ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Unsplash
Is It Possible to Reinvent the Musical Wheel?
MANY people look out at the world and want to find…
something extraordinary and unexpected. Those who love music are constantly searching and questioning; looking around for awesome new sounds and untapped treasures. Every week that goes by promises a fantastic new band or artist. I am always interesting when my senses are taken by surprise and my mind is altered. I often listen back to older music to see how certain artists changed the face of the industry and pushed it forward. Back in the 1960s, for instance, it was easier to reinvent and compel. Genres came to light and artists were taking advantage of new possibilities. The more time has gone on, the harder it has become to genuinely create explosion and revolution. In 2018; how many of us can imagine artists coming along that create their own genres?! Maybe there are various movements and sub-genres here and there: it seems impossible music will be shaken to its foundations by a blast of genius. That is not the fault of artists: the busier music gets; the harder it is to be recognised and craft something unique. I think back to Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneers and the birth of Punk; the mutation of Pop and a time when Grime came about. One could argue the last genuine wave and reinvention came during the 1990s – around the Britpop time, perhaps. I have been investigating music and what has come since then.
One can claim there has been nothing on the scale of Punk music but, if we think about it; there are lots of movements and options available out there. Genres like Pop are having other sounds spliced to them. Newcomers are taking a rather popular sound and splicing in something like Punk and Acid-House to make it sound new and alive. Folk is an area of music always being updated and changed: from harmony-laden acts such as Fleet Foxes to simpler artists who prefer to keep things since and rustic. Bright and inventive bands like Superorganism are cutting up sounds and effects and putting it into the music; songwriters like Nicole Atkins reinventing heartache and desire with her incredible instincts; IDLES bringing in some 1970s Punk with plenty of modern spit and swagger. It is encouraging seeing new artists emerge who do not copy everything out there and not add their own voice. In a larger sense, I am thinking about what the breakthroughs did to the music industry as a whole. If you take a cliché like The Beatles – as good as any to back up an argument – and they changed Pop and took it to new heights. Maybe they did not invent their own genre but, in the sense they blended other genres into their own sound and, thus, created something new – they were celebrated and highlighted by stunned critics.
IN THIS PHOTO: Fleet Foxes/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
In the early-1960s, when the band came about; they showed what was possible in music and where it could be taken. The excitement and fever were palpable. Other bands followed in their wake and existing acts like The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys, in various ways, took guidance from The Beatles. The boys pushed the limits of the studio and, over fifty years after their most-accomplished albums hit the shelves; modern acts are still taking elements from the legendary band. I look forward to Dance and Pop of the 1980s and 1990s. The biggest artists of the day were working in existing genres but brought so much of their own personality into the pot. I think about icons like Madonna and The Smiths in the 1980s; the various British bands of the 1990s who gave music that passion and hope – uniting the people and daring to dream. I have spoken about invention and originality in many other pieces: every passing month makes me wonder whether anything seismic and paradigm-shifting could occur. I, too, often talk of nostalgia and why many of us look back so often. It is not only the connection to memories and times past but the fact something new happened. Grunge sort of started in the 1980s and hit its peak in the 1990s. Grunge helped usher in new American guitar music and that, in turn, fed into Pop music and assisted in a sort of revival and change.
Hop through to the birth of British Hip-Hop and Grime; the geniuses of U.S. Rap and the Pop idols like Beyoncé whose iconography and awesome talent inspired countless artists. It is not only, as I said, the music that changed things: new scenes were born and, when looking at those icons whose aura and personality spoke as loudly as the music – that got into people’s heads and remained in the mind. Music is in great shape now but it is more synonymous with variation and depth as it is groundbreaking sounds and new genres. One could look at music and ask what could come along. What would a new genre consist?! It is exciting to ponder but impossible to imagine. New artists are uniting various genres and sounds, which is great, but it does not really lead to anything new and fresh. I am always excited seeing hungry bands and agile artists lay down their marker and fashion wonderful music. We are at a point in time where there is too much choice and endless options for music listeners! Maybe the sheer volume and size mean it is harder to find space to break ground at all. That seems like a shame because, as I see it; music needs a new wave and excitement it is lacking.
A lot of the best musical inventions came about following social pressure and the need for change. Bands were articulating the desires of the people; artists angered and alienated – music was their way of transforming that confusion and isolation into something productive and incredible. It does not need to be the birth of a new genre at all: maybe a movement like Britpop or something that brings musicians together. I worry the rise in musicians and the openness of the market means there is too much out there to get your head around. This weekend; I will talk about Spotify and the fact it is growing in stature and value. Artists are a big reason for that and have helped turn it into an invaluable fountain for music lovers. The industry is as accessible and wide-ranging as ever which means there is a broader spectrum and narrower margins. I am a big fan of lots of new artists but none of them has helped bring about a revolution. My standards and expectations are high but I wondered whether it is such an impossible possibility?! Most genres have been covered, so the likelihood of artists inventing a completely new sound seems far-fetched. Look out at music and pretty much every genres and sub-genre has been mixed and stirred in every possible form and way. Perhaps the new genre/sound would marry Jazz with Grunge; perhaps a new mutation of Hip-Hop. It seems hard to verbalise and realise what that sound would consist.
There is that need for transformation and an utterly exciting breakthrough. I think guitars will play a part and see a mixture of Television-style songwriting and the drama of Britpop; marry in some 1960s/1970s girl groups and Pop of the 1960s. That might seem like an odd concoction but I hear flickers of ideas and sounds that strike my mind. I feel music needs something to come along that gets people talking and begins its own scene. There is emphasis on originality and promoting artists who stray away from the mainstream. I still think there is too much negativity and problems shrouding all the good out there. A shared desire for unification and unpredictability can be felt. I do appreciate new music but am concerned I look back so often. The joy of remembering new genes form and majestic moments come through the speaker seems like a thing of the past. The industry has changed and there are new demands and tastes. Perhaps there is a greater need for volume and choice as opposed instigating a massive movement. I think it is hard to think of a totally new genre but it is possible to do something different and cause immense excitement. There are a lot of cobwebs and barriers in place at the moment so, if we can address them and overcome them; maybe that will free up the way for artists to make their move. Maybe it will not come at all, though. I feel there is something missing at the moment that needs a proactive response and lot of thought. Music is great how it is but it could be so much bigger, finer and inspiring. Every new genre and movement in musical history has led to change and transformed music in some way. I cannot wait to see who might take up the mantle and run with it. I am not sure the exact form the reinvention will take but when it happens, I am adamant, it will…
MAKE a huge impression that will last for years.