Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The State of Popular Music – Part 1

This series of blogs is intended to bring about a discussion on our current popular culture, and how that popular culture alters our civilization and society as a whole. I plan to touch on a number of issues concerning pop music throughout the last 70 years, and I would love to get your feedback and thoughts on the subject. I will try to have each piece centered around a specific topic, which should allow for a somewhat structured conversation.

I should say up-front that I find current trends and standards in popular music to be severely lacking. I admit that my opinions on this subject may seem elitist and snobby, but I am willing to risk the ridicule. With that in mind, I will jump into my first point of discussion: that kids have access to too much disposable income, and it’s making a mockery of “our” popular music. Let me explain…

Last week, Britney Spears’ husband performed at the Teen Choice Awards here in the states. It was simply a terrible presentation from a man whose only real credential is that he married a rich pop star. Yet, even though his act and music was universally panned by critics, many agreed that he would likely sell many records and pick up a number of under-age fans. Jermaine Hall, executive editor of King Magazine, said:
“All you can do, is really just keep on plugging. He's definitely going to have a teenage female fan base. So, you know, make songs that cater to them. Keep it clubby, keep it hoppy, keep it happy."

So basically, there are a whole lot of kids out there willing to throw their money at this guy. Lord knows no adult with functioning ear drums will be picking it up. To be honest, I have nothing against K-Fed and the portion of the music community that he represents. There is nothing wrong with 12 year old girls buying disposable sugary pop records. When I was 12, I owned an Ace of Base cassette tape for crying out loud! It’s not that there is pop music geared towards children that infuriates me, it is that all pop music is not geared toward children.

I also don’t want to romanticize past generations and all of their pop culture icons and trends; there was shit then as there is shit now. If you go back and look at all the hit records in the 1930s and 1940s, you will find some stinkers. What I find shocking however, is the diversity amongst the hit records of those time periods. There were records that were hits with the younger crowd, but many of them were not.

The reality is that now days the biggest target market is pre-teens and teenage consumers. Market claims:
“The 41 million individuals in the United States between the ages of 5 and 14 have a direct buying power of more than $40 billion and influence $146 billion worth of expenditures every year.”

That is a phenomenal level of power that is unrivaled in history. They have access to disposable funds that their grandparents could only dream of when they were young. 60 years ago, children weren’t dictating pop culture because they did not have the financial means to do so.

Sure, there were still films and records intended for pre-teens and children 60 years ago, but getting access to those things was rare for most kids. You listened to the radio, caught a movie reel when they were cheap and you had some money, but the major consumers where young people (17-24) who had jobs. Novelty acts and children’s records were not on the front burner of most record companies, because they did not sell like they do now days.

Part 2 next week…the negative effect of disposable pop music…

Monday, August 21, 2006

Your Grandparents Rocked

I am tossing a few fastballs at all you folks out in blogging land tonight! Yet another reason your grandparents are (or were) much cooler than you ever gave them credit for. I present one of American music’s more under-rated voices, Aileen Stanley. Enjoy!

"Under the Moon" MP3
(To save the file to your hard drive, just right click the link and save the target.)

Great Americans

Yet another piece in my series of posts on why “your grandparents were not only cooler then you, but they did everything better”, one of America’s greatest cultural achievements, Mississippi Fred McDowell. Behold the greatness…

Pacifism or Peace

A great piece by Thomas Sowell at Town Hall dealing with pacifism and peace. You can check the whole thing out here.

"One of the many failings of our educational system is that it sends out into the world people who cannot tell rhetoric from reality. They have learned no systematic way to analyze ideas, derive their implications and test those implications against hard facts.

"Peace" movements are among those who take advantage of this widespread inability to see beyond rhetoric to realities. Few people even seem interested in the actual track record of so-called "peace" movements -- that is, whether such movements actually produce peace or war.

Take the Middle East. People are calling for a cease-fire in the interests of peace. But there have been more cease-fires in the Middle East than anywhere else. If cease-fires actually promoted peace, the Middle East would be the most peaceful region on the face of the earth instead of the most violent.

Was World War II ended by cease-fires or by annihilating much of Germany and Japan? Make no mistake about it, innocent civilians died in the process. Indeed, American prisoners of war died when we bombed Germany.

There is a reason why General Sherman said "war is hell" more than a century ago. But he helped end the Civil War with his devastating march through Georgia -- not by cease fires or bowing to "world opinion" and there were no corrupt busybodies like the United Nations to demand replacing military force with diplomacy.

"World opinion," the U.N. and "peace movements" have eliminated that deterrent. An aggressor today knows that if his aggression fails, he will still be protected from the full retaliatory power and fury of those he attacked because there will be hand-wringers demanding a cease fire, negotiations and concessions.

That has been a formula for never-ending attacks on Israel in the Middle East. The disastrous track record of that approach extends to other times and places -- but who looks at track records?"