May 14, 2011

Music changes

A helpful way to see how much things change is to look for a pattern reversal. For example, even though in any given time period Germanic people are taller than Mediterranean people, today's Italians are taller than medieval Germanics -- a testament to just how much health has improved with the cheap availability of animal foods after the industrial revolution and the development of antibiotics.

Likewise, even though in any given time period straight males tend to make more powerful music anthems than gays, no hetero musician of the past 20 years has even come within orbit of Freddie Mercury and Rob Halford -- a testament to just how drained of testosterone the current period has been.

And of course the same goes for women vs. men in making great music, where even one of the old school of female rock singers (from circa 1975 to 1989) could wipe the floor with the whiny dork squad of current male band-leaders or rap singers who can only front about how big their balls are.

What about music aimed at the unsophisticated, like kids? I gave another listen to some of the songs from Jem, an adventure / soap opera cartoon made for elementary school girls in the mid-1980s, and they're not only more catchy but more adult in theme and sound, compared to the drowsy and overly cutesy junk made for today's 20-somethings:

Theme song
- The deep, breathy background vocals give way to the abandon of the possessed lead singer. As with many other of the songs, a syncopated bass line pulls you along rhythmically but not in simple marching-step time, heightening the sense of the controlled loss of control.

"Time Is Runnin' Out" - What a good "girl power" song would sound like, stressing the coming together of a team (rather than the ego-inflated individual) and accomplishing something of group-level importance (rather than self-promotion or "let's show the boys"). You wonder if today's parental censors would approve of the line "Come on baby, let's go for it!"

"Too Close For Comfort" - More Pat Benatar for the kiddies.

"Who Is He Kissing?" - Jem leads a double life as a straight-laced manager of a record label, as well as the lead singer babe of its glam rock band. In both of her roles, she plays the girlfriend of the same guy, who is unaware of the identity of the two girls but is happy to be seeing them both. In a song that has more psychological conflict than anything out recently, Jem wonders "Who is he kissing -- Is it me? Or is he making love to a fantasy?" Once more the singer's voice sounds thrillingly possessed, not in-control like The Spice Girls or Fergie.

"When It's Only Me And The Music" - As I've discussed many times before, the vanishing of slow dance music is one of the more palpable symptoms of how moribund the sex lives of young people have been, since this genre of music lowers inhibitions like no other. In wilder times, even 7 year-old girls wanted to get comfortable with that sound and feeling in preparation for the real thing, whereas the average college girl today has slow-danced no more than twice in her entire life. (Get a load of all that hair.)

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