Some people born in 1990 listen to certain current pop recordings and can’t relate to the way they sound. That goes double for someone born in 1975, maybe triple for someone born in 1960, etc.
This is because of things like differences in the way songs are put together now, the rhyming… And, most especially, the sound of the recording. When it comes to listening to newer music, that’s the biggest obstacle. (I’m not talking about the sonics so much as the sounds and combinations of the instruments and vocals.)
Just looking at the mainstream, in the 20th century if you grew up on the Big Bands it was hard to comprehend Bebop. If you loved mid-20th century jazz and popular music, rock and roll was primitive and weird sounding (The Beatles were a shock).
If you grew up on rock, then ’70s pop and disco was repulsive… and, if you came up loving pop and disco, punk was unpleasantly strange and amateurish (though intentionally so).
If punk or glam was your music growing up, hip hop and rap – music with machines making the rhythm and containing relatively little melody – might have sounded bizarre and foreign. And now, early hip hop and rap sounds charmingly simple next to the abstraction in words, music, and sound that’s part of a lot of current pop.
Yet all of these ‘aberrations’, which sounded so strange to previous generations, eventually became part of the mainstream. A listener who hated a certain kind of music that came after their prime musical listening period might still hate it but, after hearing it enough, it didn’t sound so alien and off-putting. In some cases it became downright comforting and enjoyable.
A songwriter friend of mine recently told me that he likes a lot of what’s going on in current pop songs, but that he “can’t get past the sound”. This is probably the most common reason why people who are used to some other sound can’t get into whatever’s contemporary – the sound of it is just too weird and unfamiliar; scary (in a not-fun way) rather than reassuring.
Each generation comes up with a new definition of what sounds beautiful. And they need for it to be different from their parents’ beautiful.
So I think that if you’re interested in appreciating and being excited and inspired by whatever’s going on now – the constantly evolving now – you have to make a conscious effort to “get past the sound” and hear the heart and soul that beats beneath it.
After all, you’re going to be used to it in 10 or 20 years… You’ll hear it played at weddings and parties and restaurants… It’ll start to seem familiar… and then you’ll start to appreciate it.
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