December 8, 2009

The recent wussifying of music in one picture

After rock music died in the early 1990s, what would move in to take its place? Techno did somewhat, although not really on the TV or radio, and even that wasn't until the late '90s or so. The new wave revival of 2003 - 2006 was even farther away, and it didn't last very long anyway. Instead, it was the singer-songwriter genre that immediately and steadily began to spread. Hey, if the well of rock music had dried up, why not just divert a bunch of sewage into the pipes intended for drinking water?

To give just one example of how deprived of testosterone these celebridorks are, what ever happened to rock musicians pairing off with stunning models? David Bowie, Steven Tyler, Michael Hutchence -- they had it figured out. Ric Ocasek first hit it off with his future Czech supermodel wife Paulina Porizkova in 1984, when he was 35 and she was 19. In contrast, crybaby singer John Mayer recently dated the homely Jennifer Aniston when he was 31 and she was 39.

I don't mind some of the older singer-songwriter stuff because they weren't overly emotional and sappy. Like other music of the time, it was just emotional enough to get your attention, but not so dripping with confession that you could no longer identify with it, unless you were a clingy stalker loser yourself. Seriously, no one wants to see your inner child fully exposed -- get a grip and cover that shit up a bit.


  1. It never occured to me until your post how new the term singer/song writer really is.

    A lot of older singers wrote their own songs but nobody called them singer/song writers.

    Where the hell did this new term come from and why is it so commonly used.

  2. The over emotionalism and sappiness of modern music, is this what the whole "emo" thing is about?

    Yes, house and techno took over for about 7 years starting in the mid 90's.

    There's always rap/hip-hop/R&B

  3. LOL, good stuff. Don't underestimate the effect rap and hip hop had on crowding out more virile and aggressive (or at any rate, not so painfully self-conscious) rock music... check out the lyrics to the guns and roses song "one in a million" for example - or some of the more misogynistic stones songs ... in the 90's rap stars arrogated testosterone-infused authenticity and street-cred and all that, such that white musicians were forced to direct their aggression inwards. Listen to Linkin Park: they have some fine songs, but they're overall ... gay.

  4. Whatever the execs at MTV decide to put into heavy rotation determines what kind of music gets made****. If the execs at MTV put scrawny-hyper-beta-white guys singing about their angst into heavy rotation, then younger white guys watching will think they have to do the same to have a music career.

    The same execs have sold hyer-thuggery to blacks through rap (whose lyrics astonish even me--good grief!!)

    MTV, in the 90's, became our national radio station and the most powerful force to control the art that has ever existed.


    I cannot emphasize enough that the visual presentation of music over the last 28 years has given people the EXPECTATION OF SEXUALITY to accompany the music they like. If you listen to a jazz saxophonist's record, with no vocals, your mind focuses on the notes and scales (and mixing of scales) of the lead instrument and rythym instruments. You do not think about the sensuality of the singer or how cool the vocalist is and how neat it would be to emulate their persona like millions of males did with Elvis Presley or the young Robert Plant. I think tons of girls who listen to whatever pop-tart-du-jour want to, by some kind of osmosis, project onto their hero/singer.

    **** Agnostic, whoever controls crticism ultimately controls the art over time. All they have to do is apply the basic steps of game to the critique and they will eventually browbeat the "artists" to make the muzak (or any art) that they want the masses to consume. Rolling Stone endlessly criticized (unfairly) the likes of Journey and Led Zeppelin for years, while praising whiner-bands to the heavens. I no longer give too much of a shit about this though. Throughout history, vocal (and lyric) dominated music is a relatively new thing. We had instruments and notes from the lyre and more ancient wind-instruments from the earliest, and only had vocal recordings in the last 100 years or so. We dont absolutely have to have music in other words. As cool as MTV was in its first five years, the hell it has wrought afterwards makes me wish it never happened. We did not deserve gangsta rap, falloutboyz, britney, boy-bands and the host of other sewage that became the norm because of Judy McGrath and her cultural-leftism

  5. To me that kind of rap music doesn't come off as confident and masculine, so I see most of that as wuss music too. Not just the white suburban kids listening to it, but the rappers themselves -- it's part of the hardass front that you have to maintain in the ghetto lest someone bigger than you kill you.

    But we understand that it's just a (necessary) front... unless they've actually killed someone.

    Plus gangsta rappers have always included one or two emotional breakdown songs on their albums, in the macho short-circuiting way. Not like Sam Cooke, James Brown, etc.

    And in the past 5 to 10 years, talk about sheepish behavior toward women. They're too afraid to interact with girls, so they sing about making it rain on dem hos in the strip club. Doesn't establish the image of "I get what I want."

    So I think blacks have seen their culture emasculated too. The gangsta rappers are just their version of the whiny emo band or the screaming death metal / nu metal dorks.

  6. Have you seen the research from Hassler et al. on the testosterone levels of male composers being below-average and female composers above-average? See, for example.

    That research would go a long way towards explaining why high-testosterone guys grativate towards genres where there's more division of labor between writing and performing (country, R&B) or writing lyrics and composing music (hip-hop). At least that's my explanation for why I do hip-hop covers of country songs.

  7. "But we understand that it's just a (necessary) front... unless they've actually killed someone."

    OK, but they *were* killing each other, tupac, biggie smalls, fifty cent shot 10 times, etc. In fact, I'd say the legitimacy gained from occasional violence like that was absolutely necessary, kept rap from becoming risible to a critical mass of listeners. To put it another way, there was a dionysian element of danger and disdain for rules etc. that earlier rock stars tried to tap into, but when rap became popular, how dangerous are you really if you haven't spent time in time in jail and carry around a glock? Everything became coarsened on that account, where white males were pushed into either harmless irony and introspective singer-songwriter whining, or else the faux-aggressive and dorky nu-metal bathos you speak of (which women don't listen to). But perhaps you're right, and the fundamental force behind all these trends was the growing domiannce of female market power (would account for the "emotional breakdown" songs you speak of). Is it a coincidence that a show like Friends coincided with the death of rock? The sensitive singer-songwriters, with their pseudo-refinement and hyper- self-consciousness seem to feed the same demand.

  8. lemmy caution12/9/09, 5:24 PM

    The seventies was the absolute commercial peak of the singer-songwriter. It is odd that the nyt doesn't reflect that. It probably has something to do with babyboomers taking over the newspaper business.

  9. Well the metal genre has been expanding rapidly over the past few years but with that comes a lot of really watered down me too bands. I honestly can't get over how many whiny bands there have been in the last decade. Can't anyone actually sing anymore? There's no men with deep voices they all just have a high pitched "I MISS YOU" voice. It's really sad and one of the main reasons I often find my music overseas.

    The US is incredibly bad for milking something until it's worthless whether it's music, celebrities (in the news until everyone is sick of them), tv shows (that run WAY too long), movies (endless remakes and sequels).

    Despite what the economy says America is good at selling. They know the key to selling is to make it appeal to as much of the population as possible. Dumb it down until it doesn't offend anyone. If perpetual life for the product isn't possible (ala Coka-Cola) run it at maximum until there's nothing left. Anything truly unique is bought up and dumbed down because it wasn't popular enough.


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