I’m just watching a concert on tv. I don’t know if you know Daniel Powter, he just had a great hit in Germany with his song “Bad day”. I have to admit that I somehow envy those artists who can play piano AND sing at the same time. I do play the piano myself (though not in public) but I can’t sing…
But what crossed my mind is how we all may be decieved by the music business. I should explain that I wrote an essay about the debate on high art and low art some time ago and therefore read a text by Theodor W. Adorno called “On popular music”.
The description of popular music (although it is at least about 50 years old) seemed quite actual to me. There are only few ‘new’ artists coming up but they all fit to the standard scheme of pop music that even Adorno already knew. They sing (and/or play) songs made with a standard scheme in music and text and all this is bound to a standard way of production, public relation, administration and management. The subjects that songs deal with are always the same. The melody needs to be simple, comprehensible and repetitive. And easy to convert into a ring tone. It’s all a big business. Though this may not sound new to anyone, I even recognized that these schemes are applicable to any genres. There are for example the rock people that would never listen to Jazz or Hip-Hop ( I consider all this popular music as long as it is… well, popular) and this difference is virtual and made up by the business people to give people the illusion of choice. Which they do not really have. It’s like being in the matrix… You cannot really choose whether you are addicted to popular music or not, it is made, no, it is engineered for just one reason… to get YOU! And it will, shaped as the latest rock song, the latest rap, presented by the latest boy group or another black gangsta rapper or maybe an old artist back from the eighties is making his/her comeback just to mobilize all those fans from that time. It get’s you, regardless to who you are because it collects you from where you stand.
You know, the music companies need the money desperately. No risks! That’s why all rappers are black and present their six-packs, their dozens of ‘chicks’ and their cars in all those video clips you can hardly see a difference in and talk about how hard life is in the getto they no longer live in (if they ever did). That’s why in case there is one young piano-playing man there will be five others just a week later, and they will all have number one singles and covers in all the teeny magazines. And it works!
I don’t think the artists can do anything about it, I do think they all are good in what they’re doing. But if the record companies have launched a bunch of equal ‘acts’ (they’re not called artists anymore, aren’t they) it’s simply a matter of (decreasing amounts of) time until nobody is interested in them anymore and they vanish as fast as they appeared. It’s all a great simulation to keep us buying new records although nothing really new is on them. The next cd will be just a replica of the last one which was a replica of the one that came before it. And we like that because there is nothing to be afraid of, no changes, nothing new, we already know it and are familiar with it, we feel safe. But we don’t know.
Oh, Mr. Powter just closed his show with an interpretation of ‘Just like heaven’. But he didn’t mention it’s one of The Cure’s songs and a really fantastic one in my opinion. He even changed the lyrics. And probably none of the young girls in the crowd has recognized that. Well, I’ll continue to listen to The Cure, while I know it might probably not even be their song. Maybe someone back in the fifties wrote it and it was a big success… until it was forgotten. Who knows?