Bored At The Grammys

The mainstream music scene continues to lose relevance as they pursue the easy hit over cultural meaning and artistic quality.  Underground Christian musicians, free of the illusion of mega-stardom, are a creating body of meaningful work.  Despite what is pushed on you by the mainstream secular and Christian music industries, great music is being created as an honest expression of a believers’ struggles in this world.  We believe this music can overcome the bland music scene we see today.

The past few months have revealed a lot about the mainstream music industry. With every one’s “Best of 2008″ lists, the Grammys, and several predictions on what is going to take over the industry in the next year, a strong emotion has washed over me. Apathy. I don’t care. How could I? In a year when some of the most celebrated and well received music came from the likes of Kid Rock, Lil’Wayne, and Vampire Weekend, why would I be excited about the upcoming year in mainstream music?

This is not to say that 2008 wasn’t a GREAT year in music, there were some amazing albums (Bodies of Water, Thrice, Kaboose, Becoming The Archetype) made by newcomers and veterans alike.  The problem is that these were not the CDs that got their due.  Instead Katy Perry was on every award show and in every headline.

The music industry seems to be suffering from amnesia, because they are falling back into their self-indulgent, manipulative, money grubbing ways again. This persona that the music industry is putting on is the exact reason that the whole market began to move towards not only the digital age, but to the vibrant independent world of music several years ago.  The mainstream music industry continues to leave true music lovers on the side lines, instead opting for the quick gratification of the lowest common denominator, and the industry won’t survive for much longer because of it.

I started thinking about this a few months ago when I caught the movie I’m Not There on television, a biopic of sorts about rock legend Bob Dylan.  The concept of the movie is that he is played by five different actors (well, four actors and one actress, Cate Blanchett should have gotten an Oscar), each actor depicting a different aspect of Dylan’s persona.  The movie can be really hard to follow at times, but in the middle of it I realized that the whole point was that they were not trying to depict Bob Dylan the man, but instead his folklore-ish like legend.

This also got me thinking about how can a man who plays a guitar and sings (some would say not very well) become so respected that a movie depicts him as some type of urban legend? For most, the answer was that Bob Dylan was such a huge influence at so many points in his career, that no movie could focus on one aspect of that life, but instead had to encompass many parts of a great whole. I see it as something different altogether though, because there were other folk performers at the time of Dylan.  Bob Dylan wrote authentic, relevant music that was unlike anything that had been heard before, and his music changed the way that rock, folk, and pop was crafted.  There wasn’t anyone like Bob Dylan.

How many musicians do you know in the modern music industry who operate the way that Bob Dylan did?  Do you think that Britney will be immortalized in a movie about her artistic achievements?  Its hard to think of many performers in our generation that were like Dylan, because the music industry no longer celebrates what his music stood for. Instead, we are saturated with warmed over versions of the next big thing, suffer through mediocre performers who command the charts, and watch the industry ignore truly gifted musicians who don’t fit in their plastic molds.

It seems ironic that this same industry threw a fit a few years ago when online retailers like Itunes and Amazon were offering digital, pay for what you want, MP3 albums.  The argument was that people would only buy the songs that they wanted and the digital age would kill the album.

Well, yea, that sounds about right.

The 90′s were a terrible time to be a music lover on a budget, because by the end of the decade, the $15 CD with three good songs was very common place. The industry wasn’t trying to produce albums, they were producing hits, and the public consumer response was to download the songs we wanted (legally or otherwise), and not the fluff. Simple as that.  However, this did not change the music industry’s strategy on their album focus.  So the market started to look towards the independent music scene, who were more focused on the creation of great music than making pop hits, to once again give us entire CDs of great music.  The changes in the industry were direct responses to the problems that had existed in the mainstream market for a long time. For a while, things seemed to get better.

Get to the point.

The last few years have proven though that the mainstream music can’t change their stripes, so as passionate music fans, we continue to look else where to find deep, meaningful music that will last longer than the plastic it is burned to.  It is in this need that the Christian music scene has a great advantage.  The very nature of combining our faith with our art creates something that has much more meaning than 70 percent of the music that was featured on The Grammys this year.  In a world that we know is hurting, and in need of Christ so desperately, there is also a need for music that is real, genuine, and authentic.  This music scene that we celebrate on The One21 is so different than any out there. We have a vast group of talented musicians that cannot help writing from a place of deep meaning and creativity.

As listeners, we must continue to support the truly unique and innovative, encourage the new artist, and pray that God continues to grow this music that we love into something that will surpass generations.  Bob Dylan is so iconic because he never wrote his music for fans of the day, but his music was an artistic outcry of his heart, in times of great tumoil and passion.

Today, we need artists to demonstrate the powerful ability that music has on the listener, and to just simply say something, anything that matters. To be authentic.  The Christ-centered music scene has the ability to achieve this same level not just based on the talent of the musicians, but because the core of the music is something greater than any of us.

What are the major problems facing the modern music industry today? Is true creativity rewarded or pushed aside? What does this mean for Christian musicians?

Comments

  1. Carolyn says:

    I think the music world as we know it seems to have less to do with talent and more to do with production. So much of what is produced is so studio enhanced that when the performers are live, they’re not good or at least less good. Perhaps it’s always been that way and I’m just now aware of it.

    I was thinking of some other movies about musicians and wondering, like you, who from the current music would be immortalized on film. This is my list (with some help from the internet): Bound for Glory – the life of Woody Guthrie; Coal Miner’s Daughter – the life of Loretta Lynn, the “Queen of Country Music”; Walk the Line – Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash; Night and Day – fictionalized biography of composer Cole Porter; Yankee Doodle Dandy – the life of George M. Cohan; The Benny Goodman Story – Bio of swing band leader Benny Goodman. I found others, but only included the ones I had seen.

    That being said, who in the current music scene should a future movie made about their life and/or music? Anyone have an idea?

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