.”
When all else fails, we often turn to music. It can reflect how we’re feeling; it allows us to feel like we’re not alone, it offers us advice, and heck, we even sing it the shower as a form of entertainment. Music helps us to tell our stories; It’s a reflection of who we are, plain and simple.
Hmm, plain and simple…
When I think about it, if I had to describe the music of today, I would have to say that it’s plain, and it’s simple. In my opinion, the sound is homogeneous; the lyrics have lost their meaning. Instead of creating and making music that they believe in, ‘artists’ create whatever may sell, or makes the most profit.
That said, I don’t stand alone on the state of our music. Just ask junior Criminal Justice major, Jason Mari, who took modern day hip-hop to task. “It’s funny when you really think of it, every [hip-hop] song you listen to, is either about money, drugs, or someone’s ‘trap queen’,” he said. “Not too often do I hear a song that makes me feel like I can relate, or understand what the artist is going through. I think that’s what made Eminem so great.”
Mari is spot on. Artists, such as Eminem and Nas, once made music that spoke to the individual. Songs that have lyrics so transcendent and powerful, one could use these songs for therapeutic purposes. Nowadays, artists like Eminem and Nas are viewed as ‘obsolete’, they simply can’t compete with the ‘Fetty Waps’ and the ‘Big Seans’ of the world, whose songs are premised upon success, currency, and the ‘activities’ that come with fame.
This problem isn’t indigenous to the Hip-Hop genre. This phe- nomenon is taking place within all facets of the music industry. “It seems that nowadays everyone wants to fit in, instead of stand out, and that’s not good for music,” said Linda Sanzo, a junior Business major. “If Z100 isn’t playing the same songs six songs every other hour, that, not to mention have the same beat and same message, then they’re either at com- mercial, or your listening to the morning show.”
I asked Sanzo what “message” she was referring to, and she replied, “By message, I mean that everyone is about just going to the club, which isn’t necessarily bad, but I just want something different, something that speaks to me, something I can relate to.”
When we compare the artists of today to the artists of prior years, the disparities in all-around talent, and overall substance of their music is alarming. For example, the ‘90s featured perhaps one of the greatest generations of music artists: Eminem, Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Madonna, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and even bands such as the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync were revered for their music. However, perhaps what made them such transcendent stars was the fact that they were all great and unique, in their own way; Something today’s artists are often severely lacking.
But is it our fault? After all, we are the consumers; what we want, we get; or is it the inverse? We’re being fed the same vanilla product, and we’re forced to like it. Perhaps it’s both. On the one hand, I think society has changed drastically in the past 15 years. As we venture deeper into the digital age, our world is much more up-tempo. We listen to our music for sound as opposed to food for thought. Tie that into the music industry searching for the next artist with the potential to be the next one-hit-wonder, and there you have it: today’s music industry, with the variety of Subway, and the ingredients of your local McDonald’s.