Wonky Pop. Bahahaha
Is Pop The New Avant-Garde?
RIP Indie : 1982 - 2008
It is fair to say the 00s have been dominated by indie music. From The Strokes to The Libertines and Pete Doherty. From Oasis and The Foo Fighters all the way over to Goldfrapp, with a little wave from Bjork, indie as a genre exploded and scattered, each element evolving to form something new.
Where in the past, we had tastemaker TV, in the form of Top of the Pops and CD:UK, to inform us and influence the mass market, in the 00s we had download culture and a total disregard for what the music industry wanted us to buy. The whole dynamic shifted. We had the internet at our disposal. We could do whatever we wanted, listen to whatever we wanted, when we wanted, and on an increasing number of platforms, thanks to ever cheaper digital technology.
We slowly stopped socialising in clubs and started hanging out online. No longer the preserve of geeks and nerds, by the end of the 00s, if you don't have broadband and you are not online, if you don't at least use email, you are not in the loop.
The music industry as it was collapsed. We destroyed it. The very idea that we should pay full price for an album we have only heard one track from became outlandish. It was an arrogance we were forced to accept for decades but now, we didn't have to.
Last.fm started up around the middle of the decade. Our mass tagging for the 00s is a fair reflection of the last 10 years or so.
Retro music became big news but, in my opinion, that was tied with celebrity culture and Amy Winehouse. The fascination lay with her, not retro music. The music industry tried to monetise what they thought was a new trend, spending a good year or two searching for the 'next Amy' and the best they came up with was Duffy, who pretty much destroyed the vibe before it got going with her one-note singing.
Underground, we saw great strides in electronica, from retro 80s Hercules & Love Affair to contemporary classical Jóhann Jóhannsson, experimental Max Richter and his ringtones album 24 Postcards in Full Colour, and library music and hauntology from labels such as ghost box. We saw most of the new bedroom music come from this genre, Maps - We Can Create being a great example.
dance music didn't really change, it just went back to skool. hip-hop went abstract and underground. Flying Lotus, J Dilla, Daedelus. We got two big internet stars, Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen. Rock was sidelined, no one listened unless it had some metal elements.
If people were complaining in the 90s that things were accelerating, in the 00s, acceleration was almost at breakneck speed, with trends barely lasting a season sometimes. Some trends arced over a number of years, but even they were forced to evolve to keep our dissipated attention. We stopped doing one thing at a time and got used to multi-tasking. Our attention became more divided once we got home from work or school, balancing demands from people around us, the television / radio, and the internet and email, with our mobile phones by our sides.
In music, people started to just grab the tracks they wanted from albums. Listening to one whole album, in one sitting, became less and less attractive. Bands responded by creating album-albums, as opposed to albums containing a few great songs and the rest fillers, but fewer and fewer artists were rewarded for their efforts, notably Radiohead.
Pop ... heh, you just missed my typo but it's so appropriate I'm going to use it... pop became poop. Having lost tastemaker TV, the only way the music industry thought they could get our attention was to morph with reality TV. So we had Pop Idol and the other one to deal with. Only a precious few actually hit the bigtime, notably Girls Aloud and Leona Lewis.
As the decade comes to a close, we see a shift away from modern America / Western values in music to an embracing of musical styles from around the world and from history.
So what of the next decade? 2010 - 2020? What can we reasonably expect? What can we predict already? What can we hope for?
I listen to a lot of music, but even I can't listen to everything, time being a factor for one thing. If we are to look at future music trends, we need to also consider wider cultural factors, as well social, political and economic climates, and global and local trends.
I'm opening the floor to you, my fellow Last.fmers. What do you see?
In conversation somewhere else, I brainstormed the following: the future of the internet and increased broadband uptake. Cyberculture. Porno avatars. Erosion of morals and inhibitions in a bid to be noticed online. Then the opposite - the new prudes. 24/7 lifestyle. Flexibility - working at 3am, working from home or the park bench thanks to new gadgets and cheaper technology. That's if technology gets cheaper. Earth's resources plundered and precious metals getting more expensive. So we either recycle our tech or pay more in future. Mass dumbing down. Ever poorer education. Inability to concentrate on one thing. Divided attention. So a division in music - music that can be enjoyed in short bursts. Or slow music, 'old-fashioned', to be taken time over. If people have time. A whole hour dedicated to one activity a rare luxury.
If artists are to do well in the next few years, they must be able to effectively use social networking sites and communicate with their listeners. Why? Because with rising mass unemployment, we can expect to see a surge in social networking, and everyone knows online advertising doesn't work. Artists must be personable and have warmth and humanity to keep listeners coming back. Communication must at least appear to be two-way between artist and listener. On the net, Radiohead lead the way. In Last.fm, it has to be Pixieguts. Of course, there are artists we don't expect to connect with to such a degree, but this new angle will become the new norm.
The current global recession will have an immediate impact on the early years of the next decade. With rising unemployment comes greater creativity. punk and indie were born out of the troubled times and recession of the end of the 70s / early 80s. We can reasonably expect to see more homemade music and it quickly becoming available to all online, especially via social network sites. Electronic has been the favoured medium until now, but with more time on their hands, it's not unreasonable to expect artists to pick up other instruments, continuing the trend so markedly brought to the fore by The Arcade Fire and Coldplay.
The second half of the next decade is harder to see. It depends how well we recover from the global recession for a start. It also depends on us finding decent alternatives to energy because as things stand, if electricity becomes too expensive, we can kiss goodbye to sitting at our PCs all day, streaming music, downloading and file sharing. If things improve and we all feel happier again, we won't need pop, classic rock and electro-disco as much as we do right now. We can go back to being introspective and will be able to afford to wallow in something miserable, or deep and meaningful, for an hour or so.
Where before it was quite easy to predict a return to a particular decade, it's not so straightforward now with no unifying medium to bring us all together. Instead, it might be helpful to look at how we use music in our lives. We always want dinner music, dance music, background music to shop by or drown out the neighbours and the city by. We always want music to relax to, seduce to, sleep and wake up to. We want music in our cars, on our mobile devices, and we want it cheaper or free. In amongst this almighty racket, we want music to think to, to inspire us, to mull over. We want music to mark out our groups, our social standing, maybe even our age. Sometimes we want a break from music we hear all the time and want to rest our ears on something different. These are all givens. We could see a rise in local collectives, such as The Arctic Circle and The Magpie's Nest. Local music for local people. Collectives create an opportunity for small performances aimed at target audiences, or just the local community. There is no need for great budgets for big concerts or extensive travelling, gigs take place in small venues that are cheap to hire. So far, they have been word of mouth, even online. Whether they catch your eye or not is down to sheer luck or serendipity.
I think as in fashion, where we no longer have a single defining style we are all forced to adopt, the next decade might be a free-for-all, with us listeners grabbing what we want, whenever we feel like it. We will be less the victims of cynical marketing and more the consumers of music that resonates with us. It means musos will be in heaven and people who need a little guidance, who aren't so into music, will feel a little lost. They will most likely turn to tastemaker bloggers for ideas. The choices of bloggers will therefore become increasingly critical. We might see a shift away from official sites such as Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Stereogum to smaller, individual blogs run by real people with real opinions. They are already seen as more trustworthy. Mass marketing might try to fake it but hopefully, we will see through the ruse. And with the music industry having less influence on artists, we can expect to see more self-indulgence, more progressiveness across the genres. We can expect baroque prog pop and rock, as well as more jazz-influenced music.
Far from an end to music as we know it, the collapse of the music industry in the 00s will free us to explore and we should see a rise in people enjoying music. It might just be we're not all listening to the one same thing.
Babs My Gang
PS: This is my 150th arcticle!