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A Short History Of The Popular Song , or, Why Today's Music Sucks (Mostly)


Eric Carmen

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In the '90s, I resorted to country music stations when radio ushered in the doom of rap/hip hop. Also, I've been thankful to several EC board members for introducing me to music I wouldn't have found on my own, and that I now cherish. There is some good music out there, but it takes some work, or good advice, to find it.

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Another thought -- Yahoo's Launchcast uses a method of letting the listener rate songs, then plays the highly rated songs, and other songs it calculates the listener will like based on those rated songs. I've heard so many songs that I wouldn't have known of, and have even bought CDs (most recently Pitty Sing and Trashcan Sinatras' Weightlifting) based on what Launchcast has introduced me to. Considering the dearth of anything appealing on radio, it's a delight.

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Looking for good ,new, interesting music not too heavy on the ears malodic buit not sounding like dozens of other bands you've heard in your lifetime' Two words for you. APRIL MARCH. The best kept secret in music today.April March is really a name for a female artist by the name of Elinor Blake.I highly recommend her 2 most recent efforts entitled "Chrominance Decoder" and "Triggers". Interesting enough I just found out she lives in Northern Ohio. Eric and Elinor "April March" Blake working together is my dream. Check out

http://www.northernohiolive.com/archives/05-07jul/story1.htm

or listen to her CDs at

http://www.amazon.com

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I stopped listening to top 40 popular music radio somewhere around mid 80's. Country music radio is where I found the talented songwriting, singing, and playing that was suddenly predominantly absent from the other format.

I agree with all that all are saying here. Kudos to Eric for starting some of the most fascinating discussion threads I've seen on this board.

The only rap I'll listen to and support is Will Smith. I admire him for his talent and taking the other road, proudly.

Kids' lack of exposure to good music contributes to where we are now. Children know good music when they hear it. It's the reason why kids who have heard Beatles are absolutely nuts for this music. All you have to do to see evidence of this is to go to a Fest for Beatles Fans or a Paul or Ringo show. They are not dragged there by their parents, kicking and screaming. The joyous enthusiasm of young kids at these events is inspiring to me, and gives me some hope for the future.

All The Best,

Joyce

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Bill's column is about music this week. The full article is on the Community section. But the last 2 paragraphs echo Eric's thoughts:

"It is hard to believe that any sane person could think "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" is worthy of an artistic award. I know I "ain't knowin'," but I'll submit this thing was written in five minutes on a bar napkin someplace.

However, I will concede that being a pimp is probably more difficult than it appears. But it isn't nearly as difficult as sitting through that best movie song of the year."

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O'Reillys right. Its a disgrace that its gone downhill to this point. I sorta see this as the "hipper than thou" film industry and academy going for the greatest shock value for kicks with the public. I dont think its a calculated conspiracy, as OReilly may in fact, but I do believe its more a creepinh arrogance in relation to the public, who by the way parts with their money to support this industry willingly. But people should, and are, apalled. Give me the days when something of the level of "The Way We Were" was up for a nomination.

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The only question in Eric's theory is how do you explain the cycles of boring music from the late 50's, when every up-beat hit for awhile was a semi-boring variation of a blues riff from artists like Little Richard, Fats Domino, even Chuck Berry and Elvis? Plus the embarrasing hits from the late 70's thump thump thump disco era are/were worse than some of today's crap...

I think rushes of great music come in cycles within the steady decline of Eric's thesis...Like angioplasty temorarily opening a heart-diseased artery, eventually today's heart-less music will still need a transplant...or die within our rotting civilization.

So, Eric and the Boys...Save us...Before it's too late!

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Eric, going back to your test of the strength of the song (playing it 'solo' on an acoustic guitar or piano) I couldn't agree with you more.

I have the pleasure of backing Terry Sylvester on acoustic guitar & piano for his "solo-Hollies" shows. Based on the audience reactions, the 'hits' continue to stand the test of time...even in the form presented - no rhythm instruments, no signature three part harmonies, etc.

'Bus Stop', 'Sandy', 'The Air That I Breathe' and 'Sorry Suzanne' are always well received...with people mouthing the words, bopping their heads, and tapping their feet.

And the beautiful melodies against the chord changes of songs like 'Til There Was You', 'Make It With You' and 'Jesus Was A Crossmaker' are pieces of heaven that draw the audience closer in.

Lastly for tonight...a Bill O'Reilly reference: I happen to work for a radio station group here in Syracuse that airs The Radio Factor. He will be here in April broadcasting live from our studios for an afternoon. Want me to set you up as a guest to talk about the state of pop music? We'd all love if you 'turned him on'!

Paul

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Wow...do I feel inadeqate. Here I go talking about my affiliation with Mr. Sylvester (specifically, though - about the power of the SONGS he performs) and then I go back to the main topic board, and see a thread ABOUT Terry. I go into it, and see some not-so-complimentary things to say about him in some of them. Boy howdy!

As an 'infrequent' surfer into this site compared to most, I just want it addressed here that I did NOT read the Terry thread and then post over here for any other reason for my perspective on Eric's thoughts on songwriting.

I will post my perspective on Terry over on THAT thread.

But I am big enough of a Raspberries fan that I didn't make my car payment so that I could be at The House of Blues on Thanksgiving Weekend 2004! Hope that counts for something ;^)

Kum Ba Yah

Paul

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Well, they weren't ALL semi-boring variations on a blues riff. There was stuff like "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window" and "Que Sera Sera." e

Those aren't the up-beat hits. There were plenty of mellow melodic hits running parallel with the early rock and roll blues-riff-clones. However, if you strip down any popular Fats Domino or Little Richard, or maybe Jerry Lee Lewis song, it's just a variation of the same old boring blues riff. Give credit to Chuck Berry for taking that boring stuff to another level with his guitar riffs and catchy songwriting. Fats and Richard just put me to sleep...
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oh yeah.... songs like "Long Tall Sally," Rip It up" and "Ready Teddy" are real plodding sleepers... Tony you need your head checked...

Little Richard added SPEED to the equation playing w/ more energy than any of that era's artists.... take his "Ready Teddy" and compare it to Elvis' and it makes the King sound like Pat Boone...

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Little Richard added SPEED to the equation playing w/ more energy than any of that era's artists.... take his "Ready Teddy" and compare it to Elvis' and it makes the King sound like Pat Boone... [/QB]

So by your reasoning, All the punk rockers are geniuses because they speed up their covers of classic songs while screaming the lyrics and butchering the original guitar chord progressions?

Wow! That's energy! Where's my herion syringe? :p

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Eric, everything you wrote is so true. I also think the video age has had an effect on the quality of music we are getting. When I was growing up, all I had was my ears, so I was always on the lookout for music that would please them. Great vocals, songs and production. So of course I loved your stuff so much. I can’t tell you the effect your music had on my life. But younger folks today are born with an XBOX in their hand, are raised on MTV, and learn computers in school at 10 years old. So instead of looking for things that sound great to their ears, they gravitate to things that please the eyes. Listening has become a lost art. This probably explains Britney Spears and all the Boy Band crap. It’s a nice visual package for that age group. And it’s all they know. It’s really sad when you think about it. And let’s not forget about the decline of radio. Back in the 70’s you could turn on 99X here in New York and hear “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around The Old Oak Tree†on the same station that was playing “Radar Love†five minutes later. That stopped happening in the 80’s when radio got totally regimented. It’s all so corporate now. When I was a teen, the DJ was King and he could play whatever he wanted. Push even. I’ll never forget a Sunday afternoon, when you stopped by WNEW in New York and visited with Dennis Elsas. He literally dropped everything and spent the entire afternoon with you chatting and playing your music on the radio. Being a big fan, I enjoyed it so much and never forgot that day. That could never happen now. We’ve lost so much. Maybe, with the advent of Satellite radio there will be more of a chance for new talent to emerge. I know somewhere out there, a great new talent is sitting alone at a piano somewhere, writing an amazing pop opera about hearing his song play on the radio. But the way things are stacked against him in today’s music business, we’ll probably never hear that Hit Record.

MAC

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Mac, some great comments and observations. Its very interesting to look back, lets say 25 years or so, and both the music industry, book industry( and others) actually accepted material from the public at large for review. Those days are long gone, and like many industries it creates an environment where who you know and what your connections are become tantamount to achieving anything. In this regard, an old friend of mine always mentions the Brian Epstein story, a story so well known to many. In this day and age a guy pounding the streets and trying to get interviews to make a pitch for his band with people he doesnt know, would have a very, very high probability of failure. It was tough enough then I suppose, but at least there was a more of an openess to considering input. At least in the past there are many examples where the industry actually allowed the cream to rise to the surface and served as enablers actually. I truly wonder if someone like Janis Joplin could actually make it in todays industry even with all her amazing talent. If you dont look like Jessica Simpson or Brittany Spears the odds are stacked against you. I think your point is well taken, that there are most likely some great songs out there that will never see the light of day.

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This is nothing new-but today as I was waiting for an oil change,there was a commercial for "Now 21"-or something-cd's issued with a bunch of the latest hits.These cd's sell well.The commercial was abominable.Maria Carey wailing while writhing to some nonesense.Gangster rappers with jewelry on their teeth looking tough.I taught kids who followed this stuff.It is soul-less and cynical.This commercial was followed by "TYRA" a talk show hosted by Tyra Banks that takes narcissism to new heights.I think I'll go home -shut my door-and listen to the music that shaped my view of the world.-Ira.

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I agree with you, raspberrywine. All the artists somewhat, but especially female singers have to have "the look" before anybody will even consider listening to "the voice"... I get so fed up with it but it's so much a part of the MTV generations and the need for choreographed dancers to gyrate with the singers and such... "back in the day" you'd have to be over 17 to get into a movie that had half that much "action" and now it's on tv, in concerts... the net...

Imagine if music producers had to rely only on the voice; people submitted their tapes and cd's and were not seen until the artist was signed...

Might be a concept for a reality television series... and certainly not one hosted by that ignorant a@@ Simon whatshisname...

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