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Music isn’t what it used to be, but change is on the way

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, March 6, 2006

It is often said that music is the universal language. That or math, I can’t remember which one. Or maybe it’s both. Whatever.

Anyway, universal language or not, music has found a way to transcend geographic, cultural, ethnic and linguistic boundaries.

This can be seen everywhere you look, such as kids singing “The Macarena” at a high school homecoming dance or the Mexican guys I’ve worked with the past two summers singing along to “My Heart Will Go On” during their lunch break.

As beautiful a phenomenon as music is, it, along with pretty much everything in this world (except for Chipotle), has a dark side.

I’m not talking about rap music that critics say cause misogyny among youth (it doesn’t) or industrial metal that others say cause teenagers to shoot up their schools (it doesn’t). I’m talking about bad music.

Really bad music.

What is really bad music, you ask? The stock answer from most music elitists would be to simply turn on MTV, and they would be right.

However, unless you tune your television to the “music” channel early in the morning, you will not see any music videos, and “Meet the Barkers” doesn’t serve as a good case study for the state of modern pop music. But if you’ve ever eaten a meal in Commons, you know what I’m talking about.

Two years ago, when I lived in Blanding II, I was often subjected to the sonic filth that poured fourth from televisions around the dining hall. As if “I Love the Way You Move” wasn’t annoying enough already, it can truly drive a person mad when they hear it at least six times a day.

But this column isn’t meant to pick on OutKast, a group that I believe has good intentions at heart. I’m here to address the other senseless pap that most of you uncultured swine on campus listen to.

I’m talking about bands like Nickelback, Creed, My Chemical Romance, Simple Plan, Evanescence, Toby Keith, Ashley Simpson, Gretchen Wilson, Bright Eyes … I could go on, but I don’t think I need to.

Whether it’s prepackaged pop music or some random guy who plays guitar and only writes songs about ex-girlfriends, the standard by which music is judged today has been lowered dramatically from where it once stood in the past.

Although some of this has to do with the democratization of music and the availability of recording equipment, this sort of development should be a good thing.

However, this revolution, along with giving many musicians the opportunity to make and distribute music in an environment where they previously were unwelcome, also gives many unsavory musicians the opportunity to ravage your eardrums with what they will constantly refer to as their “art.”

For example, I’m sure at one point in your time at UK you’ve seen a poor soul playing guitar and singing outside White Hall, the Student Center or even your dorm on a sunny day. These people must be stopped.

Don’t think that by any means I’m advocating a return to listening to “oldies” or what have you. Some of music’s greatest travesties were committed before any of us were even born (think The Eagles, John Denver, post-Genesis Phil Collins).

What I am proposing, however, is a return to what makes music music, such as, I don’t know, playing your own instruments. Or, egad, writing your own songs. Or … wait wait wait … doing something original for once.

The John Mayer Trio may be superior to most live acts in the field of musicianship, but I’ve already heard their act before when it was called Stevie Ray Vaughn. In much the same fashion, The Killers sounded a lot better when they were called 1980-1989 and rap only sounds good under the names De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and the Sugarhill Gang.

The Barenaked Ladies once said in a song as equally moronic as their name, “It’s all been done before.” They’re right. If I have to hear another band trying to be the next Incubus, Limp Bizkit, O.A.R. or Dashboard Confessional, I am going to gouge my ears with a skewer.

There is a musical revolution on the horizon, and it doesn’t involve guys wearing girls’ jeans, cowboy hats, hemp necklaces or oversized black jeans with chains. Prepare thyself.

This column first appeared in the March 3 edition of the Kentucky Kernel, the daily publication of University of Kentucky.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.