Recently, a friend asked me why I haven't written much about music. I'm always good for a rant, and music usually provides a spark. Lately however, the spark has fizzled. Why? Take a look at the artists who have the "Top Albums in the Region" as listed by the Inquirer today:
Ke$ha, (yes, she spells her name with a dollar sign) Susan Boyle, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Alvin & the Chipmonks soundtrack (what year is this?), Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna and Justin Bleber.
It reads like a list of TV contestants and gimmicky singers with more looks than talent.
It seems like the industry is built around TV shows, and if you aren't a winner on American Idol or some other such program, you don't have a shot.
I miss the days when I could go to a record store and listen to new music. Tower Records used to have a listening bar with headphones where new CDs would play. I loved the store on Broad & Chestnut. I'd always come home with something new and interesting. Now, there isn't even a music store in the local mall anymore! Radio plays the same old crap, and I've never been into pop music, and I don't watch those TV shows, so people like me are left in the dust. Now, I have to find something by accident, where I used to be able to hunt them down.
People like William Hung, Susan Boyle and that "pants on the ground" guy are signing recording contracts, while talented bands can't get their music on the radio. I can't explain that. I guess that part of it hasn't changed much, but the idea that you can show up for a TV show and win (pre-determined, if you ask me) suddenly vaults you to stardom. It seems like a lot of reward for no work - which is probably why it's appealing to the masses. The musical lottery.
The most interesting band I've heard in a while is Umphrey's McGee. I've seen them a couple of times at the Electric Factory, and they're coming back in February. Lots of jazz influence and a little like those old prog-rock bands of the 70s. You don't hear them on the radio, and Simon Cowell would probably kick them out of the room, which to me is a badge of honor.
Either way, it beats the Hell out of Ke$ia or Taylor Swift.