I was watching VH1’s Top Twenty Video Countdown yesterday and noticed how blah and mass market most of the songs were. Among music aficionados, this is a common complaint – that trite tripe is all that gets airplay and the good musicians suffer in obscurity.
I’m not going to name any names when it comes to giving examples of musical drivel (after all, the Madonna I enjoy might be your fingernails on a blackboard). The point is that somebody is buying mass market music. And a lot of it. It wouldn’t be mass if it wasn’t selling.
As I watched VH1, the thought occurred that much of this music has great appeal to teenagers, who have quite a bit of disposable income for purchasing music. Without knocking teenagers (I have three), perhaps this type of music is starter music for them. It’s easy to digest, easy to play if you’re so inclined, and transmits the basics of popular music, from standard chord structures to simple lyric patterns.
When I was a teenager, I remember listening to David Bowie’s albums and not getting them. I didn’t care for the discordance I heard, or understand what was going on in the lyrics. The same occurred with a particular TV show. Monty Python was incomprehensible and just plain weird. As I’ve aged, I’ve developed an appreciation for both specifically and for more complex music in general.
We may have to grow into the type of music that doesn’t get a lot of commercial airplay. By the time we do that, we have less disposable income, so the offbeat doesn’t make as much money as the music we listened to as teens. And then nostalgia kicks in. The starter music we cut our teeth on is tucked into a special place in our hearts and we’ll repurchase it in an effort to mentally relive that time. Once again, the mass market music wins out.