Why does modern music suck?

Sturgeon’s law: 90% of everything is crap. When we listen to music from a couple of decades ago, we only listen to the 10%. With modern music on radio, you’re also hearing the 90% crap.

If you could get in a time machine and go back and actually listen to AM radio in the 1970’s, you’d hear crap like “Yummy yummy yummy I’ve got love in my tummy”, or “Mr. Jaws”, or “The Streak”, or any number of one-hit-wonder disco songs. Go back to the 60’s, and hear “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” and a zillion bad clones of the Beatles, the Stones, Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds, etc. Hell, there were even bad bands that tried to copy The Monkees. The worst of the 60’s and 70’s might be even worse than what we hear today, because there were many drugs involved, both with the artists and listeners, and quality control wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.

I agree for the most part, but how old are you? I’m guessing 30 or 40 something.

The teenagers are still buying music, so they must like all this hip-hop and American Idol crap.

I think at some point in your adult life you just stop identifying with the music of the current generation.

Damn kids, get off of my cloud!

I agree, music today sucks ass, though I occasionally find a diamond in the rough. But let’s face it, we will never again see the years 1966 through 1973. That was a once-in-a-lifetime era.

The years, incidentally, when radios generally blaired the freak-flag gold of Your Mama Don’t Dance, I Am Woman, and Laughter in the Rain.

What I notice is that most popular music today is homogenized to make the same sound. I saw this particularly when I caught a Queen Latifah video. She’s a marvelous singer – just watch Chicago – but she was produced to sound like Every Other Girl Singer.

It’s next to impossible to tell their voices apart, which is one reason they all go all out trying to be sexy – it gives them the personality their singing lacks.

Also, most popular stuff is now written to sound like the current big hits. The audience doesn’t want to be challenged, or even to hear a different sound, so everything sounds the same.

I was pretty fond of 1964 and 1965, too.

I wouldn’t say art is down and out. As a living fossil, though, I’m just not sure I’ll be receptive. My father couldn’t understand rock and roll to save his life.

Oh man, this is too true.

I’ve stopped getting excited about music that’s new to me and that I really like, because I know there’s so much of it out there, I don’t have to treasure and try to make a note to remember this particular song I’m hearing now. If I forget it, that’s okay:I’ll be hearing something else quite interesting and cool in just a few minutes anyway.

Someone else here mentioned 103.1 in LA. I know I can just switch my radio onto that station, and within three songs or so I’ll find something that sounds not quite like anything I’ve heard before, and which I like quite a bit. (Though, of course, not everything on that station is new.

I can just go to pandora.com, put in a few bands and songs I like*, and for as long as I wish I can hear stuff I haven’t heard before, about every other song of which I find I must bookmark so I can “come back to it later” because I like it so much. I’ve got about 30 bookmarks, after having listened for a few hours over the course of a couple of days.

I should be happy, right? There’s so much good music available to me, I no longer have to curse my lack of time and resources to seek it out. I can just get it streamed to me on demand. That’s great, right?

Well, it’s kind of sad. It’s not so special anymore when I find good new music. Like I said, I just can’t get excited about it anymore.

Maybe I’m just a complainer… :slight_smile:

I forgot another source I occasionally use for interesting new music. Don’t laugh. It’s myspace.

Every little nothing band has a myspace page. If you browse through it, in amongst all the crap, you will find gems. It’s fun.


*For the record, for example: Sufjan Stevens, They Might Be Giants, Bishop Allen, Postal Service, Math The Band (though they’re not on Pandora), The Billy Nayer Show, The Residents, The Magnetic Fields.

There is some good modern music like The White Stripes, and if you like country or rockabilly, Hank Williams III.

I can’t even give new music a chance. There’s nothing in it that I can identify with. All I see in my mind is a pierced, tattooed, goateed, snot-nosed kid trying to impart his worldly wisdom upon me. Sorry.

Give me CSNY, The Who, The Stones, The Beatles, and The Doors, any day. Heck even throw in “new” bands like Tom Petty, Boston, Van Halen, Aerosmith, and The Scorpions, and I’ll be happy.

Personally I think there’s probably lots of talent out there, but it’s undoubtedly way harder to strike a deal with a record company.

The band is just fantastic,
that is really what I think.
Oh, by the way,
which one’s Pink?

That’s largely the result of what is being referred to these days as “the loudness race”. It is basically an attempt on the part of record labels to master their albums as loud as possible as often as possible, usually at the expense of song dynamics. You can read an interesting example here, talking about its effects on the most recent Depeche Mode album.

Several posters have hit the nail (LittleNemo and DanBlather most directly). I call this the “Time Filter”. There was crappy music written and played 300 years ago, but Mozart lives on.

The “Time Filter” also applies to movies and books. That which is worthy is carried forth. That which is not is quitely forgotten. That is the simplest response to “They don’t make 'em like they used to.”

One thing that is new is that artists have so many more outlets. As a result, there is less “pre-filtering” happening before the general public hears something. I personally think that is a good thing.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when adults told kids that their music sucked, they didn’t respond with a list of little-known bar bands and a quick dismissal of “you’re not looking hard enough.” That’s what seems to be happening today, though. You see that throughout the SDMB, especially in “rap sucks” threads; people rattle off names of rappers that are almost unknown beyond a few zip codes in Brooklyn and a small, “elite” crowd of aficionados beyond, claiming that they’re the good ones, not what you hear playing on the radio. In the 1970s and 1980s, if a band was good, it got airplay and/or visibility from heavily promoted concert tours. If an adult told me in 1978 that Yes sucked, I didn’t tell them that they should really check out Starcastle, because they’re so much better.

Back then, if a band was unknown, it was usually because it was just formed, or because it truly sucked. Today, the attitude seems to be that bands are at their best when nobody knows about them; once they’re discovered and become even nominally popular, they suck.

BTW, that being said, I like the White Stripes and Death Cab for Cutie, and would love to find similar bands, but not so indie that people outside of a five-block area in Williamsburg have never heard of it.

Yeah, that’s definitely the case.

And, lest I gave the wrong impression, even though I said I don’t have the ‘problem’ of quietness with newer albums, I actually prefer to have that issue than to have a song with no quiets and levels that are the same the entire way through.

A great :rolleyes: example of that on the radio at the moment (though I think it’s a few months or maybe a year old now) is the song Photograph by… someone or other. It’s a not-very-sophisticated song about digging out the old pictures and remembering times gone by. The ‘soft’ sections, that are supposedly contemplative and whistful are just as gosh-darned loud as the sections where the whole band is playing out.

I don’t like the song very much, but I hate hate hate the recording itself. Way to take a song that’s supposed to be expressive and take out any expression.
I think older prog bands thrived on dynamics, as they did a lot of emulation of classical music forms. But I think of perhaps one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen tracks, Jungleland, where, at the end, after a long and empassioned saxophone solo, the whole band drops out except for soft piano, and sad, tired vocals, which build to a moan (over frantic piano) at the very end. It’s beautifully done, and I really can’t think of anything I’ve heard in recent years that comes close to it as far as using dynamics as an integral component of composition.

Anyway, I’m through with this minor hijack I suppose. :slight_smile:

And what were they (in their time) but long-haired, dirty, snot-nosed kids trying to impart their worldly wisdom?

I thought that sort of thing is what rock and roll is all about?

There’s a lot of truth in this thread:

  • When we listen to older music, we are only hearing the good stuff - a lot of music back then was crap

  • For folks in our 40’s+, our mindsets are different - we don’t want to hear a snotty-nosed kid speak truth - what do THEY know? Whereas before they were speakin’ to our generation…and so it goes.

  • We don’t know what’s hip - modern kids have a “musical language” that they look for and we aren’t tuned into enough to know if it is hip

  • there is a ton of good music out there, but not played on the radio

  • the music that is played is overproduced - either due to the Loudness Race (fascinating link, interface2x) or to compensate for low-quality mp3’s (if you produce to sound good on an iPod, you may sacrifice subtlety and dynamics - kind of like designing a video to look good on a 2" iPod Video screen).

Bottom line - things are different. What is interesting is that there appears to be a resurgence in sales and general coolness of 60’s and 70’s bands - Hendrix, Zep, etc…now what does that say?

I checked out that link.

It looks to me like the author’s graphing software just doesn’t show big enough values. Everything cuts off at exactly the same level–the maximum (and minimum) value his graphing software is (apparently) able to display. (At least as the author has set its display options or whatever.)

I don’t know that mine’s the correct interpretation, but since it seems plausible to me, it follows that I don’t know that what the author of that webpage says is true.

Are there any other pages about this topic that you know of?


Here’s the actual Top 40 songs of 1971 (I’ve only included A-E as a representative sample):

1900 Yesterday - Liz Damon’s Orient Express (#33)

Absolutely Right - Five Man Electrical Band (#26)

Ain’t No Sunshine - Bill Withers (#3)

Albert Flasher - The Guess Who (#29)

All Day Music - War (#35)

All I Ever Need Is You - Sonny & Cher (#7)

Amazing Grace - Judy Collins (#15)

American Pie (Parts 1 & 2) - Don McLean (#1)

An American Trilogy - Mickey Newbury (#26)

An Old Fashioned Love Song - Three Dog Night (#4)

Another Day - Paul McCartney (#5)

Anticipation - Carly Simon (#13)

Ask Me No Questions - B.B. King (#40)

Baby I’m-a Want You - Bread (#3)

Baby Let Me Kiss You - King Floyd (#29)

Bangla-Desh - George Harrison (#23)

Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley - C Company featuring Terry Nelson (#37)

Beginnings/Colour My World - Chicago (#7)

Behind Blue Eyes - The Who (#34)

Birds of a Feather - Raiders (#23)

Black Dog - Led Zeppelin (#15)

Blue Money - Van Morrison (#23)

Booty Butt - Ray Charles Orchestra (#36) (instrumental)

Brand New Key - Melanie (#1)

The Breakdown (Part 1) - Rufus Thomas (#31)

Bridge Over Troubled Water - Aretha Franklin (#6)

Bring the Boys Home - Freda Payne (#12)

Brown Sugar - The Rolling Stones (#1)

Burning Bridges - Mike Curb Congregation (#34)

Can I Get a Witness - Lee Michaels (#39)

Charity Ball - Fanny (#40)

Cherish - David Cassidy (#9)

Chicago / We Can Change the World - Graham Nash (#35)

Chick-A-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It) - Daddy Dewdrop (#9)

Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep - Mac & Katie Kissoon (#20)

Clean Up Woman - Betty Wright (#6)

Cool Aid - Paul Humphrey & his Cool Aid Chemists (#29) (instrumental)

Country Road - James Taylor (#37)

Cried Like a Baby - Bobby Sherman (#16)

D.O.A. - Bloodrock (#36)

Desiderata - Les Crane (#8)

(Do The) Push and Pull (Part 1) - Rufus Thomas (#25)

Do You Know What I Mean - Lee Michaels (#6)

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? - Chicago (#7)

Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted - The Partridge Family (#6)

Don’t Change On Me - Ray Charles (#36)

Don’t Knock My Love (Part 1) - Wilson Pickett (#13)

Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You - Wilson Pickett (#17)

Don’t Pull Your Love - Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds (#4)

(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go - Curtis Mayfield (#29)

Double Barrel - Dave & Ansil Collins (#22)

Double Lovin’ - The Osmonds (#14)

Draggin’ the Line - Tommy James (#4)

Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream) - Glen Campbell (#31)

Drowning in the Sea of Love - Joe Simon (#11)

The Drum - Bobby Sherman (#29)

Easy Loving - Freddie Hart (#17)

Eighteen - Alice Cooper (#21)

Escape-ism (Part 1) - James Brown (#35)

Everybody’s Everything - Santana (#12)

Any chance you’re in your mid-30s? There was recently an NPR story about a neuroscientist who conducted a survey that found that once most people reach 35 or so, they tend to lose interest in “new” music (that is, music they are not familiar with). He later expanded the study to find that at about the same age people become less adventurous in their eating habits. By the way, if you haven’t had your tongue pierced by the time you’re 23 or 24, you probably won’t.

Not sure I agree wholeheartedly about the music or the food, but I’m with him on the tongue piercing.

I doubt this claim. My impression is that the late 70s to early 80’s underground scene(s) were very active, and full of good music.

But I have nothing to back my claim up against yours. Does anyone else know enough about the topic to give a Learned Opinion of some sort?


Recording engineer here. What you’re seeing in those photos are the unamplified, original waveforms, a remaster where they’ve boosted the overall level and applied compression to make it louder, and examples of brickwall limiting, where they boost the gain by, like, 24 dB and chop off the maximum amplitude at -.01 dB. It creates a solid waveform from start to finish, except for fades.

Most rock/pop CDs on the market today are exactly like this. I see the waveforms of them every day of the week. They have absolutely no dynamics. They even did it to the latest remaster of “Dark Side Of The Moon.” It is the most sickening trend in audio mis-engineering to happen in our lifetime.