Ever since I was in preschool, with personally-styled, crooked bangs and a tendency to turn Rs into Ws, I have “weally” loved music. I look forward to exploring albums by different artists, spending time looking at the meaning behind different songs, forcing my current favorites on my family and friends, kind of like my dad did to me. Because of this appreciation for music, it has always been linked to the musicians my dad grew up with. To me, they are the best of the best. The lyrics are meaningful and clever, the guitar solos and voices are enchanting and, for some reason, I could never connect quite as well to the music on the top 100 stations as I could to the songs my dad kept on his playlists.
Sadly, the sources of the music that I admire and love – Tom Petty, Chris Cornell and David Bowie – are dying out. In the last two years, these three men have passed on. And, with every loss, an inevitable and terrifying question comes to my mind: what will happen when all iconic, revolutionary musicians are gone?
Bowie, Cornell, Petty. I relish experiencing the different emotions that musical artists like these seem to be feeling – joy, disdain, anguish. They’re so obviously authentic. To me, the vast majority of pop songs, or at least the ones I hear on the radio, ooze shallowness – money, clubbing, drugs, proclamations of lust rather than love. Much of this might be forgivable, if only it was even a little good. It seems like the emotional outlet of music that I so appreciated in my favorite artists has turned into a superficial money pit.
The artists who have passed were each so unique, talented and important to the music industry during their time. Tom Petty was one of the most iconic classic rock musicians who ever lived. Chris Cornell, who was the lead singer of Soundgarden, helped popularize the grunge genre and forever changed alternative rock. David Bowie… he was something else. Incredible performer, lyrical genius, talented vocalist.
Some may argue that there are many innovative artists who continue to change the music industry today, but what they’re “innovating” isn’t even good. The changes they are making aren’t beneficial to music.
My brother acts like Kanye West’s talent is a gift from Jesus himself, and insists on playing his albums on repeat each time a new one is released. But to be honest, they all sound the same to me. “F-bombs” in every other sentence, annoying auto tune and angry voices screaming the same words over and over again. All similar, all bad.
Every time my brother blares low quality rap on full volume, I cringe. The “chorus” is more than likely the same phrase repeated over and over again, the backbeats sound like they all share the same, unskilled drummer and the songs themselves are, altogether, forgettable. That feeling I got when listening to “Ashes to Ashes”? Nada. The artistry I witness when listening to the clever lyrics of Bob Dylan or the emotional warbles of Neil Young? Zip.
So yeah, I’m terrified. We’re stuck in a deep, monotonous-sounding rut of musical creation, and all of those who created unique, interesting and undoubtedly quality music seem to be passing on. It’s like some sort of ironic and cruel reminder that this generation better get a move on changing where we’re headed with our musical taste.
But maybe that’s what we need: a wake up call. Though there’s second-rate music in every era, it seems like we’re creating a percentage much too high for comfort. Let’s get back to what real music sounds like, with meaning, thoughtful lyrics and creativity, and start creating more of it. If that’s what these deaths will be, encouragements and not just tragedies, maybe that feeling of loss is worth it.
But for God’s sake, Dylan and Young better hold on a little longer.