My wife and I were watching the Voice last night off of our DVR ( we’ve been very busy this week) and we found ourselves asking this question (What ever happened to the art …). We noticed that many of the singers on the show have been performing older songs instead of current music. We also noticed a difference in the quality of the songs. Please don’t misunderstand; I am not saying that today’s pop music is totally devoid of content. I am just pointing out that we noticed a general difference.
We noticed a similar situation during the development of high definition and the advancement of special effects in movies. Special effects have come a long way over the last few years. Vivid and realistic images can now be pieced together even though they are generated from different sources. It allows events to be shown on screen that used to only be visible in our imaginations.
As this technology began to develop a disappointing side effect occurred. The content (quality of acting and/or story line) of many movies seems to suffer. There was so much attention being placed on effects and picture (video) quality that it changed the definition of what people considered to be a good movie. Action films (or other genres with action in them: i.e. Horror, Si-Fi, etc.) far outnumbered other types of film releases during this time. This shift seems to be readjusting now. There are still more action new releases, but the quality of acting and content seems to be coming back up. This was evident (in my opinion) as I viewed The Amazing Spiderman 2 this weekend (great action, content and acting).
I believe that advancements in technology have also affected songwriting. In the past, limited technology forced songwriters to write amazing songs. The proper marriage of music and lyric was the only way to ensure that the song would have the desired impact on people. Composers wanted listener to feel the emotion that was felt when the song was written.
Now songwriters can impact people through the effects and technological “ear candy” that can be produced into the music. People don’t reflect intellectually on the content and inner meaning of songs while they are dancing in a club (or at a party). Composers of this type of music just want you to feel the beat and move to it. Usually the loudest and most driving beat is the one that produces the most sales.
This, of course, is not true for all songs. Many styles and genres still try to tell a story or portray an emotion. . There are still songs being written which contain beautifully crafted words linked to music in a way that unlocks the full expression of the content. However, this aspect of musical composition does not seem to be necessary in order to have a song become a hit. I wonder how long it will take for listeners to realize this, and demand higher quality songs.