I enjoy a pretty broad range of music. It’s not just severe differences in genre [from Joshua Radin’s “Winter” to “Squeeze Me” by Kraak and Smaak], it’s stuff that spans several generations. From Elvis Presley to The Mamas & The Papas to Marvin Gaye, all can be my go-to depending on the day and my mood. In fact, it’s that appreciation for tunes through the decades that helps me enjoy so much of what’s on the cdza [or collectivecadenza] YouTube channel.
This isn’t a Fame Day post, so I’m not going to regale you all on why it’s so great. What I am going to do, however, is direct you to the very first video I saw by them. It’s called “History of Wooing Men”:
It was preceded by “History of Wooing Women”, and while it’s well-known that YouTube comment sections are one of the filthiest cesspits on the internet, the feedback from the majority of people fall along these lines-
In other words, “What happened to music?” and, to draw it out to its logical conclusion, “What is wrong with us as a culture?”. It doesn’t matter how old the commenters are [the two above look to be middle-aged], they all decry the swift decline of the art form. It’s not something I entirely agree with.
To begin by addressing Mr. Syphrit, the singer [Dylan C. Moore] “seemed a little unnerved” because she was acting. If you check out her website you’ll see that it’s something she does for a living. Furthermore, the reason for her acting was to make the video funnier. That’s right, it’s not enough for them to catalogue the progression of love songs through the ages [the effectiveness of which I’ll get to in a moment], but they strive to make it more entertaining through other means like her reactions, the introduction of the other actors, the champagne at the end, etc. [and which I don’t at all have a problem with].
As far as everyone else is concerned [including the channel itself, who begins describing the video with “It all went downhill after 1996.”] we should look at the songs chosen. I recognize pretty much every single track until . . . well, until the year they chose to spotlight.
All I can find on “Put It in Your Mouth” by Akinyele is the EP of the same name. According to Wikipedia it peaked “at #127 on the Billboard 200, #18 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and #5 on Top Heatseekers.” First watching the video was literally the first time ever hearing it.
Now I’ll give them the benefit of a doubt and assume that the reason I have no experience with it is because I was only six-years-old at the time. That said, the next particularly explicit song that I also don’t recognize is Khia’s “My Neck, My Back (Lick It)”, which reached 42 on the U.S. Billboard Top 100. There’s almost no information whatsoever on “Smell Yo Dick” by Riskay. All I can really find of any importance is that David Cross likes it.
That last song came out in 2008. I was 18, it was a time in my life where I was not only listening to a lot of music, but actively seeking it out. This song was nowhere even close to my radar. All of this is just the juxtaposition of disparate elements to create a greater contrast. Put more simply, they’ve cherrypicked extremes, even when they may not be comparable in terms of popularity. I mean, don’t tell me that “Smell Yo Dick” is more well-known than “Dream a Little Dream of Me”. I won’t have that.
With all that in mind, can we then compare songs that garner similar levels of attention and popularity?
I mean, the former was released for one of the best causes possible, while the latter was more than likely created to make money. It speaks for itself, right? We once lived in an era where love and beauty were of the utmost importance and we’ve digressed to the point where it’s booze and sex and drugs and just a little bit more sex.
Here’s another comparison to even things out:
Ah, so you’re telling me that there are examples of both throughout the centuries? That makes sense. Wait, you’re going even further and stating that the reason we believe the past had better tunes overall is because only the best rose to the top and is remembered?
Look at it this way- Who even remembers “I Kissed A Girl”? Katy Perry has delivered so many hits per year that it’s beyond me which of her songs will stand the test of time, if any. Will it be the heartbreaking “Thinking Of You”? My personal favourite “Legendary Lovers”? Honestly, who knows?
What we should all keep in mind is that terrible, derivative music has been around since the beginning and will never cease to exist. You can bet that the classical greats rose above their peers and basically obliterated them from the history books.
Having done the Lord’s work and provided everyone with some much-needed perspective, I should also mention that content-wise pop music has actually taken a pretty distinct turn. Here are a few charts which track the frequency of the words “Love” and “Sex” from the 60s to the present day:
If you visit the link featuring the rest of these you’ll see the other distinct trends, like the fact that “I Love You” is barely used nowadays. At the same time, our
usage of “We/Us” are comparable to the peaks of the 80s. Let’s also be fair, since “Weed” just wasn’t going to show up in the 60s. I mean, really.
While this is pretty indicative of what sells, it’s absolutely not representative of what is or isn’t being sung about overall. We have more musicians now than ever before [in part due to having a higher population, sure] and for every star there are dozens upon dozens who haven’t made it yet, and maybe never will. It’s not to say that they aren’t talented, just that exposure ain’t easy.
With that in mind take this brief moment to check out a YouTube musician I’ve been supporting for a number of years now:
Consider Billboards Hot 100 as of today. “Talk Dirty” by Jason Derulo and 2 Chainz is at #7. You know what the top two tracks are? “All Of Me” by John Legend and “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. A deep and soulful love song and a celebration of optimism. If you think about it, maybe we really can find and appreciate what’s good in the world, musically.