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(ReadWith) MusicEvolution

Quora Answer : Do anyone else feel like mainstream/pop music in 90s early 2000s had a different "vibes" or feeling? Much more enjoyable and mentally healthier to listen to. Mainstream music started to go downhill in quality and lack of "soul" around 2004-2005

Feb 2

I'm sure people do.

And I totally get where you're coming from.

Unfortunately I'm old enough that I ALSO remember when people in the 90s were complaining that it had gone downhill and was unhealthy noise compared to pop music in the 80s.

And I'm also so old that I remember in the 80s when people were complaining about the pop music of that time being soul-less and plastic and artificial and so much worse than the popular music they remembered from the 60s and 70s. Which meant something, man!

After you've been around this block a couple of times you start to realize that either popular music has been plummeting in quality in a neverending downward spiral, since the dawn of time.

OR ...

as seems more likely ...

people just have a psychological tendency to get old and complain that pop music isn't as good as it was when they were young.

Quora Answer : Do you think that there was a degradation of music in the 80s?

Jun 10, 2013

I was almost swayed by User, but then the 80s defenders got to me. Particularly in 2013 when all pop music seems extremely 80s influenced, the idea of the 80s as a dead decade doesn't fly at all.

But some things clearly did happen.

a) the 60s / early 70s generation of rock stars and their fans grew up / got old. We hadn't really seen that before. Adult Oriented Rock. An entire genre / industry predicated on youthful energy and rebellion being full of older people who were running out of energy and had become the new establishment. No one knew how to play this : did rock musicians try to pretend they were still reckless teenagers? Or did they try to evolve their sound and attitude to speak to their own lives and increasingly complacent peer group? Were they in the fashion business or the nostalgia business? There was no consensus; artists were trying to go in different directions. The labels were tempted towards nostalgia, re-issues, supporting the old and trusted artists. Taking advantage of new media (CDs, MTV) to promote the old.

The youngsters were just as confused. Was punk "new" or a return to the purity of 60s garage rock? And if we were returning to garage rock, why not to 50s r'n'b? Or 70s soul and disco?

b) It wasn't pure "retromania" though, because at the same time there was the continuous ferment of novelty, driven mainly by new technologies : cheaper than ever recording and record pressing meant an explosion of new "indie" record labels willing to take artistic risks. Home taping turned listeners into curators and more widely travelled explorers. Cheap synthesizers and drum machines created first synthpop, then electro, house and techno. Direct drive turntables and samplers created hip-hop.

The 80s represent the struggle between these two forces : the new generation (of music and musicians) fighting for attention from a music industry and public that was invested in its old artists. The fallow periods being those where the nostalgia instinct got the upper hand.

And then, by the 90s, something remarkable happened. The situation sorted itself out. In effect, both the industry and the audience became "post-modern". They stopped worrying about where the zeitgeist was going, and who would be dominant, and instead recognized that it would be a patchwork of zones, some radical, some painfully conservative. And that it was all OK. Weird electronic noise? Without melody or harmony? Fine. Britpop's turgid pub-rock? Sure.

It was largely mediated by the artists who had became promiscuous. Noel Gallagher could sing with the Chemical Brothers. Madonna and Bjork would grab cutting edge electronic musicians to produce or remix their records, while Massive Attack would pull in blues tinged torch singers, and hip-hop was digging deep in the crates. Anything went, and no one felt they needed to take on curatorial responsibility for "pop-music" anymore.

So that's what happened in the 80s. The struggle to figure out how pop-music was going to work in the long-run. How it could continue when it was no longer just a novelty, but had to contend with a history and being a fixed part of the landscape.

TedGioia on "Is old music killing new music?":

Quora Answer : Why do music experts consider modern male/female pop singers to be the best in history, while putting those from decades ago on a lower talent tier? Justin Bieber/Miley Cyrus vs Elton John/Karen Carpenter. Does Autotune help?

4h ago

This smells like a troll question.

I'm not aware of any "music experts" who consider modern pop singers to be the best in history.

I (and many others) will defend the general principle that our pop music is not significantly worse than the pop music in history.

There have been great, original and creative geniuses in "pop" music in every generation. And also a large amount of unoriginal formulaic dross. We tend to forget the dross in previous generations, but can't ignore it in ours so ours looks worse in comparison.

People like me will also push back against the reactionaries by pointing out that there is a general human tendency to get older and complain that music has "got worse".

But I don't think any of us particularly defend the thesis that the contemporary pop singers are "better" than others in history. There's no strong evidence in favour of that either. And not much reason to expect it.

Contemporary pop is "more interesting" than old pop for one reason only : it's an open-ended story, we don't know where it's going, and something exciting might occur at any minute. OTOH, when we consider old pop music we know exactly where it went, what good came of it, and how the fresh ideas deteriorated into the next generation's tired stereotypes. Whereas the contemporary stuff still fascinates and keeps us guessing.

But apart from that ... contemporary pop is neither much better nor much worse. It's the usual mixture of good and bad, a few interesting new ideas, and a lot of me too copies of what was interesting last year.

Quora Answer : What do you think of 50's to 2000's era music vs. today's? Do you think we've improved or declined in ability due to auto tune and other technological enhancements?

Nov 30, 2019

What I think is that :

a) trying to compare a block of 60 years to a block of 10 years is obviously an unfair fight. It's so obviously mismatched that this almost seems like a satirical question. Of course you'll find more "good stuff" in a period of 60 years than in a period of 10.

b) for any genre of music, the most creative and innovative examples of it tend to happen at the beginning when the geniuses who invent the genre are operating. The best rock music is from the late 50s to the early 70s. The best electronic dance music is from the late 80s to the early 2000s.

But in a sense the same pattern nests fractally with smaller subgenres having their best works in smaller fragments of time at their foundation. The best dubstep is from 2005 - 2010. The best jungle / dnb is from 1992 - 1997. The best New Wave / post-punk is from 1977 - 1982. The best vaporwave from 2009 - 2014. The best trap, maybe 2012 - 2017. Etc.

c) What follows from that is that what's good today is in the embryonic genres that are only just starting to become visible to us. And music aimed squarely at other genres is unlikely to be as good as music from earlier years when the genres were new.