When you think back to any decade in the last 50 years, it’s easy to pick out a few defining artists who left their mark. The 1950s had Elvis, the ‘60s had The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Motown. The late ‘60s trickled into the 1970s and gave us Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and a punk rock wave.
The ‘80s, although somewhat tarnished by the hair band craze, pumped out Michael Jackson (say what you want about his personal life he still made “Thriller”), Madonna, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys. The ‘90s had the grunge scene headed by Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
But who does our generation have as a defining artist? Who from last 10 years are we going to hear on the radio when were old? There’s no staying power with today’s music. Our society is so quick to jump on the next scene that we often find a new band before the current CD has played through.
There hasn’t been any musical act from the 2000s onward that has cracked the top 10 for most weeks with a No. 1 album. The last time an artist had a No. 1 album for 20 weeks or more was Whitney Houston in 1992-1993.
The internet and social media definitely play a big role in the constant change in musical preferences. Free downloading, Pandora and YouTube are great tools for spreading music, but they also give us such quick access that were on to the next one before an artist can make a lasting impact. It seems that so many people in our generation find a song or artist “old” just months after blowing up the radio stations.
That’s where social media aspect kicks in. It’s almost certain that when I log in to Facebook the news feed is going to be riddled with Lil Wayne statuses, corny modern country lyrics and videos from whatever artist is cool that week.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t express what they’re into. Music is a great way show emotion, but Facebook seems like a misguided forum to tell your 1,543 friends how cool the new T-Pain song is, or what songs you listened to on Spotify.
This constant bombardment of lyrics washes the scene up before it can get established. Remember way back in early 2011 when dubstep parties were popular? By this fall, it’s already burned out. I’m sure some kids are still jamming it, but six months ago it was everywhere.
Some of the fingers can be pointed at today’s artists. Mainstream rap, for example, is almost entirely based off modern pop culture metaphors and references. It’s hard to stay relevant when your song changes topics like clothes. It’s good for short term success, but it doesn’t hold any deeper value.
I’m just afraid that our generation is going to be defined by screamo, Justin Beiber and auto-tune-based rap. I see how proud my parents are of the music that came out of their high school and college years and I want to see a movement in our time that I can get behind.
I’ve accepted the fact that our generation won’t have a Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison or Tupac Shakur. But I still hold out hope that some band or artist will change the current state of top 40 music. If the current state of music is the best we can pump out, it’s going to be a long decade.
So next time you get ready to party and you Facebook Drake’s lyric “I’m on one,” just think, our kids might look back on us and wonder what we were on.