Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Karaoke Age

I was discussing music with a colleague the other day, as you do, and our thoughts turned to cycles. No, not those two wheeled things that require far too much energy to operate but as in repeating patterns. And our probably horribly flawed analysis led to a rather disturbing conclusion. This is how it came about.

We started our conversation on the subject of Jazz and how it was the dominant musical force in the 1930s and 1940s but how it began to lose ground in the 1950s so that by 1960 it levelled out to existence as another genre competing for favour with other forms. In the meantime, the roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll had germinated in the mid 1950s and grown to be the dominant force in the 1960s and 1970s. Thinking about the trajectory of each wave allowed us to hypothesize that maybe each dominant genre has a 30 year shelf life after which it just rumbles on as a minority interest. In addition, these 30 year cycles overlap by, let’s say 5 years at each end.

After much debate we came up with the dominant forces (those that were substantially different from the last) as Jazz, Rock and Hip-hop/Rap. In between times there were numerous sub-genres such as Swing, Trad, Beat, Psychedelia, Prog, Punk etc etc but we ignored these and looked at the high level plan. I’m sure there are gaping holes in our thinking here but you don’t get much time at the water cooler so bear with me for the moment as there is a point. So, applying the 30 year rule with 5 year overlaps we have:
1930 – 1960 Jazz
1955 – 1985 Rock
1980 – 2010 Rap/Hip-hop
2005 -?

And this is where the problem arises. According to our shaky predictions, Rap is on its last legs and a new genre should‘ve taken root in about 2005. But what is it? Has anybody noticed an earth-shatteringly unique form of music rise through the ranks? No, me neither and this is the worrying point. Has popular music finally run out of steam? Is there nothing left to do? Whilst our predictions may be completely awry, there does lurk a genuine question about where music goes next. Dad-rock can’t just stumble on forever – even Mick Jagger will be forced to retire eventually.

The only recent trend that has become noticeable is the rise of ‘talent show’ stars that are spawned by television’s ‘Pop Idol’ and others and then assault the music world. Examples would be Will Young, Hear’say, Liberty X, Girls Aloud, G4, Leona Lewis in the UK as well as Kelly Clarkson and so on in the US and a whole host of others worldwide. Clearly this is not actually a new type of music, but more a new type of artist recycling old songs. And if this is all music has to offer in the future, it’s very very depressing.

Surely the next 30 year cycle cannot be the ‘Karaoke Age’?


Jennifer K said...

Brace yourself, Music Obsessive. It just might be.

Oh, and here in America, American Idol contestants aren't the only ones trying to get music careers. So are a lot of other reality "stars" like Heidi from the show "The Hills."

I'm scared.

musicobsessive said...

Thanks Jen - you've really cheered me up!:)

Actually it is probably worse than I first surmised. Bear in mind that the likes of Kylie and Nat Imbruglia were spawned by 'Neighbours' and that we have already suffered a whole host of other soap stars warbling this and that. It's been rumbling on for years but only recently has the beast raised its head above water.
God help us all!

btw very cute pic on your myspace page!