What has happened to music and why is it so gut-wrenchingly awful? As I write this, Ed Sheeran’s Shivers sits at the top of the charts, featuring thought-provoking lyrics such as “I wanna kiss your eyes, I wanna drink that smile”, which I’m pretty certain are direct quotes from 1991’s ‘The Silence of the Lambs’.
How has one of the most diverse and culturally rich forms of entertainment become so shallow, and who, or what exactly is to blame?
The answer is simple. Nowadays you have global powerhouses such as Universal Music Group, which have monopolised the industry. They have writing teams who churn out fast, catchy, meaningless crap for some twenty-something influencer turned ‘singer’ to butcher. Even bands and real instrumentation have been replaced by a guy with a laptop and a synthesizer. This is why our ears are tortured by endless streams of so-called ‘songs’, which all sound exactly the same, are devoid of any meaning, and follow a simple formula that makes them catchy and marketable.
These record labels have slaughtered creativity and individuality in music like a 90’s slasher villain. It’s almost as if they have some sort of Dr Frankenstein-like laboratory, mass-producing autotuned zombies somewhere in California. I wouldn’t be surprised if we woke up one day to find that their mediocre monstrous army has taken over the world, forcing every human to listen to one of these soulless albums on repeat if they disobey them. Any perceived ‘individuality’ or ‘uniqueness’ in mainstream music nowadays is a façade, it’s all manufactured!
Alas, there is hope with artists such as Sam Fender, the young singer/songwriter from Newcastle, Inhaler, (whose rise has had absolutely nothing to do with the frontman being Bono’s son…), Fontaines DC and many others. The problem is that these acts are not mainstream, and they never will be. Why would a record label take a chance on a guitar band when what they’re releasing right now is making them so much money?
The well of half-decent music is so dry that OK Computer, What’s the Story Morning Glory, Californication, Parachutes and AM are all still in the Top 50 album charts on Apple Music.
So what about when good music was mainstream? What was different? One example is Oasis, whose rise to the top of the music industry was remarkable. In three years, they went from being a newly signed band to playing to 250,000 people over a single weekend in Knebworth Park. This happened because an Independent record label took a chance on them, which is something that simply wouldn’t happen today.
Somewhere, there is a band that has the ability to accomplish what Oasis did, but modern-day record labels are not interested in giving them a chance. They are too focused on quick cash and giving someone time and money to make a record that may not be profitable, is simply not a risk they would take.
I don’t know what can be done to make the horror show stop, but I can ask you, the reader, one thing. Think about the music you’re listening to, are you only listening to it because it’s popular? Are you a victim of the nightmare that music has become? Why not try to find something that you enjoy, music that means something to you, and maybe things will start to change.
Jack Donlon- Music Writer