By Hans Ebert
It’s not the latest “hip” music, but then, what is- Florence and the Machine? Sia? Drake?- but a friend and I were listening to our friend Maricel, the resident singer at the Champagne Bar of the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong, perform a set of standards- “Moon River”, “The Way You Look Tonight”, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” “This Masquerade” etc- great SONGS that have BECOME standards.
Perhaps it was a combination of champagne and the lateness of the night, but one couldn’t help wondering why all this great music, especially from those brilliant Tin Pan Alley songwriters, is not re-released and marketed to a new generation of music fans.
After all, those classic recordings by Pink Floyd and the Beatles have reached new ears and this new audience like what they hear. Why not those songs that gave birth to all the music genres available today? Music that were the inspiration for the songs of McCartney, Leon Russell, Elton John, Billy Joel, Brian Wilson, Jimmy Webb…
How many working musicians today have even heard of Leon Russell let alone John Coltrane? Often, there’s zero interest to do so. But isn’t this how to learn about melodies, chords, lyrics and the bar that has been set? There’s a thin line between arrogance and ignorance. And no, George Benson didn’t write “This Masquerade” and the Carpenters didn’t first record “A Song For You”. Leon Russell did.
My friend dismissed this idea of re-releasing and marketing and promoting standards as something that would “not be popular today”.
My reply was, how can one assume this when most audiences today have never heard these songs or recordings by Sinatra, Chet Baker, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, Bobby Darin and others? How did Eva Cassidy happen? And Michael Buble?
What’s really being “accepted” today anyway and which have any signs of longevity? Despite all the hype and back stories and millions spent on marketing, the latest releases from supposed “big name” artists like Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Kanye, and that marriage of convenience between Beyoncé and Jay Z have come and gone and disappeared without trace. They’ve stiffed.
These artists especially are the most overrated and hyped artists around. Their time has come and gone. But there’s a need to try and remain relevant. Someone has to pay the piper. It’s like the Tom Cruise franchise. He’s the ageing Taylor Swift of the film world.
There’s something happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr Jones? Actually, there’s nothing much happening. There’s a helluva lot of music out there, but how much of it is connecting with music fans? Paul McCartney appearing on Carpool Karaoke has probably done more to market SONGS than anyone else. And Sir Paul is 76.
Again, it’s all about the songs. It’s not about beats. It’s no longer even about a great video. Our heads have been fed with so much clutter that one has to wonder if and where music fits in.
Who and what is music competing with for attention? Netflix? Trump tweets? The New Avengers? The list of distractions is endless.
Are we living in those times when the music is dying? And are we’re allowing it to die by not nourishing it? By not changing our mind sets? By not looking beyond the obvious?
If back running a music company, by now, I would have formed a division to scour our back catalogue and do everything possible to make everything old new again.
Standards like those mentioned before along with songs like “Skylark”, “Stardust” and “Beyond The Sea” won’t be “popular” with music fans today? Of course, they will. But the majors with their vast back catalogues with so many classic recordings can’t just sit on them and expect this music to “sell” themselves.
What’s required is clever marketing- credible marketing minus the fake “views” and “likes” and endorsed by equally credible musicians with a deep knowledge and respect for the history of music. There’s no better time for this than here and now.
Music and musicians need to be appreciated again- the timing of Sinatra as a singer, the phrasing of Chet Baker, the melodies of Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hammerstein, George and Ira Gershwin, the creativity and originality of Les Paul.
We’ve suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous mediocrity on social media from those trying to pass themselves off as seriously making music. Sorry, but they’re hobbyists. Stay hobbyists.
One can’t blame those who think they have a future in music, because many of us keep pressing that “Like” button to be polite. It offers hope where there is none.
It’s not fair on music and all its many genres. It’s unfair on the great songs that live with us and which should be re-released every few years with a new “Refresh” button.
People need to hear and understand the difference between the very average and The Very Best. It’s always disappointing when working musicians place such little importance in learning about the history of music. The legends. The innovators. Pitbull is not Miles Davis.
It’s up to especially those music companies that have these back catalogues with legendary recordings and good A&R people to ensure that this music continues to be heard. Always.
#Music #musicians #Sinatra #ChetBaker #songwriters #TinPanAlley #socialmedia #musiccompanies #A&R #backcatalogue #LesPaul #LeonRussell #ChampagneBar #GrandHyattHK