Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Is it really still all about the music...

So in my journeys through life, I find that music has had a huge huge influence on well everything. Personally I dig the tones of the classics from Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, to Eric Clapton, to BB King, even obscure stuff like Steve Morse or Jimmy Smith. Well anyway I got to thinking while sitting in my living room listening to the crap that I feel music has been degraded to all the while thinking to myself, "Self, what makes my friends think this stuff is so great?" I was thinking about it as well as sporadically chatting about what is going thru their heads. Well anyways it came out that they, along with a great deal of others, are really digging the lyrics to these songs. After digesting that gem of information, I realized that I really truly felt that was a crappy reason to listen for music. Go to a coffee shop and listen to poetry or read Shakespeare. But then I realized that was very narrow-minded and that it is possible that may be the new direction of music. I saw that I was listening to the classics and enjoying the songs that were different. By different I mean that they all used very very very unique sounding chords. In today's music I find that when you're listening to a song and hear a different chord that really sticks out in your mind, in reality it is usually a relatively simple chord but sounds so neat because it is placed in the middle of a (musically) run of the mill song with minimal chord changes and the basic verse chorus verse chorus bridge blah that it is the standard in today's music. This is in contrast to the ridiculous augmented ninths with a flat fifth and flat fourth chords that were used to make some really powerful sounds in the classic days of Steely Dan or Pink Floyd...
But anyway the little fire-starter that I wanted to throw out there is this question: Do you listen to music for the musical aspect (chords, unique sounds) or more for the lyrics?? I really do wanna hear peoples opinions out there and I wanna pick ur brains about it!


Anonymous said...

dear mysterious (and hansome sounding) "steve-o"

i listen to music for both reasons, and i think, if you know where to look, you can easily find the type of uniqueness in chords that you are looking for in today's musical landscape (look at Grizzly Bear's "Yellow House" album, full of odd chords, picking styles, and chord progression/timing).

personally, i find it amazing when bands are able to take tired or simple chord progressions and by magic (seemingly), they manage to turn them into unforgettable anthems (take for example, the verse to RHCP's under the bridge, perhaps the most tired chord progression ever used. yet somehow that song touches people in a way much different than any of the two dozen OAR songs using the exact same progression)

and as far as lyrical content goes, don't let the trite emoting from bands such jack's mannequin or the tired thematic recycling of ryan adams (see how many times he makes some sort of "rose" reference...it's ridiculous) detract from what lyrics bring to the table.

first of all, you're overlooking that vocals (which are most often [and most obviously] attached to lyrics) can be the most interesting/haunting/beautiful part of a song. think of the hushed whisper of words on iron & wines acclaimed debut album.

second of all, lyrics add an interesting new dimension to songs (again, referencing RHCP, would "under the bridge" be as haunting or beautiful if you didn't have the lyrics accompanying, telling a story of drug addiction and remorse).

third of all, you're forgetting of songs as the ultimate vehicle to human consciousness (not to get too meta on you), but song is the original way in which we as humans tell stories about ourselves and pass them down to the ages. and that is no less true today.

fourth of all, by a dismissal of the use of lyrics, you're basically condemning artists like dylan and petty to oblivian (as they both used super simple chords and progressions [and had bad voices to top it off] but maintained critical acclaim and mass appeal through lyrics that said something to the masses).

fifth of all, you're dismissing the hip hop genre as a whole, which uses lyrical content as its foundation.

this is just the tip of the iceberg that is my argument...but no matter how many ways you break the technical aspect of the music down, whether the instrument be a guitar, a piano, a ukulele, or a flute, there is a FINITE number of sounds that it can produce (admittedly, that finite number is large, but it is finite nonetheless). but there will always be a new story to tell, and there is ALWAYS a new way to tell the same story.

Anonymous said...

i think complexity of chords are overrated. the way i look at it, any chord or chord progression can have an accompanying bassline of the most simple variety...simply one note, if need be. and when you think about it that way, no matter how fancily you dress up the chord, you're still talking about some pretty basic stuff.

Steve-o said...

Tho I agree with the concept the short anonymous brought up I strongly disagree in the details. You Sokolc
can't say that a seventh or a dimished or augmented chord sounds even close to similar reguaedless of the bass note
used. In addition to that if you have a given chord and combine it with different bass notes you change the sound
of the chord all together. As for the second and longer response, very good ideas there and I see where you are coming from. I guess it just frustrates me that so
Many current artists like you mentioned Ryan Adams and jacks mannquin try to be unique but in doing so only
come up with mediocre repeating lyrics like u said. Good stuff and keep up the responses!

Anonymous said...

As a whole, the entire idea of arguing about music can be a little meaningless. Obviously, the sole purpose of music, and the varying genres, is to appeal to multiple demographics. "Classic" rock has a large following of middle-age men and women, primarily because a) that specific audience can take comfort in the fact that it will never go anywhere - how many of those bands are still writing music? and b) those artists (clapton, the stones, steely dan, pink floyd, et cetera) were pioneers and entirely different from anything else people had previously heard. Although they still receive acclaim and radio play, it doesn't necessarily mean they are THE greatest of all-time. Now, not to discredit those bands, or any bands from that era, but with regards to lyrics, and vocals in general, popular musicians can only do so much that hasn't been done before. And we've all heard The Beatles before and can recognize that most of today's music can be traced back to them. So, vocals, lyrics - they are, if not the only means, definitely the best way - like "anonymous one" said - to reach an audience.

So, back to what I mentioned earlier, about the meaninglessness of music argumentation, you're not really going to be able to judge and critique every individual manner by which a band is "better" or "worse" than another. But a good way to determine how important they are is to look at their demographics. Without the lyrics of any song, there isn't any way of recognizing and categorizing music as well as it is with the lyrics. Lyrics are the primary importance for any song and when an artist can do something unique with their diction, word choice, and their overall ability to manipulate the english language, like their forefathers did before them with their instrumentation, isn't that just as good?