By Hans Ebert
Remember bands? You know, 4-5 guys who played guitars, drums and maybe keyboards with one lead singer who would play with his big hair, and always have the urge to grab his crotch and scream out in a high-pitched voice about back doors and lemons while the guitarist would pose and preen and unleash torrents of lightning bolts from his instrument of choice that would leave your entire being shaken and stirred?
These days bands are either on the run looking for gigs, nostalgia acts, or are few and far between. It’s all about solo artists/celebrities- and always the same tedious lot of them- churning out repetitious warmed over waffles. On the subject of waffles, heard the new tracks by J-Lo and Fergie? They’re embarrassing. They make me cringe. Here we have two attractive fortysomething women trying to be relevant by creating The Age Of The MILF marketed as “empowering”. Bitches, please. It’s nothing more than selling soft core porn with, definitely not songs, but more like nursery rhymes sung over some Dance beats, aided and abetted by a video that flaunts sex like a corner shop tart. Empowering, my ass. It’s one tacky booty shake. It’s not a good look, it’s not a good sound, but, like everything else, these sacred cows are propped up by million dollar marketing campaigns as, behind them, are huge endorsement deals, and, always, that diamond studded retirement home for middle aged celebrities called Las Vegas, the Macau of America, and home today for Britney Spears and J-Lo.
Talking to one music executive the other day about the state of the Union, and just where music was heading, apparently, a solo artist is “easier to handle” as opposed to a band with 4-5 different members with, perhaps, varying points of view. Then, there’s always the chance that there will be creative differences, and one might leave- usually the most talented one. Makes sense from a business point of view, and why, in recent years, music companies have always been a little gun shy about signing up and getting behind bands.
There’s then the touring, and with everything having to be bigger, and then even more bigger with a spacecraft thrown in, it’s obvious that downsizing is at work, and where there once were five, it’s now down to two or one guy with a loop pedal. It’s risk management, and it’s not all about the bass, but all about business and the economics of scale.
And in this down economy, and an industry that becomes increasingly confusing and, well, warped, every day as it is definitely not what it was, the importance of “hit records” has been marginalised to a point where music is only part of the promotion for things much bigger- merchandising, touring, product endorsements etc.
Sadly, the quality of music- what’s produced and how it’s heard- doesn’t matter. It literally goes in one ear and out the other. And making music discardable and not worth the tape it’s recorded on are those very same people who claim to be fighting for the rights of artists. That’s absolute manipulative bullshit. It’s all about the money, and sleeping with the enemy. It’s more tarts and serial media whores conning a gullible public in that death trap for cuties called social media.
For music to survive, something must change, but no one has the answers. Then again, those who might be able to bring about change are probably happy with the way things are as there’s more money elsewhere.
Rihanna, Taylor “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” Swift, and Beyoncé are the Unholy Trinity. For the time being at least, as ageism catches up with everyone. But right here and now, their celebritydom overshadows their music to the point where they are cash cows with various business revenue generators. It’s tough to look at music this way, but it’s what it is. It’s a factory. It’s a shopping mall. Rodney Dangerfield had more R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Aretha.
Adele probably makes more money than any of them from record sales, but, like Ed Sheeran, any other revenue generators seem limited. Not that Adele, especially, would be concerned.
Even if all her next releases go down the gurgler- and I’m betting they do- she’s still set for life and can continue being an uncouth bore singing songs with the insincerity of a slug that comes with achieving mega success. “25″ was hailed as “saving the music industry”, but notice how all that bleating about that has suddenly stopped with the dear lady’s follow up singles having vanished without trace? Apart from being a hugely overrated album that simply cloned her one decent record to date, the underserved success of “25″ has Adele become a daft version of her former self when she was singing with real conviction. The songs mattered and we loved her for that honesty. Now? Who cares? And she doesn’t either.
Ed Sheeran? He’s set for life, too, with the royalties from all the hits he’s written and can afford to coast along with not a care in the world even if his career is dipping and his new songs are all sounding sappy and dopey. Like OneDirection, the latter day Take That, he came along at the right time, seized the day and made a fortune. Nothing wrong with that. Lucky, Gingerbread Boy.
Call it living in the past- and why not compared to the nightmare that’s the present and the impending Armageddon?- but I can’t help thinking of the excitement and PRIDE Brian Wilson, the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd etc must have felt after recording an album like “Pet Sounds”, or “Revolver”, or “Beggars Banquet”.
Imagine the inspiration and poetry that went into so many Dylan albums, all that passion and darkness on Leon Russell’s “Carney”, the inventiveness of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Producers like Phil Spector, George Martin and Quincy Jones, and chameleons like Bowie, Prince, and the very underrated Paul Simon, who continues to make great music.
Thankfully, we still have all this music. So, the next time #Hiddleswift and the childishness of Ms Swift and Calvin Harris and Katy Perry and all the other clutterheads get to you, put those headphones on, go back in time, and tune out. You’ll find yourself in a better place. Promise.