Archive for the ‘Editorials’ Category

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Has Technology Ruined Music?

March 24, 2011

One of the trademark complaints of older generations of music fans is that today’s music is created on a computer, or “ripped off” from the music of previous generations. Of course, the “young people don’t respect nothing” argument has been around since the days of Ancient Rome, and that is a different topic altogether. The specific point made, however, is something I often ponder. Is today’s music even music?

Like most things in this world, this is not a black and white issue. While I believe there are some major drawbacks to computer-generated music, I also believe it has opened the door for creative, out-of-the-box artists to make new and exciting music. Sampling old songs, as long as it is done with the original artist’s permission, is not only a great way to make fresh music but also introduces younger generation to great music from the past. For instance, I world never have gotten into Sam Cooke had I not heard Papoose’s sampling of “A Change is Gonna Come” on “50 Shots.” That would be a real shame, as I consider Cooke to be one of the greatest recording artists ever. Music is meant to bring people together, and electronically incorporated samples can bridge generational gaps.

One thing that should be made clear: studio production is not exclusive to hip-hop, and had been around way before DJ Kool Herc spun his first record at a South Bronx birthday bash. Songs like Ray Charles’ classic “I Believe to My Soul” was recorded using over-dubs, as was Bruce Springsteen’s title track from “Born to Run.” Even today, artists of various genres use electronically enhanced sounds to create music. Many producers have extensive music knowledge and talent, and some can even play musical instruments. Think about it: who in their right mind would say DJ Premier isn’t a creative genius because he doesn’t play guitar?

I do realize that technology has the possibility to induce laziness. A lot of artists today are e-mailed “beats” and then record lyrics to them. This is a major flaw in the music making process. Jay-Z once said that he never records a song unless the producer is in the studio with him, because face-to-face collaboration can change and improve the entire direction of a song. Another problem with technologically enhanced music is that some of it is entirely created synthetically. However, there are still many artists who record with live instruments or incorporate them into production.

Don’t get me wrong; I have great respect for musicians. It takes extraordinary skill to play an instrument. However, this does not make producers- especially those who collaborate with a team of knowledgeable engineers in an honest effort to create great music- inferior to musicians in any way.

In a previous article on this site, I predicted that as record sales decline, artists who can put on a great live show will be more financially successful than those who rely on the likes of auto-tune and synth beats. Still, there are those who use sound systems to put on excellent concerts. All in all, I feel that, despite its drawbacks from studio-production generally has improved the quality of music. I look forward to more creativity and innovation by producers and musicians alike in the future.

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Music Predictions

March 23, 2011

Being that it has been a week since my last post, I have decided to give everyone three posts over the next three days. This first one consists of ten predictions of what will happen in the music industry in the next ten-12 years. Some are blatantly obvious, while others may be seen as outrageous. Either way, this is my honest assessment of the future of music.

CDs Will Go the Way of Records

CDs have already lost a great deal of importance to those who download torrents or buy music from the iTunes store. Stores such as Best Buy and Target have already greatly reduced their CD selection. Still, stores such as FYE, Exchange, and locally owned music stores carry a wide variety of CDs. For people like me, these stores are a safe haven for those who still love the liner notes and album artwork that go along with the music. However, I believe this will change. As music becomes increasingly digital (some newer artists don’t even bother to put CDs out anymore, opting for exclusively digital releases), CDs will all but fade away. Like 45 records, I predict that CDs will be reduced to sites like Amazon and locally owned music stores in big cities.

“Rap” Will Be Unseated

Ask anyone who tunes in daily to listen to new Top 40 hits on the radio, and they will most likely tell you that rap is one of their favorite genres. However, what they consider to be “rap” is actually more techno-inspired, mainstream pop music (look back at even a mainstream hit like “California Love” and compare it to Wiz Khalifa’s “Roll Up,” and you’ll know what I mean). If one were to look at music trends, they would see that in the ’80s, rock took a turn towards the mainstream pop sound with the glam-rock bands taking over the scene. What happened? A bunch of lower-class artists stepped up with a seemingly obscure genre called “hip-hop.” Three decades prior, rock ‘n roll did the same thing to jazz. Something, and I don’t know what, will take over the airwaves to become the new “in” sound in the next dozen years.

It Better Be Live

As music piracy continues and the younger generation neglects purchasing music, concerts and shows will increasingly become the bread-and-butter of musical acts. Groups like The Dave Matthews Band and The Roots will continue to make a killing off their stellar concerts, while those who rely on the studio-sound will suffer great financial decline in the future.

Smaller Record Labels Will Die Out

Once again, music piracy will continue to have an increasing impact on the industry. Right now, independent labels can survive because people will buy the music. However, as less and less people become consumers, labels will fold, leaving the larger, more corporate-based labels to have a monopoly on the music industry, meaning less creativity, more formulaic, radio-ready music.

Someone Will Break the Mold

It has happened before and it will happen again. Someone will have the balls to go against the larger record labels. It will be very difficult and there will be many obstacles for said person. Still, who can forget when Marvin Gaye broke out of Berry Gordy’s Motown formula to create one of the greatest soul albums of all time? Or what about when Dr. Dre took a chance on some white nobody from Detroit who turned out to be one of the biggest artists of all time? In the end, someone will restore my faith in the music industry.

Pop Music Will Still Dominate

I know, this sounds like a contradiction of my last prediction, but when someone breaks the mold, it is remembered mostly because it is an exception to the cookie-cutter music that dominates the airwaves. Pop music, whether it be pop-rock, pop-country, pop-rap, or any other kind of pop, will continue to be successful.

Economic Issues Will Affect American Artists’ Global Reach

This sounds outrageous, right? America is one of the biggest and most powerful countries in the world, right? Things change, and that change affects everything in some way, shape, or form. Right now, America is trillions of dollars in debt, with interest growing every day. I’m not saying America will be overthrown or that we will lose all clout in the global economy, but as other countries in the world progress, I predict American artists won’t be as popular around the rest of the world, simply because America won’t be as popular, either.

Certain People Will Stick

Certain people will be in the music business forever. They are smart, experienced, and just have a great ear for music. For instance, while Dr. Dre might bow out following Detox, he will be around as a producer/executive forever. Any doubters of this prediction need to look no further than 84-year-old Tony Bennett’s stunning rendition of “I Left My Heart in San Fransisco” last fall before a World Series game.

Early Exit

This one is pretty obvious. Drug overdoses, shootings, suicides, and plane/automobile accidents have been a staple of deaths in the music industry. People in the business die of unnatural causes all the time. Sooner than one may think, someone huge will pass on. Who it will be, of course, will remain a mystery.

Music Will Still Be Music

People will argue, debate, listen, not listen, half-listen, go to concerts, reminisce, love, hate, cry, and scream all in the name of music. But it will still be music. And some of it will still be great.

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An American Tragedy

March 9, 2011

Photo acquired from Google Images

On March 9, 1997, a young man by the name of Christopher Wallace was killed after being gunned down in his car at a traffic light in the early morning. That man was known to the world by his stage name, The Notorious B.I.G. Some called him Biggie Smalls. Some just Big. Some called him awesome. Today he is regarded as one of the greatest MCs to ever breathe on the mic. His gangsta/playboy persona, mixed with his incredible rhyming ability and irresistable flow/delivery propelled him to superstardom in the music industry. After leaving an awards show in the early morning hours to go to a club, Biggie was shot to death while at a red light. He died on the scene.

It would be easy to dismiss this as a case of “live by the sword, die by the sword,” but only if one were to look exclusively at Biggie’s lyrics. In fact, according to Jay-Z in his memoir Decoded, the Biggie he knew avoided trouble like the plague, not wanting to blow his shot at maintaining a better life than the one he lived while in Brooklyn dealing drugs or in prison writing rhymes.

So, what was the cause of Biggie’s death? Was he simply in the wrong place at the wrong time? Were these assailants from Biggie’s past, looking to settle a score? Evidence suggests otherwise. It is widely speculated (and some even say proven) that Biggie was killed at the hands of crooked police officers on the payroll of Suge Knight, who were later implicated in the infamous Rampart Scandal. Knight certainly had motive, as he believed Biggie and his associates were behind the first assassination attempt on Tupac Shakur.

In fact, a wrongful death lawsuit that was corroborated from the testimonies of Los Angeles police officers claiming that detectives backed off the investigation when it started pointing to fellow police officers. Officer Russell Poole went as far as resigning in protest. In the lawsuit itself, it is stated that Rafael Perez admitted to the planning and participation in the murder of Biggie. Still to this day, no one has ever been charged with the murder of Biggie.

What’s most tragic about this is not that someone was murdered. While that is a terrible occurrence, murders happen every day in this world. What is more alarming to me is that, even faced with hard evidence, the law will not prosecute its own for wrongdoing. In my personal favorite television series, The Shield, Captain Claudette Whymms poses the question: “How can we expect justice out there if we don’t even demand it in our own house?” My sentiments exactly. May the murder be solved, the guilty parties be brought to justice, and may something like this never happen again.

R.I.P. Christopher Wallace. My condolences to his family, friends, and fans.