Still Waters Run Shallow
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Where Has the ‘Fizz’ Gone?!
I realise I spent a lot of my…
music-listening existence harking to the past and what I grew up around. I love looking back and seeing where music has come from. It would be a fool’s bet thinking music is not going to get any better: there is a world of sound out there; who knows what possibilities and breakthroughs will happen?! Whilst I am open-minded to the possibility of reinvention and development – will we ever get the same quality and genius as years gone by? One can argue the toss regards quality and how the new stuff stacks against the older material. I am in the camp that suggests, although music is more open and variegated than when I was growing up; we have seen fewer world-class, genre-lasting records released. I do not know what the reason behind the split is. Maybe we have seen all the major developments and accomplishments: it is harder to achieve new wonder and break ground. I am not disappointed with new music because there is a wonderful spread of artists available. Anyone can get into the industry and there are sub-genres and little cultures all over the place. Why one can quibble about quality and legacy; there is one thing, I feel, is beyond doubt: music has lost a lot of its pop and punch. There is a certain irony given the fact Pop music is, well, supposed pop.
I yearn for those big R&B anthems and the classic Pop anthems. I only need to go back to the 1990s – or the early part of the last decade – to see where things changed. If you look at the way, say, girl groups have developed and died – that is a glaring sign things are changing for the worse. There have been some half-arsed girl groups through time but we must consider the great ones. All Saints, En Vogue and Destiny’s Child, between them, produced some sensational music in the 1990s. I listen to belters like Free Your Mind (En Vogue) and Bills, Bills, Bills (Destiny’s Child); a stunner such as Black Coffee (All Saints) and Overload (Sugarbabes). We have girl groups like Little Mix – but they are in the minority. We lack the great black girl groups (En Vogue, Destiny’s Child and Salt-N-Pepa) of the 1990s and the pioneers such as Diana Ross and the Supremes. Sister Sledge are gone and, well, look at modern Pop and things have become so predictable. There are explosive cuts but I wonder whether we can ever get back that excitement that arrived a couple of decades back. From Disco and Pop to R&B and Soul – genres, at their best, have created timeless and enduring songs. I have named female artists who, during their time, showed they were as powerful and potent as the boys. Aaliyah can be added to the list; go back to bands like Garbage and Republica.
I have been listening back to songs from Sugarbabes and En Vogue and wondering why we no longer put panache and passion at the forefront. Maybe there is that missing carbonation but, if anything, it has changed forms and become more gentrified. Girl groups are gone and Pop places more emphasis on artists who channel personal concerns and deliver accessible messages – rather than look outwards and produce more complicated numbers. Rock and Alternative have produced heroes through the years: bands who provided mass-celebration anthems and peerless songs. I think about Oasis, Pulp and Blur. I know I keep returning to this well – older music and what it has done to the world – but my angle here is around fun and energy. One cannot be too harsh at the Pop world and the best R&B acts of the moment. Whilst Pop giants like Lady Gaga and Rihanna can still pack them in; Electronic artists such as M83 are capable of giving us some bliss; Dutch Uncles and Field Music capable of firing on all cylinders – they are in the minority. Not only have past wonders given the music world fireworks and body-slamming stunners; the artists providing that material have inspired others and delivered strong messages. It is not only women of the past who I miss and feel left a big gap: some great male-made music remains in my mind and obsesses me soon.
A lot of that comes from the Dance music that was being produced from the late-1980s to the early-2000s. From Basement Jaxx and The Avalanches to Spiller and Arrested Development (not Dance-based, I know) – we have been spoiled. That is not to mention icons like Madonna and Kylie Minogue. Things are not bleak but I do not feel there is the same motivation there was years ago. Call it ‘fun’ or ‘fizz’: whatever you label it, you cannot argue against the fact it is somewhat lacking nowadays. I have been diving into the past because there is that guarantee of release and substance. I love music now but my attention has focused inwards. Rather than look for that demented Dance wizard and Trance fizzer; the Pop injection and the sunshine high – now, something more emotional and level-headed comes to the fore. I admire artists who try to bring optimism and catchiness into music but, a lot of the time, it can come off as overly-processed and generic. I wonder why music has lost a lot of its fun and positivity. You might argue some of those older anthems – from girl groups, Dance music and Rock – have carried some heaviness or were part of a scene that demanded that type of music. The world is darker and more endangered than it was back in the 1990s – even as recently as last decade.
We all need to find some hope and discover music that puts us in a better mood. Maybe artists are truthfully reflecting the feelings of the people and the strain we all feel. Rather than fight against this and create something scintillating; artists are taking a different approach. Perhaps the fact we don’t have girl groups and the same Pop configuration has done its damage. Club music and Dance has changed formats and become less popular – not as memorable as it was back in my day. I would like to think there is a way we can revise that bliss and, even for a short time, capture the fizz. I know there has never been a time where the majority of songs coming out write positive: the glorious songs and catchy anthems have been spread out for the past two or three decades, say – take it back to the 1960s if you want. There is no suggestion music has completely lost its edge and become too serious. The fact so many artists have come along means it is harder filtering those big tunes and bubbling tracks – maybe we have plenty out there being obscured by everything else. My point is, besides being a bit nostalgic, is for new artists to remember why certain artists/songs have survived this long. We are more likely to remember and connect with songs that have urgency, hooks and uplifted spirits. I do not mind looking back for that release and relief – I would like to stay in the current time and get that fulfilment from the modern breed. I am a huge fan of what is happening now but once in a while, more often than I hear now, I’d love to discover a song/band that…
GETS every part of my involved and engaged.