If you frequent this site you know that I tend to bitch and moan about how awful pop radio is (Basically, that is the reason that I started doing this). It blows my mind to think that if I lived in the 70’s and I turned on rock radio I would be listening to Led Zeppelin or Lynyrd Skynyrd and the r&b station would be playing Marvin Gaye and Al Green records. Today, my rock station plays Papa Roach and if I wanna dance I have to do it to the latest pile Jennifer Lopez has vomited up. It’s painful.
Now, let me say there is not a lack of talent, there is a lack of soul. These artists don’t really seem to care what they are singing about. Maybe its the subject matter but I don’t really think that’s it. Just about every song is about sex in some form but that’s not a new phenomenon. Marvin Gaye was singing about “getting it on” in 1973. Robert Plant sang, “Squeeze me baby, till the juice runs down my leg!” in 1969. Songs about sex are as old as songs. But when Usher sings, “Baby let me love you down,” I’m not feeling how badly he wants to “love me down”. There is not sense of urgency.
I think that artists today tend to be a little lazy. The biggest pop acts don’t usually write there own songs so they aren’t always emotionally invested in the performance of them. Producers have so much technology at their fingertips that, in the studio, they can make just about anyone sound good. Take any Kesha song for example. Her stuff is all over the radio but when she sings live she sounds like a completely different person (an untalented person). Its painful and a little sad. This is one of the reasons, I think, a lot of young people are gravitating to “bedroom” acts like Washed Out and No Age, who make their music with minimal technology or experience.
Do I expect things to change? No, of course not. A catchy pop hook is infectious regardless of who is singing it or how it was made. I just wish the recording community would try just a little harder.
Below I have is a video that I have posted before but I feel that it demonstrates exactly what I am saying. Here is Bill Withers performing “Use Me,” the second single of the classic Still Bill, on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1972. This is a song about a cheatin’ woman. Is it based on a real person? I have no idea. But watching him perform the song live, with just his band and his voice, it sure feels like it is.