Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

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"An astonishing amount of today’s popular music is written by two people: Lukasz Gottwald of the United States and Max Martin from Sweden, who are both responsible for dozens of songs in the top 100 charts. You can credit Max and Dr. Luke for most the hits of these stars:

"Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift, Jessie J., KE$HA, Miley Cyrus, Avril Lavigne, Maroon 5, Taio Cruz, Ellie Goulding, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Ariana Grande, Justin Timberlake, Nick Minaj, Celine Dion, Bon Jovi, Usher, Adam Lambert, Justin Bieber, Domino, Pink, Pitbull, One Direction, Flo Rida, Paris Hilton, The Veronicas, R. Kelly, Zebrahead

"With only two people writing much of what we hear, is it any wonder music sounds the same, using the same hooks, riffs and electric drum effects?"

Part of an article worth reading (if you haven't already) by Jon Henschen at https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/tragic-decline-music-literacy-and-quality

Particularly interesting is the reduction in timbral variety (nature and type of sounds and instruments) and harmonic variation and structure since the 1960s peak. I'm sure that's why I find the amazing variety on board 5090 and FAWM a delight, even if my listening hasn't been up to scratch this year! But don't expect ever to get anywhere beyond coffee money in your songwriting--more than that's a bonus, like reaching 70 years and still being alive....!

I have always gravitated towards artists who write their own material, so I've been less affected by this trend. But you can't help but notice the way the trend of using outside writer/producers has restricted variety. It's not just a case of the usual singer/performer using outside writers - that's always happened - it's the fact that increasingly artists you think write their own stuff are bringing in these people as 'co-writers' and any individuality they had gets sacrificed the the hit formula.

It's interesting, in that context, to listen to Paul McCartney's new album (Egypt Station) - here's a guy who's now 76 and has produced an album that sounds remarkably fresh simply because it uses structures and chord changes that are outside the range of these go-to writers. It's interesting that where he has used an outside writer (yes, even McCartney has succumbed) - on the horribly titled 'Fuh You' - the problem of modern pop reappears.

Disclaimer: My favourite periods in music are '65 - '75, '78 - '83 (post-punk and new wave), mid-90s (Britpop, Triphop)

It's an interesting thing. On the one hand, using outside writers is nothing new. It's been around pretty much since singing has been a profession. On the other hand, I agree that pop music feels like it has become more and more homogenous because of expectation and the use of fewer writers. However, I'll also point out that since it has become easier to self publish, the variety and amount of original music has exploded. As someone who likes nerdy music, now I can listen to Jonathan Coulton, Professor Elemental, Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer, Garfunkle and Oats, and the Double Clicks. In the 80s it was pretty much just Weird Al and Dr Demento. Also, really look at the Grammy nominations and winners. I mean scroll past the big categories... get down past rap and country... you 'll find some pretty interesting stuff. I like checking out who wins children's music, jazz, world music and blues.

Sometimes I feel like people who complain about there being no good music (which is NOT what you're doing. Your observation is much narrower in scope and very valid) are really looking or they have narrowed their definition of good to "that one band I liked when I was in high school."

That goes a long way in explaining why I have absolutely no interest in "popular music" any more. But there are still some innovative artists out there who still write their own material and take it on the road. Bristol's "She Makes War", Leicester's Grace Petrie, and Eliza Rickman in the US are all songwriters I really rate highly at the moment.

Kat, I love Professor Elemental's stuff!

And when it comes to prog, the field is as active as it's ever been. I've picked up some great releases this year from Lazuli, King Crimson, and The Fierce and the Dead. I've seen some cracking shows from artists this year who write and perform their own stuff, too: Devin Townsend, for one. And my friends in "Stick Men" are currently wowing the crowds on their South American tour...

I think a lot of these arguments don't really apply to music in general, but to Top 40 music, which used to harbour far more variety and be more open to new ideas - things seem to have closed down in proportion to the rise of the internet.

I tend to think of music in three divisions - genre music (well defined established genres like jazz or blues, together with the sub-genre spawning dance and metal areas), mainstream (essentially top 40) and what I think of as nearstream - the area where genres are mixed up and cross pollinated and where new trends are given birth. 'Nearstream' is super-active and where you'll find most of the good music being made, but it's ability to break through into mainstream seems to have all but disappeared, maybe because those Top 40 writers have a good ear for new sonic signatures and rapidly incorporate them into the formula without allowing a new movement to emerge that would rewrite the rules.

OMG...I listened to Fuh You and abandoned all hope within the first 10 seconds

@fresh spotless youth - listen to "Despite Repeated Warnings" to have faith restored ...

I think the very nature of pop music is to have lots of similar sounding songs. Something becomes popular and there is usually a market for more of it. I remember this exact same thing with British invasion bands, big hair/rhinestone country, Motown, the 80s, the 90s, etc. At the same time, in every era, there is plenty of music available that breaks the mold. Max Martin isn't part of some sinister plot to eradicate original/quirky/unique music! He just (temporarily) has the knack/angle/formula for producing pop hits. And I enjoy a lot of them (along with the classic stuff and modern quirk!) And if it is any comfort, our parents thought lots of our music was boringly similar. Heck, come to think of it, I got plenty bored with lots of "progressive" music back in the day once the drugs wore off!! Biggrin If that drummer can't finish his solo in 4 bars or less I'm outta there!

Hey Tim, -- yes, interesting topic. I've seen it elsewhere recently.

( -- Apologies for typos and, "onlineguage" ... here goes anyway Smile )

I think nearly any marketing major, product realisation analyst, r&d et al. person will go right to "LCD", lowest common denominator. It will never end and how we infamously got "hair bands", "disco" and even what they call "Rap" ? today (I loved rap circa '80's).

Many in that list above are just that, as commented, and have always been and for a target market in some cases of 12 - 14 yo's; the profiles are, for me, humorous.

I'm not sure about all of them, not to nit pick but warn of any generic, broad brushing..., i.e., T. Swift who may co-write, but I am not aware of covers, -- just say'in; not a big fan, or fan at all of any in that list; or the varified sources (?). So, keeping Swift as example, -- one knows her stuff and can't claim "sounds like" beyonce, not yet, -- the 50 shades of gray song starts to push her into full on generic. But hey, -- that was a big paycheck, I get it. I'd've done it Wink

However, what I'd like to get a discussion going on for "here", FAWM5090 with all the wonderful commentary above is:
-- what I find interesting is the rush then (?) to the "band in the box", voice correction, and "helicon vox, zyx" plug ins which does just what may be the issue cited as "not good" (?) within muszak today, -- "oh, you sound just like... ... ..." and etc. (Hey, not knocking feedback to be brief and explain, sounds "like" as *instructive in intent (sounds like, not being generic sounds like), -- I mean the really "radio-ready" try to elevate in that generic direction stuff, -- an important distinction in my point. Some folks are way to literal, so hope that aspect is clear.) Anyway... ...

I think, I am sure actually, --that original work is out there a plenty. However, the "CBGB's" of the world are not in place currently. Any kid with a fire in their heart, $20 guitar and 1/2 a song after 5 eEZz online lessons got a shot, -- and so it went/goes. I've tried to explain locally in my region, ("what are YOU doing ABOUT it?!? --great question), anyway I explain that, ---- I won't "go on" after a "Sinatra" cover, juggling clown, the 10th playing of "Day Tripper" yeah, angst morrisette song ... I am asked why?
-- Really? Why? What the heck for Smile I keep telling them, (the guy trying to sell 10 kegs not just 8 of beer), ---- give over Tuesday Nights, do the limited FaceBook 20 mi radius "ad" ($3? FB ad)for *Originals Only Night* to be fair to the ~~audience~~ sitting eating their greasy fries and burgers. (Wed night is traditional open mic, --Tues is not)
-- I know for a "fact" (?) Smile my area may double his crowd of 5 people, even Wink on Tuesdays, just to see what's up locally, folks trying out new songs (only, no covers). Do they think they'd actually loose money? No, but they think the "Look/Sound alike" person has a family of 20 that drinks and eats to much... comes with them and so it goes. Eh... *not really*. And, yes, -- I would audion folks, via online track review. But, we here are just told, relax, come, do your stuff... then I see the videos of that night, hahhh... no, that's not OK. The only reason to go is for **some kind of qualified audience feedback** knowing they are there for that, -- kind of like here at 5090 Smile RIGHT NOW the LAST weeks, the folks still here are the most serious, and of great value to interact with, -- it's the time I wait for. I'd rather get 1 or 2 (OMG 3?) explained reveiws vs. 15 "Luv'yah!" reviews. I realise the "Luv'yah" reveiws are sincere and valid and many revolve around certain games/challenges and are appropriate for that write, -- just say'in... many don't have time for that. So I do qualify feedback-comment in a different from that context. No one should take offense since recognise that context as separate. Again, some folks don't get the diversity here, and do need to learn how to catagorise, niche their work. I do. Again, for me, ~ 3 ~ explained comments I know I can "trust", from total strangers I'll never meet, are highly valuable to me, as explained. I especially love the ones from folks 180 degree in genre... and they should "get that" too. A 1v1g demo person commenting on industrial electronica classical heavy metal stuff (in a relevant extended manner), and vise versa shows the accurate assessment potential here. I hope folks "get" that. It's what folks pay for at "college" $3000/class, -- "free" here (?) ... not free, but at no cost if you "get that".

I'll rabbit trail a bit more for those interested:
-- Actualy I do see some of the coffee house style restarting after completely gone the last 5 years or so, -- small college campus stuff; but I'm not hopeful since know the folks that run that stuff. There is always a way to krappe it up it seems, but, that's another thread. And on the other hand, one never knows... so I'll be watching that.

So, back to the "band in the box", plug in, irony thing in all of "this" just a little bit more now, ---- the, "make me sound like" direction I was going ...
-- the competition of original work wrapped generically, I observe sometimes that concerns, "radio ready" versus cell phone one-take or "audacity" only stuff demonstrates a bit of confusion among the folks making music today. Possibly even "here"? (I've commented "nash-vill" song writers groups that say, do only * 1v1g demos (*not radio ready), and they explain why, --well. Only the gear-vendors are supporting that at $n/pop Smile

Then, there are the question(s), of, (ironic to me)
---- "how to make it"; the "services" engaged of "send me your song and $150 to this "nash-ville" address with your complete opinion of your own work for our input/review back to you; the xyz "coaches" of voice, life and take my $50 mini-course of rolled up YouTube samples; the questions of "how-to ...even as "simple" as copyright my stuff (couldn't be easier really, or cheaper if done bundled); should be well parsed "here", -- it, if one pays attention, it does get 500 Watt Halogen spot lighted "here", --for what it is. It just did Crazy It surprises me folks push for "polite only" feedback but then may be willing to "Pay" at xyz bootcamp (plus travel ticket/expenses), that person, place, website made up of whom? Likely the very folks "here" anyway, ironically? Smile
-- I read the "resume" and credentials of these folks... hmmm, can I say, "so what" and make my point?

For me, FAWM5090 is one of the biggest, best "things to do about it"... and I do cite why, how... -- thoughts? Crazy