Anti-nostalgia Series: Pt. 1 — Music

I’m sick of hearing about how great the past was. I’m decidedly in the camp of those who look forward to the future, not because I’m optimistic for the human race (I’m not) but because I look forward to innovations in the realms of technology and art. I’m so sick of nostalgia, that I’ve decided to create a series of articles cracking the rose tinted glasses of past-worship. First, I’d like to tackle the claims that music used to be better.

Millennials, and specifically hipsters, have a strange fascination with nostalgia, even for things that are inconvenient or inferior to modern gadgets. I’ll touch back on this later. With music, I’ve heard many complain that all modern music can be boiled down to Justin Beiber and Kanye West, as if these people haven’t looked for music outside of the top-40 radio stations. Why do these pessimists focus on the most derivative pop music of modern times? Because the filter of time hasn’t stripped away the worst music for them, as it has with older tunes.

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Disco Duck, the stuff of nightmares

“Yummy Yummy I’ve Got Love in My Tummy” is a repetitive, simple, silly song that in 1968 reached the #4 spot in the US Pop Singles Chart. It was probably played often on radio stations and I’m sure a lot of people actually liked it, as I’m sure many people today enjoy the music the Bieber makes. Minnie Riperton’s Loving you (reached #2 on R&B Charts) features repetitive lyrics and a lot of filler la-la-la’s and so on. She has a nice voice, but lyricism is one of the arguments people use against modern music. Finally, I must also bring up the song “Disco Duck,” a novelty song performed by Rick Dees and his Cast of Idiots that reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week in Febuary in 1976. The fact that we allowed such a nightmare inducing travesty to reach this level of popularity says volumes about the state of pop music in the 70s.

I would argue that the comparison is by its very nature, is an unfair one. It is impossible to make sense of an era that one is completely immersed in. It’s complete chaos. Since the first musician plucked out the first notes on his proto-instrument, there has been both good an bad music. It’s easier to become attached to a piece of music for the emotions or values it evokes when it’s at least a decade old. That way, the listener can be moved in part because of the culture that produced the music; it’s hard to think of Nirvana without also thinking of the grunge movement in the 90s and the simplicity that came after the glam-y, extravagant 80s. Modern music does not have that emotional cultural dimention because it lacks nostalgia.

So, music isn’t getting worse. It’s not getting better, either. There wil always be repetitive, sad excuses for music. To dismiss a whole era simply because you have to work to find artists and songs to your liking is a lazy over-generilization. So, let’s focus on promoting the music we like, and try to make popular those people who deserve fame and fortune.

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