Popular culture stagnation since mid-1990s?

Does anyone under 25 (35?) even listen to the radio anymore? None of the young people I know listen to the radio at all – they listen to streaming services, which are pretty tailored to the individual.

I have to say I love Lana Del Rey. I think she’s a fantastic songwriter. And her songs definitely don’t sound like anything from 20 years ago.

Indeed. BTS is by far the biggest band in the world, and only recently have a few of their songs made it onto Top 40 radio.

Sure, but K-Pop isn’t that unusual really. It’s not like the difference between disco and doo-wop, or between disco and New Wave. Or Grunge and New Wave. Or any of the above and 1980s rap/hip-hop.

When I hear something “new” these days, it seems to be either a variation on an existing theme(lots of variations of hip-hop or rap), or some kind of fusion-type thing (think “Old Town Road”).

That’s what I was getting at; maybe the Top 40 is not a great indicator of what’s actually popular among younger people, because if it is, I’m pretty disappointed.

You mean like New Wave? :wink:

A lot of people consider New Wave a fusion of punk (or post-punk) and pop with a bunch of synths.

I’m sure a musician transported directly from the 1830s would say all music since the 1950s sounds the same to them as well. There’s a fair argument for that but it seems to be more of a calcification in thought patterns than a true stagnation in culture.

I think practically any music of a genre you’re not familiar with sounds the same to the listener. I’m not a fan of jazz, so it all sounds the same to me. People who don’t listen to electronica think the same thing, but my nephew is a big fan and can definitely differentiate between songs and artists.

Kid Cheesesteak (13) listens exclusively to Spotify, and has a massive playlist, where he adds whatever new thing he thinks is cool. He’s got a lot of old stuff on there, though. Usually it’s from a movie or Tik Tok or some weird backstory but when I asked him why he added Bon Jovi’s “Livin on a Prayer” he just said “cuz it’s awesome” :roll_eyes: When I was his age, in the mid 80’s, I can’t imagine hearing a 50 year old song in a movie soundtrack and thinking “I need to put that on a mixtape”, but he’s got Immigrant Song in his playlist and it wasn’t MY idea.

I think the ease of access means that cool old stuff can still be cool, he doesn’t have to buy Led Zepplin III for $20 just for one song, he doesn’t have to listen to a million old songs he hates on the radio in the hopes that IS comes on the air, he just has to type in ‘cool song from Thor Ragnarok’ and he can add it to his list.

I agree but sounding the same as other tracks of the same genre isn’t the primary problem here.
It’s that it sounds like much older music and not fresh at all.

E.g. I went to raves in the 90s. While a lot of drum and bass and jungle could be said to sound alike, there’s no doubt the whole shebang sounded fresh coming not long after Michael Jackson’s Bad topped the charts. (Yes I’m aware that D&B is largely formed from a sample from a 1960s drum break, but still, it would sound strange to someone teleported from the 60s).

What is there like that now? Genuinely I want to know because I like novelty in music.

Maybe the number of musical ideas the human ear can appreciate is finite and we already are brushing up against that limit :pensive:

I mentioned trap above as a newish style of rap music that I can’t stand. I’m a big fan of the funk-forward stuff from the 90’s and 2000’s (Dr. Dre and his acolytes, for example). Trap has a pretty basic track with lots of very wordy raps on top of it.

Maybe it’s more that the major categories are currently somewhat defined, and what we’re seeing is subdivisions within them. Like @RitterSport points out, trap is a style of rap. Which makes it not particularly foreign to old-ish farts like myself who’ve heard various styles of rap for 35 years now. Variations on a theme, without being anything dramatically new.

That’s not to say that something else won’t come along and shake things up; I’m not of the opinion that we’ve hit the limits of human ingenuity. But for now, we seem to be more finely dividing what’s already there.

I do wonder if maybe styles will wax and wane through time like we already see with hairstyles and clothes. Like maybe my children will be listening to metal when they’re in their last few years of high school. And their kids will be listening to some sort of funk or disco.

Incidentally one of my pet theories is that part of the reason that the first two decades of this century don’t have a clear cultural identity is that no one has come up with a halfway decent name for them that is commonly accepted. A big part of the cultural identity of decades comes from them being used as nouns and adjectives a million times in everyday conversation. That has been a bit difficult with the 00’s and 10’s.

Of course now that we have entered the 20’s this is no longer going to be a problem for the rest of the century. Practically every decade of the last century from the Roaring Twenties onwards has a clear identity.

So will this happen again with our 20s? We should know in a few years. If our Covid nightmare continues for long enough I suppose that will define the decade. But more hopefully it will perhaps be defined by a post-Covid era of optimism and risk-taking that will impact culture positively too.

Not necessarily deliberately (ie if they’re driving in their car, they’ll be listening to streaming music instead of FM/DAB radio) but radio is passively present in a way TV etc isn’t - so you might be shopping somewhere that’s running a radio station in as background music, or working with someone who’s got the radio on to catch the news, or in the car with someone older who is listening to the actual radio.

But I do agree that “Top 40 radio hits” isn’t a meaningful demographic anymore, at least for people younger than your average SDMB member.

I didn’t realize it, but on Googling trap, I found that I indeed have a number of trap tracks in my music collection*. They’re OK; I enjoy Black Beatles, but there’s nothing special there in my view.

I will concede that it waters my point down though, as this music is at least slightly different. While trap originated in the 90s, few people before the early 2010s would have heard it, and it does sound somewhat different enough that someone warped for the 90s (outside of the region where trap was originating) would recognize it as novel.

I guess it’s a big topic, and a slight tangent in this thread, so I’ll leave it there.

* I’m old enough that I still like to have a music collection of mp3 files, not just stream everything.

It is an old complaint.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

I’m pretty sure if you played AC/DC for this guy, he’d think it was something new.

I wonder what he’d think of The Byrds…

I was also thinking about this today because Donda by Kanye West was finally dropped today. Someone transported from the 90s would have considered it to be incredibly novel (though perhaps not as much as Yeezus which is also a far better album).

I think say, Chopin, would easily have distinguished between the music of Bill Haley, The Doors, The Bee Gees, Def Leppard, and Alanis Morissette as some random representatives of the last five decades of the 20th century.

It probably wouldn’t even take a trained ear. The current argument is that today’s music sounds the same as the music of 2001, not that today’s music isn’t any good. This is different than say, my grandfather or father saying that the music I listened to on FM radio in the 1980s wasn’t any good. Their argument was that they didn’t like the music, not that it sounded the same as the music they grew up with back in the early days of rock in the 1950s or the pre-pop era back in the 1930s.

Then it’s not a very good argument.

There are posters in the thread who argue it doesn’t. And they’re right, unless one mainly listens to music on Top 40 radio stations. That’s kind of the point being made. It says more about the people making the argument than about music itself.