Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Worst

So with a 38th birthday closely approaching, it seems as good a time as any to ponder my role as a fan in the vast and ever growing space of pop culture related interests.  With music, for right or wrong, I seem to have chosen a path where it honestly has not been a concerted effort to abandon the classic rock faves of my childhood or to ignore the current mainstream music network best sellers.  It just seems my taste has taken me in a direction where I can count on both hands the number of artists before 1977 that I still actively listen to, and aside from maybe the first few seasons, I really have no sense for which artists in mainstream music have come from shows like American Idol.

I was scanning TV channels recently and landed on one of the music networks, and in a weak moment where they seem to have accidentally played a music video somewhere between episodes of The Hills and Brooke Knows Best, I suddenly became aware of quite possibly the worst band I've ever heard.  Something called Daughtry.  So the first self check I perform in these situations, is the Old Guy Reasonableness test.  Is this band or song really that terrible, or am I becoming that guy who just doesn't get this wacky rock and roll the kids are listening to these days.  I've had some reasonable feedback from twenty somethings or younger over the last number of years to suggest that my cred is still pretty decent and my taste is fairly progressive and evolving.  So, I move along from a possible knee jerk reaction to the conclusion that Daughtry are in fact just shitty.

What makes music like this the absolute worst type of sonic landfill is the complete uncompromising lack of sincerity.  When you have to work so hard through contrived vocal gymnastics to give the illusion of emotion, in absence of anything remotely sincere to sing about, it's usually a clue that a major label is about to call, and you're about to get a contract.  Apparently this guy was on Idol.  Now that I know that little tidbit, it all makes a bit more sense, but no less forgiveable.  It also prompts a common chicken egg question.  Do people like music like this because they're not being given more interesting options by mainstream providers?  Or, does mainstream media produce such uninventive music because the mass audience has become incapable of digesting anything other than spoon fed faux emotion? A third alternative is that most people don't obsess over every detail in music like some arseholes with blogs, and just enjoy whatever's playing the background.  Also fair.

What I do know is when an artist is trying too hard, because they know what they want something to project rather than just being themselves.  The guy seems to have good pipes, but the soft vocals over basic acoustic chords, with a build to power chords over the money vocals is just part of what makes music like this the absolute worst.  The over polished videos with close ups on the singer's face as he puppies up on the soft parts with big eyes and then grimace with eyes closed over the parts that are supposed to drive home all the really important things he has to say.  But that's the thing.  I don't believe these guys and they don't make me want to care about them.  Not for a second.

"Well, I never saw it coming.  I should've started running.  A long, long time ago.  And I never thought I'd doubt you, I'm better off without you.  More than you, more than you know."

Is he really better off without her?  Personally, whoever she is, I think she might have gotten the better end of things in that split.  Even if you allow for people who just like how stuff sounds, don't care about words, and love music as background distraction - all fair enough, what about the people who have been duped to think this guy really is speaking some heavy truth because some high priced producer has created enough formulaic peaks and valleys that it somehow must legitimize Daughtry as this generation's Dylan for people who've never heard The Weakerthans or Death Cab For Cutie.

What has happened with the inevitable recognition of my vintage, is that I've mellowed and matured enough to recognize music like Daughtry with much improved perspective.  It used to be if someone didn't want to hear Radiohead, there was a good chance they wouldn't, but if I didn't want to hear Celine Dion, inevitably walking through a mall I would hear her over the top screeching blasting through a ceiling speaker.  Now, the tables have turned to a more equal footing.  Daughtry is clearly a star with hits and sales, yet I had never heard of him because now you can bury yourself in the internet with all the interesting and ground breaking music, and never ever have to hear stuff like this.  I'm glad the guy's making a buck and I hope his music makes people happy, but this sound is the epitome of what's wrong with modern music and why major labels aren't signing bands like Pixies or The Cure anymore.