Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Whose Prerogative?

Musical taste is immensely affected -- not quite, but almost, determined -- by one's generation. I'm referring to popular music here, not to Bach and Brahms. So, the pop sounds which dominate so much of the airwaves today seem repetitive and uninteresting to me, while the R&B-based music which occupies so much of my shelf (Burden, King, Joplin, et al.) is a bore to many younger listeners. At least the pop genre isn't downright aggravating to me, which probably means it isn't doing its intended job. (There are other types of contemporary sound which succeed, but no one has tried to inflict much of it on me lately.) I think there is something else at work in this generational divide, though, that wasn’t there in previous ones.

Stagecraft always has been part of show biz, but until recently it wasn't dominant in popular music. Sinatra had few stage accessories other than a microphone and a spotlight. ZZ Top’s distinctive appearance makes little difference at a show other than to help us identify them as the real thing. It's the sound that matters. For most current performers, however, the staging matters a lot, sometimes far more than the sound. Fans can be unforgiving when a singer or group stumbles on live performances, as when Britney was so famously unrehearsed and out of shape one occasion a couple years ago. This puts harsh demands on current acts to be well choreographed and sexy at all times. Music alone doesn’t sell albums. Consequently, the odds of modern pop stars having careers to match that of, say, Peggy Lee, who in her 70s sang Fever to full audiences from a wheelchair, are, to put it gently, low.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, this is Juliette from Myspace. Just wanted to say hello, and love the Peggy Lee bit at the end. I quite agree. :)