26 October 2009

Standard Rock Radio

Just a quick thought about mainstream rock/pop music:

I'm so confused by it. Is it good? Is it bad? What is it?

I love Rob Thomas so much as a person and used to really dig Matchbox Twenty back in the day but I really have no idea what to make of his music now. I was watching VH1's Jump Start music video block this morning and saw his new music video for the single "Someday" and really enjoyed it but just wasn't sure to make of the song itself. Why is it that all of his songs are starting to sound the same? Even if that sound isn't particularly bad it's starting to go viral..

Doesn't Chris Daughtry and David Cook and Nickelback and all the others sound just like this? Granted, I'm not the first to comment on this commercialized corporate rock pattern but with my newfound love of Train it concerns me. Listening to their old hits (of which I'm pretty sure every single track they've ever put out has been), it reads like a list of standard, mundane rock tunes you'd turn to on any lite FM station or "80's, 90's and today" channel. Songs like "Meet Virginia", "Drops of Jupiter", and "Calling All Angels" are genuinely good but they have that monotonous sound of all the others. I am madly in love with the lyrics to some of these songs but they lack some oomph for the most part. "Hey Soul Sister" is obviously very different but is that just because of the distinct drums perhaps? I'm not sure.

Songwriters like Rob Thomas and Train's Pat Monahan are respectable because of their impressive writing skills.. maybe Monahan for his vocals but I don't think many people are particularly enthused to admit that they are gigantic Train or Matchbox Twenty fans - it's frankly a little embarrassing and I hate when that happens in music. These songs are certainly crafted in a specific way that took a lot of people a long time but it's just a shame that they almost completely lack any cool factor. They are mom rock at best and uncool blandness at worst - but the worst part is that there are talented guys behind this kind of music. Why do they insist on creating fluff on a lower level than Britney Spears? (which reminds me that Pink is also an impressive artist that doesn't get enough credit for her ACTUAL talent: writing)

Bottom line: I want to like Rob Thomas and Train but they make it too hard to even try.


Anonymous said...

you know... it's probably not the music industry, it's probably you!

I'm old and just coming round to the point where everything is good again after years of only listening to music from "back when it was good".

The problem is, and I should point out that I'm always prepared to offer an opinion even when one isn't asked for, is that as an aspiring music journalist you absolutely require the ability to be enthusiastic about music long after everything starts to sound the same.

Unless you want to become a music snark you have to look beyond the "Z sounds like X meets Y" and be the glass half full observer that gets excited by what little shred is different.

There are only seven basic story plots and about three of them ever make it into most songs but we turn a blind eye and get excited by what's new because if we didn't we'd all still be listening to nothing but Eddie Cochrane and Bob Dylan. :)

A.D. said...

I appreciate the feedback actually!

I think I went a little overboard in this post because I was angry about Train: I wanted to get more of their music and when I listened to the 30 second samples online they were mostly songs I typically turn off on the radio or other deeper cuts on the album that sounded very similar - I was expecting a little more because I love their new record..

And typically I get OVER excited about new music of varied genres so it's extra disappointing when something I anticipate to sound great doesn't live up to my expectations. I bought Rob Thomas's "Streetcorner Symphony" when it came out hoping to love it as much as I love him and it didn't pan out for me either.

I usually don't find this to be the case though. I'm definitely an advocate of new music of all kinds and usually can find something to like in all genres. Take Kris Allen for example: I wasn't sure what to expect from him. Like Daughtry and David Cook before him in this area, I thought it might be a little copycat but he came out with a song unique and slightly genius in its delivery (in my opinion at least).

While I definitely feel that other bands such as Cold War Kids and The National, ones that have totally different sounds, should be more widespread, I recognize that these bigger acts - like Nickelback - do have large followings and have talent as well. But I'm also not the first to say that most sound similar to one another. I can't help my feelings on that. Once again, I'm just disappointed that bands I like such as Matchbox Twenty and Train have to follow suit when their talent is tremendous and should be used as such.

Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, I could never turn a blind eye though to anything in music when I know how many amazing sounds are being created everyday and how many we already have the option of listening to if we search hard enough for it. Every week I find new music that blows my mind for all the right reasons and those are the standards I carry with me. All music is doing its job if someone out there loves it though and I recognize that as well. You are right - there's some great music being made today but not all of it is on the radio, some of it is still hiding behind the bushes waiting to be found.

Thank you so much for writing. I rarely receive comments with such passion in them.