by Chris McGinty
I’ve been fascinated by the concept of everyone having a somewhat equal chance to have their voice heard. It will never be perfect. Even in the world of independent creators, there are some who get all the viewers. Having the internet does make things more equal. This means that when old people get onto the internet, we get a lot of “back in my day” material. I may be here to do some “back in my day” material today, but bear with me. On YouTube, I call these “I don’t just say this because I’m a man in his 50s” channels. They are largely about movies and TV, but I’ll deal with that in a later post.
It exists in music as well, but not quite as extensively. The main complaint about modern music is that it doesn’t have something (that none of us have ever heard of) called timbre. The idea says that minimalistic music can’t be good and that’s all that modern pop music is. There’s a great video where this guy tries to work out what the music theory is for “WAP.” There really isn’t any. I don’t really like the song “WAP.” I’m good with the subject matter, but the song isn’t very good. It’s ok.
In the 80s, I loved rap music. I was into Run-D.M.C., Grandmaster Flash, Kool Moe Dee, eventually Public Enemy, etc. In the 90s, it was a “not so much” kind of thing for me. I realized after a while that it was because most of the rappers in the 90s sounded bored. I’ve heard people complain that grunge was doomed to fail because it was whiny, emo, and depressed. The thing is depression and self-loathing are emotions. Boredom is not an emotion. If it is, it doesn’t feel like it should be. It’s more like an absence of emotion. Music tends to hit people on an emotional level, so it feels like boredom isn’t a good way to go. When Green Day wrote “Longview” about boredom it was through the lens of discontent, so it didn’t sound like boredom.
I’ve always done a pretty good job of listening to new music. It’s often new music made by older bands, but it’s new music, nonetheless. There will be the occasional new artist along the way that I’ll end up liking quite a bit: Bruno Mars, Billie Eilish, Baylor Swift. Heck, up until “Yummy” I actually liked Bustin Jieber. In 2023, I listened to almost nothing new. For my fix of new music, I listened to old stuff I’d never heard or wasn’t all that familiar with. This is mainly because somewhere in the last couple of years, I really can’t do this new music anymore. People tell me I’m getting old, but I really don’t think that’s what it is. I like some Dua Lipa and most of what Olivia Rodrigo is doing, so I’m not completely checked out.
I realized the other day that it’s the 90s rap problem all over again, but including pop music now. The singers sound bored.
- I like Ren a lot. He doesn’t sound bored.
- Drake, while I do like the occasional song, sounds bored.
What’s weird is that even though I know what my basic issue is, I’m still being accused of getting old. I mean, I’m sure that I am, just at a slightly slower rate than most, but I don’t think that’s the reason I’m having trouble with modern music.
It’s not the minimalistic element of new music to me. Nitzer Ebb was minimalistic, but they didn’t sound bored. I think I would like a lot more of the newer music if they were expressing something I could get behind. If I’m going to give up on life, it’s going to be because I’m depressed out of my fucking mind, not because I’m not entertained by TikTok anymore (I know someone is going to think that makes me sound old, but I did my TikTok phase years ago before many of you even heard of it).
Around the year 2000, there was a a resurgence in my interest in rap. I’ve been listening to Outkast since “Southenplayalisticcadillacemuzik,” but I feel they came into their own on “Stankonia.” I was really enjoying what The Pharcyde was doing. This was around the time that I first heard Missy Elliot. I feel like rap was reborn around that time and I’ve enjoyed a number of artists since. Even Snoop Dogg started sounding way less bored.
I believe the same thing will happen with pop music. There will be a point where the sound evolves and my ears perk up and I’ll seem like a cool old dude, but right now I’m not feeling it. I think my biggest issue, which I’m going to deal with deeper in part two (whenever that happens) is that it’s a bit dismissive to suggest that my age is the problem when I’m still open to being amazed by new music. Was Sting being an old man when he said they should stop putting out crap records? Perhaps. But he had a valid point. At the time, the radio was flooded with watered down corporate grunge music that didn’t seem to be expressing anything. Even if Nu-Metal isn’t my favourite hard rock genre, it at least revitalized hard rock for a while. When I’m enjoying J-Pop and K-Pop more than the billboard Top 100, maybe you can see what the problem is. I should be able to say that there’s something wrong with the state of pop music and it not be that there’s something wrong with me. That and timbre, whatever the fuck that is.
Chris McGinty is a blogger who has been alive for 50 years, which makes him 41 years old. Listen, I like alternative music and I like alternative math.