Friday, October 8, 2021

MEDIOCRE MEDIOCRITY

 Yes, I agree. Musical styles, genres, you name, need to change to remain relevant in the march of history scurries towards an always uncertain future. The idea is that whatever art one loves that had its origins in the marketplace will remain relevant and, dare we say the word? relevant. That's the hope, and it's a fact that popular music styles have been altered, adapted, extended, made simpler by younger artists picking up the task of creating sounds for the ears of the buying public. Still, the mergings of whatever "old school" with the taste of the current crop of teens currently glutting the marketplace haven't always been smooth, pleasant, or, bottom line, interesting.  Cruel to say, but heavy metal under any of its specialized micro-genres is a dead end. Rap and hip-hop are fashion cliches these days. Jazz, it can be said, is graduating to the classical concert hall, elevated as art music, which means smaller audiences and grants from whatever federal or local government agencies. Speaking of the evolution of country-rock fusion, it seemed some years ago that the movement has gotten to the point where the songs, the arrangements, are painted by numbers affair, a kind of assembly line professionalism where songs contain elements of rock and country--power chords, blues guitar licks, hard backbeats for rock, pedal steel guitars, fiddles, harmonica flourishes for the country--that lack all authenticity or conviction. I am thinking specifically of Shania Twain, a Canadian who is an outstanding example of country pop-rock that has been grimly calculated to appeal to a broad audience. Quantity, remember, reduces quality. It seems the same thing that happened to the exhilarating genre of jazz-rock when in a short period, it got formalized to a very recognizable set of riffs, solos and resolutions, all-flash, speed, and no improvisation. "Rock this Country" likewise is all riffs and no heart, teeter-tottering between the rock accents and the country lilts. It is a Frankenstein monster, neither alive nor dead, merely ganglia of nerves pulling the beast in different confused directions. It's an apt metaphor; the producers are so obsessed with making sure the dissimilar parts are balanced that we think of the hulking movie monster learning to walk.


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