atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

Stupid Music

At work I am frequently subjected to some of the worst music in the universe.

Much of the worst of it is either rap, soul, or R&B. The reaons for it being bad are numerous, but all of these songs have, as their singular feature, incredible stupidity.

Example? Oh, how about this:

my hump, my hump my hump, my hump my hump, my lovely lady lump is really entertaining because I was looking for the lyrics of the song, and instead the first page is nothing but people complaining about what a fucking retarded song this is.

Here's a song that I can best describe by resorting to pseudo-BASIC:

10 Sing"You do"
20 goto10

...actually it's not quite that bad, because occasionally they sing "'cause you do the things I never do" in there somewhere. There are also verses but they only seem to be sung once in the song, so you hear this over and over and over again for most of the song:

'cause you do the things I never do
you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do
'cause you do the things I never do
you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do
'cause you do the things I never do
'cause you do the things I never do
you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do, you do

...and the "you do" part consists of about four notes, total.

It is the ultimate champion of repetition. But close on its heels is "I'm in Love With a Stripper". I am assuming that's the title of the song. If it isn't, I would be surprised, considering that 90% of the song consists of the following line:

"I'm in love with a stripper [insert assorted backup vocal lines here]"

This one is especially vile for a panoply of reasons:

Don'tcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?
don'tcha wish your girlfriend was fun like me?
Don'tcha? Don'tcha?
Don'tcha wish your girlfriend was wrong like me?
Don'tcha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?
Don'tcha? Don'tcha?

The main reason it's vile (other than the relentless repetition) is that it's about a woman who is trying to convince a guy to give up his girlfriend for her...but not for a serious relationship; just for sex.

Other song lyrics which are achingly bad:

* "Bweedle bweedle bweedle! Bweedle bweedle bweedle bweedle bweedle bweedle! Bweedle bweedle bweedle! Bweedle bweedle bweedle bweedle bweedle!" I am not making this up. This is real. God save us all.

* "Oh naw naw naw, don't funk with my haww" (*okok, she actually is singing "heart" there, at least in theory--but that's how it sounds.)

* "Mmm, I like it like that, she workin' that back, I don't know how to act, slow motion for me..."

There are other songs which I have not discerned any usable lyrics from, too. Most of them use "music" which consists of a drum track and a synth lead of some sort--a simple synth lead, something which could be programmed into a sequencer and triggered by pressing the apppropriate key--so I imagine an alleged "musician" in the studio, pressing labeled synthesizer keys in order: "Okay, so from the top: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7--No, damn it, Gerald,
you only hit 7 after MC Mustypants sings the line about his dick!" *sigh*

As far as I'm concerned, the fact that these songs exist is alone the cause of an almost unendurable grief for the future of our culture. But Western Civilization has withstood worse; and even the fact that these songs are popular (in someone's estimation, anyway, leading them to sell these songs on a compilation disk) is not itself especially troubling.

In fact, I could easily ignore all of it if I didn't have to hear them all the god-damned time.

I like my music complex. I like the artists to be known for their ability to play an instrument, not just speak words that rhyme, rapid-fire. I like there to be variation in what is played and sung, not just from song-to-song (which is itself a challenge when it comes to rap, R&B, et al) but from line-to-line within the song.

I wish I was kidding about "from song-to-song", but on these compilation disks, usually one song will end, and when the next one begins, the drum track is exactly the same even though it's by a different artist. It's like all the songs are produced using the same drum machine, which is stuck on one setting.

For example, I wrote in an earlier entry about my love for Bach's music. You want complex? Try listening to one of the Brandenburg Concertos. These were originally arranged for a quartet of musicians, more or less, and each musician is doing his own thing during each piece. But each musician's part forms a greater whole; and the melodies played by the different instruments weave in and out of each other to form a tapestry of sound--and as I said in my earlier commentary, all the parts fit together as if precision-machined.

Many popular "vocalists" these days have to budget for tone correction. When a performance is tone-corrected, the entire thing is loaded into a computer, where the audio is processed such that the singer is singing in key.

Did Bing Crosby ever use tone correction? Mario Lanza? Judy Garland? Rosemary Clooney? Did any of the great vocalists of the past ever use it? No--because it had not been invented. If someone was going to be a great singer he--gasp!--actually had to be able to sing well all the time.

In rap music the vocalist is barely even singing, most of the time, anyway, especially when it comes to "bweedle bweedle bweedle".

I suspect that's why Ahslee Simpson had her shit-fit over the lip-syncing incident on Saturday Night Live--she probably can't sing in real life and didn't want everyone in the US to learn that fact during a live performance on TV.

Enya performed "May It Be" (insert song from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) on Leno and her voice wavered quite a bit. I couldn't figure out if that was due to nervousness or what. It was disappointing because it indicates she may use tone correction on her CDs; I thought she was better than that. (More on her in another entry, though; I have to critique her latest CD, Amarantine, and explain why I've listened to it exactly twice since buying it in December.)

Without the crutch of tone correction I suspect that many of the "pop divas" which exist in the music world today wouldn't be considered so good. The ululation that marks a "top vocalist" would probably all but disappear, since they wouldn't be able to cycle though the staff and still hit the notes correctly; I strongly suspect that the talent required to do that consistently--without tone correction!--is confined to a very narrow percentage of vocalists, a much smaller minority than exists in the music world today. And many of that minority would have received classical training, learning to sing in the operatic style, rather than just being "discovered" one way or another and going from the garage to the recording studio. Raw talent can only take you so far; it has to be trained--and trained well, requiring long hours of practice!--in order for it to turn into a real professional-level ability. Ask Eddie Van Halen how much time he spent learning to play the guitar. Ask John Williams how many years he studied music before he was able to write the movie soundtracks. Go talk to Itzhak Perlman and ask him how much practice he puts in on a daily basis in order to be able to play the violin the way he does. (Wow, I nailed the spelling of his first name on the first try. Yay me!)

I know all this as a fact, because I have spent so much time honing my own talent: I was always able to write creatively, but I spent literal years working on my writing...and the only way I could do that was to write, read what I wrote, cringe a lot (at least at first) and go back and fix the stuff that made me cringe. When you start out, you produce crap. You have to learn how not to produce crap, but it's trial-and-error, and if you get discouraged at the sight of crap--or, conversely, refuse to accept that you could possibly produce crap--you will never advance as an artist.

I've no idea how many times I've heard someone refuse to acknowledge that his output could be bad--or heard stories about someone with that attitude. One of my ex-friends thought his writing was the absolute best it could be; when he gave it to someone for a critique, what he actually wanted and expected was proofreading. His writing style then underwent a conscious evolution into, unfortunately, utter crap--inpenetrably purple prose which was so convoluted that the number of dangling participles just exploded. (This same person said that my writing sucked because I wrote "too much like Heinlein". Again, yay me, even though he immediately clarified, "And I didn't mean that as a compliment!" I'd rather write like someone who sold 11,000,000 books and is almost universally hailed as one of the greats of science fiction, than someone who can't even write a single paragraph without having a character lead an army into his own head....)

I don't know if it's my attitude or what, but when someone has something bad to say about my writing I'm usually happy to hear it. So many people have said so many nice things about my writing that the rare, "Well, I thought this and that was a problem...." is wonderful to hear.

You can't improve unless someone says to you, "Look, this really needs fixing"--you can't see all of your own mistakes--something where the critic is trying to help, not crush your self-esteem. (Not, for example, Harlan Ellison saying, "You suck. You will never be a professional writer. Don't even bother trying.")

My niece--who writes better than I did at her age--has the same attitude, I am relieved to see; she was thrilled to pieces when I told her what I thought was wrong with a fanfic she sent me. (She still owes me a batch of brownies for that critique, now that I think of it. She promised.)

My ex-girlfriend--who is some 3x the age of my niece--does not; she gave me her first novel when I had only just met her and it was monstrous, taking two reams of paper to print out. I gave her my standard critique; first I told her what was wrong with it, then I told her what was right with it, and finished with overall impressions. She didn't like hearing what I had to say about what was wrong with it, and never (as far as I know) took any of my suggestions.

Well, it's always up to the individual artist to decide what critique to listen to and what not to listen to; everyone's opinion is different and no one can agree on the exact definition of "good"--but people who cannot acknowledge the value of a negative critique will never learn anything new, and not improve.

As for pop music, it's a commodity. It's not meant to be art for the ages; rather it is meant to make people pay for digitized waveforms--and to pay for (allegedly) different ones from month to month. The music corporations depend on this; and since you cannot schedule the production of "great" music, we are spoon-fed this crap.

Or, rather, other people are, since I refuse to pay a single god-damned red cent for it. But I still get to hear it, don't I?


ADDENDUM 6/3/06, 1:45 PM:

How on earth could I have forgotten about THIS one???

I was gittin' some,
gittin' gittin' some,
I was gittin' some,
gittin' gittin' some,
I was gittin' some,
gittin' gittin' some,
From the kind of girl that makes you want to [unintelligible]

Truly, art for the ages. [rolleyes] I heard them play this one on the radio twice in half an hour.

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