Tales From the Hilltop
An intelligent, yet Devil's Advocate view of the world

Episode One: Where, oh where, did all the good notes go?

So, as I mentioned before, I love music. You name it; I at least have contempt for the genre. (Even Polka, though I find it to be insanely annoying after 10 minutes.) I’d like to believe that this puts me at an advantage while dealing with people while we’re having musical discussions. Sadly, that’s not the truth. The truth is, if it sounds good, it’ll find its way to my iPod. (Possibly the 2nd greatest invention of the last 25 years…other than the Internet.  If you’ve ever wondered will why Steve Jobs will NEVER go broke, there’s your answer.)

That being said, I have a question: So where DID the good notes go? Why does it seem that a lot of music just…..SUCKS these days?

I can start by calling out my “home” genre, Hip-Hop. I say home, because I grew up on a repetoire that was 65% Rap, 25% R&B, 5% Gospel, 2% Jazz, and 3% whatever my mom felt like throwing on her car radio that day. So, I have the most experience with bars, flows, and beats. 

(Not to turn this into a self-fulfilling commercial, but I wrote my first editorial on this subject back last March. You can see it here: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=22916639056)

Instead of complaining about it further, I decided to make a difference, hands on: I became an emcee. Mystery Brown was born sometime that year. Now, I’m not blind to this game; no way I’d thought that I would “blow up”, but what I found out about emceeing that has really made me want to just chuck a microphone is that this generation’s mind frame is so fickle, so materialistic,  I’m almost set up to fail at it. I put out an EP demo, and what I was told it that while it was lyrically inclined and pretty decent, it wouldn’t appeal to the masses.

Now, let’s get something straight: never did I started rhyming, writing (or arranging, for that matter) for the money. The saying “money is the root of all evil” is a funny thing. I believe that ignorance is up there as well. Not saying that people who didn’t like my style were ignorant, but folk who dismissed the tracks on the strength that I hadn’t shot six people in one verse, sexed up 50 women by the end of my first song, and sold three kilos of coke on my hook, (all this while making up a dance) well….I probably wasted energy in even letting them hear it. Problem is, they seem to outnumber people that actually like to think about what they’re listening to these days.

Unfortunately, my short-lived story of bar-filled mayhem has become all-too common in  Hip-Hop. Artists really want to say relevant things about life, but the huddled masses have seemingly been so brainwashed by the media that very few people seek insight into music anymore, and artists lose careers because “their music isn’t poppin enough.” If it’s not supported by a thumpin beat, then it pretty much plummets on deaf and dumb ears. And to not turn my comments section into a “you are just hating on such-as-such region/artist” slugfest, we’ll just say that ALL regions are to blame for this.

But Hip-Hop isn’t the only genre to have taken a dive: R&B as a whole has suffered more in the last 10-15 years. Even in the early 90s, you had groups like Mint Condition, Guy, Boyz II Men, Jodeci, etc who 1) could sing and 2) sung with real motion in their voices. Also, such solo artists like the bald-headed version of R. Kelly, Aaron Hall, Babyface, Brian McKnight had modeled and paid tribute to great artists before them (which are waaay too many to name).  Now, R&B is a musical joke. 1/3 of these dudes are singing mini-raps in songs. The other 1/3 just became grown five minutes ago, so they can’t (or won’t) sing about real life outside of “hit me up on my Twitter” or some “LOL” nonsense, and the last 1/3 just are plain tone deaf.

However, as with all things, in a group, there are standouts. Just as there are very good artists that make good music in Hip-Hop (Nas, Little Brother, Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco, OutKast, Slaughterhouse, and Common, to name a few), there are some singers that still captivate the true essence of music (Anthony Hamilton, Chrisette Michele, John Legend, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu). I still sigh a rather displeased one.

What really hurts (or is at least, frustrating as all hell) is that in being an arranger, I can’t ignore this stuff. Since the huddle masses want bands to play what’s fresh, some of us have no choice, and there’s been time I’ve had to swallow my musical integrity and subject my Finale to torturous rhythms for what seems like stooping the lowest common denominator. Don’t get me wrong, I love new school music and have no hesitation to write it for a band, but I’d take a lot more joy in writing something that didn’t make the audience – or my students – stupider for having heard it in the first place.

I can only hope that the good notes find their way back onto the airwaves. Other wise, we’ll end up passing songs like “Halle Berry” to the next generation, saying this was a classic song….and that is more frightening than all of the Saw movies put together.



One Response to “Episode One: Where, oh where, did all the good notes go?”

  1. it’s generational. in the 80s we had the panther movement. in the 90s we had the economic movement. in the first decade of this century it’s all about technology, and self fulfilment. that’s what the people want. I feel you tho. I do wish there was more content in the material. where’s the storytelling?? where’s the personal experiences??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: