There’s something very, very wrong with music today. It may not be very good. – National

On warm summer nights, the park in front of my house is filled with people playing dribbling football, volleyball or aggressive games of Spikeball.

Almost all of them will have music playing through Bluetooth speakers, usually from the Spotify Top 100. And if I’m being honest, none of that music is good. All I hear are mumbled lyrics rendered with no melody (well, except for excessive use of Auto-Tune) and beats so quantized they could be replaced by an atomic clock.

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I just reread that last sentence. Hard stuff from someone who doesn’t understand today’s yoof music? Or am I touching on a problem facing the recorded music industry?

Consider the following:

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  • The Kate Bush song from 1985 Run up that hill reached number one in the UK charts and reached the top five in other countries around the world. love dogsthe album that spawned the hit, peaked at #8 on the Canadian charts earlier this summer.
  • Metallica’s 1986 track Puppeteer was stimulated by its appearance in stranger things that he is currently in the US Top 40. This eight-minute metal song competes with the latest from Lizzo, Beyonce, Justin Bieber and Cardi B.
  • Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 Album Rumors is one of the best selling albums of the year so far. It’s number nine in the United States Rumors is also one of the best-selling vinyl albums of the year so far.
  • The Sex Pistols God Save the Queen from 1977 is the best-selling vinyl single of 2022. Further down the list, you will find that the Clash Rock the Casbah (1982) is the eighth best-selling vinyl record.)
  • Last week, Queen’s Greatest Hits (1981) has just become the UK’s best-selling record of all time with seven million copies sold after over 1,000 weeks on the UK charts. Last week, he was number 24 in Canada, a few positions ahead Your favoritesTragically Hip’s greatest hits collection.

Older music is definitely having a moment this summer and much of that interest isn’t driven by nostalgic oldies, but by the same kids playing Spikeball across the street.

Luminate, the company that monitors music consumption for the recording industry, noted in its mid-year report that “current” music (identified by the industry as material less than 18 months old) is not just losing market share. It becomes statistically less popular among all demographic groups. As for the United States, the metric known as “Total Album Consumption” of “Current Music fell 1.4% in the first half of 2022 compared to a year ago. During this time, “Catalog” music — material over 18 months old — rose 14%.

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We can go even further. Market share for “Catalog” music in America is 72% so far this year, with “Current” music at 27.6%. That’s a three percent drop in market share.

In other words, “current” music becoming less and less popular when measured by number of streams and sales. Anything released today simply doesn’t resonate with audiences the way it once did. People are showing a growing interest in listening to older music instead.

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This obviously requires unboxing. Why doesn’t “current” music resonate? What about the surge of interest in older hardware?

Some will point to the lack of so-called “high-impact” new releases in 2022. If, for example, Taylor Swift or Adele had new records, those numbers could be different. But as it stands, only 102 albums debuted on the Billboard Top 100 this year (the definition of “high-impact”) compared to 126 last year. This could concern calculations by Music Business Worldwide which show that the 10 most popular songs on streaming services have been listened to more a billion times less than they were over a similar period in 2019. Both indicate disenchantment with what is offered as new today.

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But maybe, just maybe, the answer lies in art and creativity. Over the past few weeks, many posts have appeared lamenting the quality of today’s music. Here is an example.

Others weighed in, complaining that too many of today’s budding stars are simply celebrities making music with laptops. Older music recorded in old-school studios with real instruments looks richer and more interesting. Far too many songs are fast fashion: pull them out, squeeze all you can of the melody, then forget about them. (A reviewer, pointing out how the Beatles Yesterday has been covered more than 3,000 times, request how many Cardi B covers will there be WAP in the future. He has a dot.)

More theories: A lack of real storytellers in the vein of Carole King or Jackson Browne. Musicians who buy ready-made beats online, then sing/rap over them, then publish the result. A desire to be famous rather than pay their dues by learning their trade. (Blame all the TV talent shows for that.) Record labels that don’t nurture and develop artists, resulting in ultra-short careers consisting of one or two songs. A lack of people willing to pursue true mastery of a musical instrument with years of practice. Too much perfection in the recording process, an obsession that takes away all the humanity and the soul of a song. (Compare anything from today’s top 10 to a Motown hit and the difference becomes obvious.) Formula songwriting (I’m looking at you, Max Martin.) Algorithms that just push more of the same.

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I’m not finished. Thanks to technology, many artists today have hit songs without ever playing a single live gig. This means they never had to sweat in front of strangers on long tours. This boot camp experience is essential to becoming a better all-around musician. You need this experience if you want to not only compete with your heroes’ music on the world stage, but also with your hero of heroes of heroes.

And there’s even more to consider. Think back to 1992. The music that was thirty years old then rang Old. Not only was modern pop music still developing, but we had only just begun to use things like electric guitars and proper amps. Effect pedals hadn’t been invented yet, nor had synthesizers. Recording studios were primitive things compared to today, capable of producing only mono material. But from around 1969, the sound quality of recordings reached new levels. A song recorded in 1972 sounds just as good as a song recorded this year. (In fact, you can argue that due to overproduction, digital technology, and too much compression, older recordings sound better than what we have today.)

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Now let me turn things around. This is happening because young people today — and remember, youth is always the driving force behind what happens in music — recognize bad music when they hear it. They’re smarter than falling in love with what passes for hit music today.

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Thanks to streaming and smartphones, we have access to somewhere north of 80 million songs. In seconds, we can call up virtually any song recorded in the history of the human race. Why not get the best of the best of the best?

Unlike previous generations, today’s music fans are far more ecumenical in their musical tastes. If you have a teenager, ask him to show you the last 25 songs he streamed on his phone. I bet you’ll find everything from Drake to AC/DC to Matthew Wilder (especially a song from the 1980s that became a strange TikTok phenomenon). To their credit, all they care about are good songs, regardless of genre or era. It’s clean.

In other words, the children are fine. It’s not the people who run the star-making machinery behind popular song who aren’t.

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s podcast on the continuing story of new music now at Apple podcast Where google play

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