Put a Little Effort Into Listening! Will Van Dalsem July 9, 2016 Music 749 Tweet Share6 Share Email WhatsAppShares 6On the Fourth of July, I had a conversation with my musician friend, Mackin Carroll, who told me about a talk he saw Henry Rollins give at USC. According to Mackin, Rollins vehemently criticized people who believe they have the knowledge and authority to say things like “Man, music sucks these days”. The former Black Flag frontman, who claims to listen to ten albums per day, contested that if those people were to put a little effort into their music consumption, then their opinions on modern music might change. Rollins brings up a great point. As a young adult myself, I am constantly hearing peers say things like “I was born in the wrong generation” or “I’m such an old soul”. And more often than not, these statements are meant to express a dissatisfaction with today’s music in favor of the oldies. Now, if you have effortfully and thoroughly explored what the world of modern music has to offer, and haven’t found it to your liking, then that’s perfectly acceptable. I guess you truly are an “old soul”. But if your extent of modern musical knowledge is what charts on Billboard and you still proclaim yourself “born in the wrong generation”, please do us all a favor and quietly die in a ditch. Let’s pretend for a sec that we’re talking about movies instead. I almost never hear young adults complaining that modern movies suck in comparison to 1960s and 1970s films. Not to say that old-school movies aren’t awesome in their own right. I just don’t think very many millennials are passing up screenings of Harry Potter to watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Older films certainly have vintage charm, compelling storylines, and interesting characters, for sure. But it’s undeniable that today’s movies have better picture clarity, crazier special effects, more creative ways of storytelling, and a much denser variety of styles, topics, and themes. That’s why we love modern movies so much. Music has diversified in the same way in the forty or so years since the 1970s. Genres like metal, punk, hip-hop, and electronic have emerged from infancy, becoming prominent players in the popular music sphere and branching out to form their own subgenres. Older styles of music are seeing renaissance or being repurposed in conjunction with newer genres. Tame Impala, Animal Collective, and the Flaming Lips are reviving psych rock. Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus are fusing jazz, funk, and soul with hip-hop and electronic music. Daft Punk straight-up went disco. There is just so much more stylistically for musicians to work with. Moreover, with modern day technological advances, anybody and their brother can make and release great music for the world to listen to. Quality recordings can be made on laptops or desktop computers in the comfort of homes. Platforms like Soundcloud and Bandcamp allow for the costless, worldwide release of these homemade records. If, for whatever weird reason, you have an insatiable craving for a record combining the twangy blues-rock stylings of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the groovy g-funk production on Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, I almost guarantee that you can find something like that on the Internet if you look hard enough. That’s the beauty of modern music. It’s more diverse and developed than it’s ever been, being created and made available at your fingertips faster than it ever has. Whatever musical taste you may have, some musician most likely has had a hankering to make music that suits those tastes, and has made it accessible to you in some format. Don’t get me wrong, I love the classics just as much as the next guy, and I don’t mean to belittle them in any way. But, as a result of the above developments, I believe that the quantity of compelling, amazing music being released today is greater than its ever been. So why is modern music not being embraced like modern movies? Why, as a society, have we decided to engage in such pronounced nostalgia for old music? The answer, I think, is quite simple. In the 1960s and 1970s, there wasn’t as large of a divide between what was critically acclaimed and quality and what was popular. Sure, the 60s had its fair share of shitty popular acts that have since faded away into irrelevancy. But just think about who was leading the charge back then. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who. We don’t have to dig very deep into the music catalogue of that era to find gold. However, today those artists have been replaced with the likes of Rihanna, Bieber, Iggy Azalea, and Imagine Dragons—not exactly an all-star cast. That’s not to say I don’t love some of today’s popular musicians or don’t think they make compelling music. Kanye West is a genius. I was astounded by Beyonce’s Lemonade. But, on the whole, I think the tunes Top 40 spins ain’t the greatest. I believe this to be a result of the rapid rise of ADHD in the 21st century. In order for a song to be a hit today, it needs to be painfully short and we need to know the hook after just one listen (or at least that’s the only way I can rationalize why Rihanna’s atrocious “Work” was a hit). God forbid we consume any music that needs a semblance of digestion or multiple listens. That’s why artists like Bieber and Imagine Dragons are so popular; their music is, in my opinion, so thoughtless and shallow that it requires almost no focus or higher thinking to make sense of it. The mindset of the today’s music-listening public seems to be Why waste any brain power on music, right? Well, it’s that exact mindset that has made current popular music so monotonous and unbearable, which in turn has created nostalgia for the 1960s and 70s, when popular music was still also quality. Now, my hope is that this article is a wake-up-call for you pseudo old souls. Billboard and Top 40 ain’t Gospel. Just because it’s the most popular doesn’t mean it’s the best out there. Have no fear, music is still alive and well. You just have to put a little effort into it. Get a Bandcamp account. Watch Youtube vlog “The Needle Drop”. Go on besteveralbums.com. Hell, use your Spotify “Discover Weekly” or iTunes “Genius” playlists. Trust me, great music is out there, ripe for the picking. Get after it!