The Devolution of Music


Romanticizing the past, we all do it. We often think about the good ol days, regardless of the topic. Old cars are better, old music is better, old houses are better, right? It all depends on what you consider better I guess. Old cars may have looked cooler, but old motors made way less power per cubic inch. Old house had stronger frames but horrible wiring. So what about music, is there a devolution of music, or are we simply ignoring the fact that every generation has had both bad and good music.


Music needs meaning

I see this argument online all the time, “new music has no meaning”. My first thought is that isn’t true as a blanket statement, as well it isn’t exclusive to the music of today. My second thought is, does it need to have some deeper meaning to be enjoyed. Most days when I am in the office I listen to electronic music or classical. The reason is the lack of meaning, I don’t have to focus intensely on each line to understand it. It is entertainment to enjoy passively. It is still enjoyable to listen to. I will listen to these same songs later on my full system at home to listen critically if I really enjoy a song.

The follow up argument I often see is that new artists are not writing the music. There are tons of singer song writers out there in modern music. Either way, someone wrote the music and it was played by someone right? If you think this is a new thing, just know Prince wrote songs for other artists, such as Manic Monday, does that mean you enjoy the song less, no it has no bearing on how much you can enjoy the music. The devolution of music is simply the opinion of people wishing things hadn’t changed from how they remember it.

Here are some of the top ranked artists that never wrote their own songs

  1. Elvis Presley.
  2. Elton John.
  3. Frank Sinatra.
  4. Diana Ross.
  5. Whitney Houston.
  6. Marvin Gaye. Marvin Gaye was another founder of the Motown sound. …
  7. Nina Simone.
  8. Rihanna.
    chances are if you like any of them, you probably won’t just quite enjoying them now.

Everyone is entitled to like or dislike any music for any reason. There is music I don’t care for, but that doesn’t make it inherently bad music. What are the qualifications for music to be objectively bad, is it structure, lyrics, instruments used? Certainly there is music that just does not flow well and is almost offensive to the ears, and maybe that is what bad music is, something that is difficult to listen to and enjoy due to poor composure. With any art form it is hard to judge it objectively, I can say that Picasso was a terrible artist, but I can not really explain why. I can say why I don’t care for his odd portraiture, but that is subjective, others love it, so again, is he a bad artist?

Music Now vs Then

Both the way we create and consume music now is different than back in previous decades. This is a constant, as technology changes so does the audio industry. This is on both sides, production of music and the enjoyment of such. Media types can be objectively discussed, as we can agree that lossy file types in the digital age objectively sound worse than hi-rez files. There is no argument there, the loss of data degrades the music quality, however it does not degrade the initial recordings quality. That is to say that an artist is not good nor bad due to the format you consume the music from.

There are many genre’s and subgenre’s of music created solely on a computer. Many listeners and music creators alike look at this as less than. For some reason we attribute this with requiring less skill or talent, when really it is a different talent. I am sure there are amazing guitarist out there than have no ability to create digital music, much the same in the other direction. The tool used to make music shouldn’t detract from the music itself. The electric guitar is rarely if ever considered as the devolution of the guitar itself.

What about the devolution of lyrics

So if the writing, instruments and tools used to create new music aren’t the issue it has to be the lyrics. Lyrics used to have meaning and thought and now we have artist mumbling about nothing. So its the lyrics of today that is ruining music. Well lets take a step back and breath for a minute. What is the core of this argument or stance? What meaning are we looking for that older music had? Is it about struggle, love, anti establishment? I assure there are plenty of artist now writing about the same things we have before. Sure the vocabulary and style has changed but then again it has in all aspects of life. I would say they only type of lyrics that may be considered objectively bad are ones that you can not understand, not meaning you don’t get it, but rather a string of words that don’t make a sentence. Say a song lyric is “wood computer sky car latitude”, perhaps we could consider that objectively bad. But lyrics that simply do not connect with you personally, we can hardly consider them outright bad. The song “Merci” is a rap about having a Lamborghini, it may not be relatable for a truck driver, just like “east bound and down” probably isn’t all that relatable to the rapper with a Lambo, neither one is better objectively, just different.

So is there a devolution of music

I do not think there is. I think what we have is different music. Also one has to remember any person now has the ability to mass distribute music to the world. There may not be more “bad” artists, it’s just a lot easier for you to come across them. If you were a bad musician in the 70’s you had no real means of getting music out to the world, you had to be signed for that to happen. Granted there were some bizarre signed artists, Captain Beefheart comes to mind. Lets agree though in general you had to be pretty good to get anywhere. I know it is easier to get music out there today, but creating music that will sell is not easier or harder than it ever has been.

Let us know what you think in the comments, do you think new music is objectively bad? Or maybe is it the romanticizing of our youth that blurs our vision.

Leave a Reply