Away from the Anger, Foreboding and Seriousness…
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The Sheer Joy That Music Can Provide
THURSDAY was a good day…
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because I got to enjoy, alongside many others, the All Day Rave on BBC Radio 6 Music. As the name implies, it was a full day of bangers from years gone by – covering a few genres but most of the songs were from the Dance realm. Listening to the songs through the day, I noticed a couple of things. For one, the amazing sense of release and happiness one gets from hearing these tracks is infectious. Secondly, a lot of the tracks – the vast majority, in fact – were from at least fifteen years ago; most were from the 1980s and 1990s. I shall address that second subject a bit later on but, when we think of music, what do we want to get from it? A lot of us want something emotional that we can connect with whilst others want something more urgent and angered. I think the most important and long-lasting sensation one can get from music is joy. Let’s not confuse joy with escapism – as I have written about this subject before; I shall explain later – because that is unfair to the artists and listeners alike. I was very lucky to grow up in the 1990s and I still recall the dying years of the 1980s: a time when House and Trance were taking hold and that was sitting alongside some pretty epic Pop. Straight into the 1990s and acts like Soul II Soul and Deee-Lite crafted these timeless, colourful jams that we still fondly play today.
I am not suggesting music today has declined and lacks fun but, as I shall explore later, there seems to be a cut-off point where everything from Dance, Pop and Rock sort of lost its edge and sense of uplift. That is an interesting point. I guess many of assume music’s finest and most spirited has to be Pop or Dance but, through the years, some of the most transcendent moments have come from genres like Metal and Rock. In fact, every genre can elevate the soul and I think that quality should not be forgotten. We are experiencing so many problems and crisis’ today and I feel music plays a vital role – not just when it comes to making us feel better but documenting the severity of these issues. I understand we need to tackle everything from climate change to knife crime in music but, away from that, we do need a sense of comfort and pleasure music can provide – without feeling guilty; that goes for new music making music now. Returning to the BBC Radio 6 Music All Day Rave event on Thursday and people flooded onto social media to share their memories and favourite Rave songs. Listening to the luminous, spirited and unifying songs transported me back to my childhood and the music I was listening to through school. I am too young to remember the first blush of House and Rave but I was exposed to these trailblazing tracks before too long.
It is hard to put into words just how powerful and important these tracks are; how important they were regarding my earliest years. As I said, one cannot name-check one or two genres when it comes to bliss and fun: every corner of music has the power to resonate and genuinely make you feel happier. I love the fact music can provoke so many emotions but the thrill of hearing a big chorus or some heavy beats; an instantly memorable tune or an of-the-moment classic…one of the great pleasures of life. Even as early as 1994, which was an unbelievable year for music, there were reports arguing whether Pop has lost its melody and sense of purpose. It is obvious Pop has changed since the 1960s. I still think it had plenty of spark in 1994 but, as this article from last year suggests, things are more repetitive, sadder; less fun and angrier. Maybe it is reflective of modern culture but, at a time when we need happiness and fresh bangers, are we being let down? I do think, interestingly one can compare 1988-2004 with 2004-now. Look at both periods and see how music has changed. Not only have scenes come and gone but music from then is a lot more fun that it is now. That sounds simplistic but think of all the classic anthems and uplifting tunes and, for the most part, they are from that first time bracket.
There was some brilliantly joyous music released after 2004 – that will always be the case – but, largely, music has lost its smile. Even when artists are trying to be fun and anthemic, things sound rather flat, unmemorable or generic. As I have said in multiple pieces, music is not worse than it was but, plainly, it is not as captivating and high-spirited as it once was. The world is not necessarily bleaker than it was in the 1980s, 1990s and early portion of the last decade. There were bad leaders, huge problems and a sense of defeat back then but, rather than combat that with something ultra-real or somber, artists armed themselves with major keys and big tunes and brought them to the people. Maybe commercial tastes have changed, or something is different. Whichever way you look at it, the sound of modern music is a lot different, and less fun, than it used to be. That is okay and, whilst it seems impossible we will ever see a rebirth of heady days past, one cannot underestimate the importance of uplifting music, from whatever period you find it. Some say positive and enlivening songs are escapist because they do not address the realities of life or something serious – most of them are purely about feeling good and getting together. I find it is unfair to say positive songs are escapist. The modern world is as much about togetherness and hope as it is acknowledging big problems we are facing. I do not think the music industry today has the balance it should regarding happier tracks and those that are a bit more social aware.
Even when artists are aiming for something more positive, the end result can often appear quite undercooked or familiar – not a song that will stick in the memory. Whether you spin some Kylie Minogue or The Beatles; a House classic or a track like PM Dawn’s Set Adrift on Memory Bliss to get your spirits flowing, you cannot deny the effect the songs have. Not only does one get that warmth and giddiness but, in terms of emotional health, these songs are essential. Maybe others have their own views as to whether modern music is more mood-lifting than times past but, as I say, one need not be confined by age and modernity regarding music. I do think we forget what music can offer and how deep it can dig. At a moment when we all feel stress and a sense of dread, I feel music has so much to say; not just in regards raising awareness and compelling change but, just as importantly, making us feel better about ourselves. I think some of that lesson is being lost today – the fact so many of us head back in time when we need that cleansing burst speaks volumes. I do really like today’s music but there has been a loss of regret-free energy; no-holds-barred togetherness and pure fun. Maybe it will return but, for now, think about the songs that make you feel good and make you smile – or simply get you moving and take away the stress. I think that is a very precious thing and, to all the artists who lift people around the world on a daily basis: a huge thank you for…
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BRINGING the fun.