Three Interesting Trends in Modern Music
I’ve always been a bit of a fan of rap, hip-hop and R&B. When my Deadhead friends were saying “rap is crap” I made them listen to an old recording of a young Bob Weir rapping the lyrics of “Throwing Stones.” When my feminist friends bemoan the subjugation of women in some rap lyrics and the lack of serious female rap artists I point out that the rock world is no different, and direct them to artists like Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott.
I know the music we hear on urban contemporary radio is a far cry from the energy and creativity of the movement that started forty years ago, but I still appreciate it. It’s interesting to see how music changes from year to year, and to speculate on how it reflects our society.
Here are three trends I’ve noticed recently.
- Humor and decent music aren’t mutually exclusive.
We know this. In the rock world we had Frank Zappa. In the pop world we have Weird Al. Hip-Hop has a sense of humor, too. Consider the popularity of LMFAO. Their name and appearance mark them as a comedy duo rather than a serious musical act, but their tracks “Party Rock Anthem” and “I’m Sexy and I Know it” are still popular in the clubs and on the airwaves.
The rap world has always placed a high value on clever rhymes, wordplay and cultural mockery, proving that you can be funny and danceable at the same time.
- Hip-hop is losing its hate.
Maybe something shifted the day Eminem decided to record with Elton John. Yes, there was a time when the hip-hop world seemed to align themselves with an anti-gay agenda. To those who want to dredge up those unfortunate lyrics now, I have two words for you - Adair Lion. And here’s another two words – Same Love.
- What a difference a real estate crash makes.
It’s interesting to see how the economy drives cultural trends, and how cultural trends are reflected in music. In 2002 at the height of the housing bubble I had to tell my middle-schooler that we would not spend $100 on a pair of Air Force Ones for him, even though Nelly had to have two pair.
Now, in 2013, post-crash, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are off to the Thrift Shop with $20 in their pocket and it’s effing awesome.
At my age it would be easy to bury myself in music from my youth, or to stick to one favorite genre to the exclusion of all others. If I did that, though, I think I would be missing some cool stuff.
The masses may sometimes be asses, but just because something is popular or mainstream doesn’t automatically make it shallow and cheap. Listening to the tight rotation of modern FM radio is annoying, and, yes, overly commercial. But America’s favorite songs reflect where we are right-now-this-minute as a culture. Today during morning drive we hear “no freedom ‘til we’re equal” and that it’s awesome to thrift shop. I’m good with that.