I usually don't like to be pedantic about these sort of things, but have you listened to the Top 40 stations on the radio lately?
Gone are the strings of ELO, the innovative rhythm of Blondie, and the genius of The Beatles. Now we have the confused genre jumper Taylor Swift, the computer-generated talent of Maroon 5, and the melancholic warbling of Adele.
We have been transported to a world where musicianship is an afterthought. If it has a good beat and you can turn it on while you're jogging, who cares? No layman will notice if the voices are autotuned, the background is devoid of any real musicians, and the philosophy of the lyrics is as trite and sugary as Pixie Sticks.
What modern pop music has done is evade reality. By putting out these whitewashed, stark albums, we are masking the fact that these people could never even attempt to replicate half the sound of the album. Taylor Swift is incredibly out of tune in person, despite pitch perfect accuracy on record.
A lot of my argument comes from the fact that I'm a classical musician. I don't say that to sound elitist, just to state a fact. When you heard a Leontyne Price or Maria Callas on record, they didn't have a safety net. There was no "let's shift the pitch here because she can't quite reach that note." The albums released on Callas' voice are just as good as her live performances. In the classical world, as in any recording world, recordings are an idealized representation of a work. Yet, the difference is that classical recordings don't try to blot out reality. The circumstances of recording might be ideal, but nothing will be perfect unless the voice cooperates. You need only listen to Callas' perform Violetta's showpiece aria from Verdi's La Traviata to hear a giant walk the tightrope without a net.
We have become a society that values the mediocre. Music is not bubble gum. Even the trite early songs of The Beatles show us brilliant harmonies and an evolving songwriting style. Now artists like Adele put out song after song, album after album on the same tired applesauce.
And then there's the incessant drum beat in modern pop. Whoever invented the drum machine should be hung by his heels in the middle of Lake Shore Drive. The constant, unceasing, unvaried beat, even in the calmest of songs, always permeates the texture. Drummers like Ringo Starr and Mick Fleetwood would sometimes use a dozen different percussion instruments over the course of a three-minute song. Now we have to settle with the same mechanical beat until, mercifully, the song is finished. Listen to Blondie's "The Tide is High" for a perfect example of what a good drummer can achieve.
I realize that in every genre there is bubblegum music that's easy on the ears and doesn't offend a novice's senses. For every Bob Dylan, there is an Art Garfunkel. For every Rolling Stones, there is a Monkees. For every Madonna, there is a Britney Spears. Yet, even what was considered bubblegum by some in the past like Fleetwood Mac, is lightyears ahead of the light hits of today. One only needs to listen to Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" next to Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)" to see the different in maturity and message. (And notice the fact that Stevie's voice is raw and natural, not autotuned like the big B.)
Music is an ever-changing forest, complete with roses and their corresponding thorns. I've studied, in my short twenty-four years, as large a spectrum as any and I have some strong opinions. There is modern music I do enjoy, like Adele's "Skyfall", but those exceptions are very few and very far between.
Opera houses and Symphony orchestra are dying, yet Taylor Swift makes millions of dollars a year peddling her drug-like musical opiates to the masses. True artists are dying and for every one that does, another one is ready to snatch up their audience with tripe that is in an ever-swirling jumble of mediocrity.
The main reason, I believe, is because the masses don't like to work to appreciate art. Give someone a puzzle already done for them and they can go have a beer and watch American Idol. But give them an opera or a musical that requires some research and concentration and they bark that it's "not my thing." We have such preconceived notions that we can't even hope to introduce a new generation to music of quality and substance.
I was in Fourth Grade when I discovered my love for classical music, and I took it upon myself to study and learn it. I didn't wait for someone to hand me the answers, I found them myself. If we were able to let a child listen to a sample from all available major musical styles, instead of pushing them to listen to the Top 40 stations, they would have a better chance to discover something they truly connect with.
I listen to music constantly and, unlike a lot of critics, I have listened to every artist I describe in this article, and then some. I have digested it all objectively, or as best I can, and have come to a reasoned, yet passionate, response. I don't deny anyone the right to like modern music yet, like a pack of cigarettes, it must come with a warning label: "The Surgeon General would like to inform you that this music is vulgar, tepid, and harmful if taken in large doses."
In short, it's shit.