Is music “dead”?

I am getting fairly tired of this argument. It mostly comes from older people…the interjection frequently “Nobody has done anything good since the 70s!!! *grumble grumble…* MUSIC IS DEAD!”

That’s total bullshit, countless amazing singer/songwriter/composers are making their next brilliant chart as I write this and you chug coffee…scratch that, if you live in the Western Hemispere you should be in bed, sleeping or doing drugs at this hour.

I could pin 100s of tracks going back to 1980, Starting with “Everybody  Wants Some,” by Van Halen, but this post would take weeks were it comprehensive. We will examine just a few tracks that are both recent and posted to Youtube so you can listen for yourself w/o leaving this page.

Some of you know that this writer has been a brass musician since 5th grade – 1987. Got my first professional gig when I was 16. Despite my ages of experience, I am not nor will I ever be a COMPOSER…. an extremely technical skill and ridiculously creative and artistic craft…the best among them become social and historical icons: Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Louis Armstrong, Gershwin, Bernstein, Bartok, Miles Davis, Coltrane, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Hendrix, etc.

Great composers still walk the earth O uneducated music critic, you just need to know where to look. For you bitter old dudes …did you watch “The Pacific” on HBO? Did you like the music? Oh you did, ok that’s Hans Zimmer, probably the foremost score writer of late (I personally love the main theme from “Inception”). I am floored by his talent.

You can’t mention the top composers today without Thoman Newman (not the dorky “You’ve Got a Friend In Me” guy with the goofy voice), Newman writes mostly film’s just a few notables:

000 Erin Brockovich Steven Soderbergh Universal Pictures First collaboration with Steven Soderbergh
Soundtrack released by Sony Classical
Pay It Forward Mimi Leder Warner Bros. Pictures Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande
2001 In the Bedroom Todd Field Miramax Films Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande
2002 The Salton Sea D. J. Caruso Warner Bros. Pictures Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande
Road to Perdition Sam Mendes DreamWorks Pictures
Twentieth Century Fox
Second collaboration with Sam Mendes
Soundtrack released by Decca Records
White Oleander Peter Kosminsky Warner Bros. Pictures Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande

DAMN good music…all made even more magical by Newman’s stunning mind for putting sight, feeling and emotion into the kind of charts that DON’t bother me when they get stuck in my head. The soundtrack to “Road to Perdition” is one of my favorite albums of all time, period.

TV? Yeah ..uhhh…Newman did the Title track and other scoring for “Six Feet Under” one of my favorite shows. He mostly writes for film studios. You may note that nothing is listed since 2002. Is HE dead? No, I just cut the list drastically and by coincidence my favorite scores of his all came out around the same time. Newman is constantly composing. He has contracts for FIVE upcoming films between now and 2016 that I know of. So no, he is probably sitting at the piano right now with ledger paper strewn about and w/ Audition and Protools open on the nearby computer.

So what about pop music, are the complainers simply saying that “my local top 40 station sucks”? Well…it DOES  SUCK and so does MOST of the music, but not all, lets take a look some smash hits and you, dear reader decide if pop (popular) music is dead. The following songs prove that powerful, rockin’, catchy, bad-ass, fun, thoughtful composers are active all of them qualify as pop so take a listen and if you find no heart, creativity or quality in these tracks (and the visual production…to my viz design/cg friends) then we will agree to disagree:

This track JUST DROPPED, so i think it makes a good example of what the music industry is producing, the beat was licensed from a hit trance chart from the 90s called “Better Off Alone” and features an A-list rapper plus the artist himself is virally popular, especially since “Titanium” came out in 2012, one of the best electronica tracks EVER. NO QUESTION. Creative, driving, moving…and an anthem to me since 30 percent of my skeleton is now titanium rods, screws, brackets, pins and bars…it also came out during a VERY DARK chapter in this writer’s life, not to be spoken of today, but check it out and decide for yourself:

btw – if you liked it—>music is not dead. nor is pop.

Moving on, I wish I still had a Lexis-Nexis account so I could link to an great article from the LA Times showing that pop music today has on average MORE COMPLEXITY than that of the pop of the 60s and 70s and they used “Call Me Maybe,” by Carly Rae Jepsen as an example. She is  a powerful singer, super cute and I love the original, but the video is mostly her, fawning over her neighbor as he mows the lawn shirtless. In total it may be little too gay for some readers (the joke at the end of the video is that the mower really IS gay…too much man flesh for this blog),  I prefer Dave Days’ cover and find the video far less awkward:

This track also helped bring me out of a deep funk. Had nothing to do with women or relationships, it was just such an upbeat, catchy tune with awesome syncopation. It makes me smile. (btw-composition is .said to increase in complexity of structure over time, my fellow musical performance colleagues may think I’m reffering to chord progression and meter…though this one is in G the chord changes do not take a standard form (pretty close though) and are quite original for a pop song, but that is another advanced topic for another time. This is complexity of FORM…like an abstraction of a chart the composers construct. They are frequently quite simple…yet you could be a legit pro performer for 50 years and would never need to know about it – this is a composition topic…i only study it because the good journalist knows “a little bit about everything.” Most pop songs that are 2-3mins follow this pattern – ABABABABB (which can be reduced logically to just ABAB) – that is the gold standard and means verse, chorus four times and repeat chorus at the end). “Call Me Maybe” follows this form but has additional elements like  vamp, bridge break and soli….making far more complex than the majority of pop in the past. More evidence of the health and well-being of [some] popular music. If all music were losing complexity —-> then it would no longer evolve, hence, it would be dying. Fortunately for all music fans I can confidently say that music is in active evolution.

Next example: from the artist that inspired one of the most legendary hashtags of all time… #katyperrysboobs …”nice rack” aside, look at her from the Grammy Awards, is there any way in which she doesn’t define class, elegance, beauty, sex appeal and artisty? Be still my “Tapping” heart!


This track is straight up bad-ass. It’s not only a nice groove, the video is outstanding and Perry makes the same statement that Scorsese did in “Casino” –that Las Vegas is built for one thing: to take your money. A valueble lesson packed into a f—— sexy package. I respect Vegas, but truth be told…won’t gamble there unless I literally have money to burn. If I am there on a job, a pool tournament, a business meeting, gig or audition…you WILL find me at The Monte Carlo cuz I like it and cuz I have dropped enough cash there that 2 night stays are comped now…but NOT on the floor or the buffet—even the buffet is a rip-off…food is shit. Free time I would spend hunting for the cheapest Surf N Turf Buffet, a show and “people-watching” on the strip. NEXT! …

Not only a ridiculously creative rap lyric and outstanding blend of motifs…it also makes a statement about how fucked the economy is through humor.  I’m “poppin’ tags” too yo! Even when I have tons of money, you gotta swing by your local thrift once a month, I have bought almost all my suits there…ok so it belonged to a dead guy, but if I’m wearin Brioni or Armani you got some Men’s Wearhouse deal goin on? You payed over a hundo for something pedestrian, I payed 10 bucks for one of the best suits in the world! I just had to dry clean it to remove old-man-smell…”so shut the fuck about it!

Ok, we’ve covered this decade and the last, so for now, let’s wrap with one from the good old days…the 90s…great economy, money all over the place…ol’ Bill is chillin’ in the White House gettin blown by a fatty…who gives a fuck, right? For me that’s been by far the best decade in almost all categories…’specially music; it’s quality, innovations, entertainment value…you never thought you’d feel nostalgic for the decade that also brought us Vanilla Ice, Iraq: Episode One and Pauly Shore, but now you do don’t you stupid!

If you don’t feel the raw emotion in this song…if you find nothing about it’s soulful tones moving…find NO REDEEMING VALUE WHATSOEVER in this one…shit brother…idk what to do for ya’ …I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree about if/when music died.

Going off Don Mclean’s lyric from “American Pie” in 1959, it is said that there was a “day the music died.” — he was referring to 2/3/59 when The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens died in a plane crash. By having this statement in a piece of original MUSIC…proves McLean was not making the crotchety old argument “music [rock] is dead now,” —it was tribute to losing three men who stood on the vanguard of popular music and to emphasize the tragedy of losing all three of them simultaneously.

Well I guess next time some old-timer starts up with this line of crap I’ll just say, “Dude, in what way is music dead?” No…. “If that’s true, then disconnect your car radio, toss your stereo equipment, uninstall iTunes…and if you have an iPod, you can fork it over to me..for …what do you say…5 bucks? I’d give you more but otherwise you gotta toss it right?”

For the record: Music is positively bursting with life. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.