I'm watching a VH-1 Special on sensational soft rock songs and observing the commentary on most of the artists reminded me of something I've been wanting to write about for some time now. The smart-alec celebrity commentators are funny, but they have a smugness that's interesting. This attitude stems from the notion that everything old and pop sucked (with few exceptions). These songs by groups like Hall and Oates were ones that most of us liked at one time, or they wouldn't be hits. At what point do we all abandon the fact that these were great songs for their time? And more importantly, why do we do it? I have a collection of music including artists such as Mariah Carey, The Go-Gos, Foreigner and a bunch of other groups whose songs I'm proud to own, but ones for which other people make fun of me. I would understand if the people who make fun of me for it never liked it, but I always say that if I believe that a song is good, that means I'll always like it whether its critically acclaimed or not. Is it "taste in entertainment insecurity" that drives others to change their mind about the songs? It's either that or the fact that we outgrow music in some way. I can't explain that phenomena. Nobody has outgrown their taste for the Mona Lisa, or Andy Warhol. Perhaps its based on level of greatness. Critics and awards can proclaim greatness, but I proclaim it under my own terms for my own use. Only "great" songs go on my MP3 player. TV shows and movies are considered differently too. "Growing Pains" and "Who's The Boss" are downright cheesy and appear low budget in some ways, (perhaps due to the bad acting), but movies seem to age better and more frequently become classics, although we'll pay to watch crappy movies just because of the star factor or because everybody else is watching them and we don't want to be left out. So the lesson to be taken from this post is to not be so sure that what you like today is all that great. Somebody is sure to think it crappy in the future, and sometimes for good reason. But then, if you really like it, just ignore their opinions. It's your MP3 player and you should do with it what you want.
Stephen is taking a cosmic approach to his Roundtable post for this week. Remember the 70's when NASA launched two Voyager space probes and they put gold records on it with the sounds of the earth? Well, where's the payback? Either the aliens haven't found it yet, or they have and they weren't impressed enough to call us or stop by. So, over at his blog Serenade in Green, Stephen is asking you to comment with what you would put on a mix tape version two for intergalactic communication. He will be the judge and jury as he will decide what goes on the final version. The playlist will be posted on Monday so be sure to check back there.
Also, if you're reading this, you are a possible candidate to join the Roundtablers. You get to comment on the Roundtabler of the week's Thursday post and your turn to post comes up once every couple of months or so. You get traffic to your site, join a fun group, and grow smarter and funnier each week. As Stephen puts it, "All you need is a blog, a brain, and a well-stocked bar -- Read all about it and contact one of us for more info..."
Joe's hairshirt seems not to be bothering him so much this week as our Roundtabler of the week. He's focusing on something positive, not so high class but nevertheless important, at least to you. Which moments in popular culture meant a lot to you even if the critics would disagree? Click on over to Joe's blog, Hairshirt and write about the soda (I mean coke, I mean pop) moments that meant a lot to you. Whether it was a scene from Real Genius or a certain moment in "Chains of Love" by Erasure that just did it for you, share with the blogosphere.
i Won't even mention Christmas shopping in this post, but a recent perusing through a Sharper Image catalog, a Crutchfield catalog, and a SkyMall catalog made me realize that our world is becoming iEverything. iT's very annoying, isn't iT? Do we really need to have our music with us 24 hours a day and an iPod to show others how cool we are? (Well, I have a Creative Labs Zen mp3 player so I'm not that stylish). Sure, we all like to listen to music we like, but how about listening to the radio or even satellite radio to see what other people are listening to? How about hearing new music and not having every song we hear be one that we already know?
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Because iPods have become so prevalent, every other electronics device lets you plug your iPod iNto iT. Everything from a car stereo to a clock radio to a docking speaker system to a massage chair. Maybe it's a conspiracy to get us to buy 10 iPods a piece so that we can have one hooked up to every other electronic device we own. I referred to this in one of my earlier posts, but as an audiophile wannabe, one of my major issues with iPods is that they encourage the recording of compressed music so that we can each jam tens of thousands of songs iNto our little iPod or other mp3 players. Compressed files don't have the sound quality that the original CD's have. This made me think of a quote...
"Listening to compressed music is like observing fine art with blurry vision."
To me, this statement is accurate. With compressed music on iPods, listened to via headphones, we are missing out on the fine details of the music like the singer taking a breath, the guitar player tapping the guitar for rhythm or strumming in a way that brings about a subtle extra noise that lends realism to the listening experience. I wish some of these iPod fanatics would take some time to go to a stereo store and hear what they're missing. Perhaps then they'll understand that music is also about quality, not just quantity. I must say that the iNfiltration of our culture with iPodishness is getting a bit out of hand. iT must be iNterrupted.
Stephen is DJ'ing this week's Roundtable discussion at Serenade in Green. In his post, he talks about how he is so old school. The guy doesn't own a cell phone, an iPod or any other MP3 player for that matter! But he loves music and buying CD's as opposed to downloading music from places like iTunes. He wants to know if he is not alone in fighting this trend. I've blogged about the evils of MP3 players before so I had lots to say. Piracy is another issue I've addressed and one that he also addresses. Visit his blog, listen to what he has to say and then download your comments to add to the discussion.
Sereena has taken first chair, substituting for Lauren, to do this week's Roundtable post and she is challenging us to come to her chamber and tell the world what we think makes a song perfect. She knows our answers will vary octaves, but have a visit to her blog and pitch in. I listed many of my favorite songs/artists that have some close to perfect pieces mostly because of their strong melodic characteristics. See if you agree with what I say and what the other conductors say.
I just purchased an MP3 player, the Creative Labs Zen 30 GB model which I like except that the user interface could be more intuitive. The sound quality and features are amazing though. I "ripped" songs from about half of my hundreds of CD's (at full quality so I can get the best sound at the expense of song storage). All this ripping reminded me of the media companies and their lawsuits against major copyright infringement offenders, (and the embarrassing lawsuits against kids). Stealing songs or movies is illegal, but these companies have partially brought the problem upon themselves. They were greedy and frequently charged outrageous prices for music, $17+ for a CD! So, of course music aficionados without lots of cash found alternative ways to get their favorite music. The answer was Napster. The free version of Napster is gone, but various peer-to-peer file sharing alternatives still exist. To me, piracy isn't as bad of a profit loss problem as software/media producers say. Some people 'steal' stuff they never would have bought in the first place so those instances of theft aren't lost income. Then, these 'thieves' often become loyal customers and ambassadors who spread the word and advertise the product for free (as in buzzmarketing). The message gets to some people that can afford to buy it, and would not have bought it in the first place because they would not have know about it. Potentially, those who stole a band's music will eventually get to the stage in their life where affordability stops being an issue. Then they can buy future CD's or software.
Hopefully the media/music/software companies will continue to innovate in how they deliver content and will not continue their greedy ways. If they lowered prices on music and software, fewer people would steal, and profits might increase. Again, I don't condone illegal free downloads because if all the profit goes away, fewer artists will produce content for us to enjoy and the quality might go down. But major media and content providing corporations must stop exaggerating the problem and begin doing a better job of adapting to technological and market conditions. To do so would only help their credibility and their profits.
The lovable Lauren of Nottingham, UK is this week's Roundtable poster. She encourages each of us to share (or confess) our first concert experiences in the comments section of her post. I told her about the good and the bad of my first concert experiences, and the other Roundtablers list theirs. Surprisingly, there are a lot of not-so-famous groups in that list. Have a visit and take part in the sharing. We promise we won't laugh.
Donny B. over at Everything in Moderation Including Moderation, (man I love that title), is expressing his musical criticisim talents by talking about the latest song releases from the 'dirty' Christina Aguilera and the perhaps dirtier (at least on the internet), Paris Hilton. Perhaps one could argue that he is subjecting us to bad pop music. Regardless, have a visit to his blog and comment on what you hear and see. He has links to samples of the songs and video clips.