The DEMOCRATIZATION of Music - Why TRENDS No Longer Matter
MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #29
ALL ABOUT IT
Since the beginning of popular music - and depending on how you define it that could mean hundreds of years ago, trends have been a thing. Whether due to music creators pushing through to the next or different level of composition, performance and production; or fans being attracted by something new and different, and/or wanting to jump on the latest bandwagon; or the powers that be - patrons, companies, journalists, critics - deciding what should be hot or what sells best ... what’s been constant is that new styles and ideas of music replace the old. A sound or style that was hot for a while can become cliche or passé, pushing out the old style to near extinction. It can happen subtly over a few years, or overnight in a blink.
At first, modern media and the internet sped up this turnover process - like it’s sped up everything. Then about 10-15 years ago, right around when streaming took over as the dominant way to absorb music, the whole thing reached an infinity point, and exploded. Trends started running into each other, overlapping, repeating, dying and regenerating, appearing and disappearing too quickly to take hold and push out anything else. In short, trends in music up and died.
When I was starting out in music, and for decades before and a little after, trends were so dominant that you had to be super plugged in to make sure you didn’t fall behind - or worse, get too far ahead. It put a whole other level of pressure on EVERYONE - creators, fans, sellers, chroniclers. You couldn’t just do or like any old thing. You had to keep track of what was currently hot, still hot but fading, totally gone, gone but retro cool again, up and coming, completely off the chart, or any number of other classifications. It was exhausting and suffocating and produced tremendous anxiety.
Once you’re on that track, it’s really hard to jump off. You get addicted to believing that it’s the only way to be relevant and succeed, and you’re afraid that if you hop off the track you’ll immediately be done for. So when that infinity point explosion happened, I didn’t notice at first. Then I sensed something was different. And once I became aware, it slowly hit me that IT. WAS. ALL. OVER. And it felt fucking great. Liberating.
I started hearing “out-of-time” production values – sounds, FX, ways of writing/singing/performing that didn’t fit into the trending pop landscape.This was initially just in indie music – lesser known acts out of the mainstream.So I didn’t think much of it.I figured it was creatives in their sandboxes building retro castles.Slowly – but really not that slowly – these sounds started showing up on the charts.First as novelties, and then as mini trends.At some point these mini trends bubbled up, overlapped, intertwined and burned off so rapidly that trying to call any one of them the “new trend” was pointless.This set off a wave of creation with little to no boundary.People were doing whatever they wanted as if it was all okay – because all of a sudden it WAS.Songs could sound like they were made in any recent decade, and as long as they were good they were accepted.
Now there are certainly still trends or movements in all areas of music – in the sense that creatives (producers, writers, performers) always have ears to the ground listening for awesome ideas to adapt.The difference is these are not ruling taste or ruling what’s “allowed” to be heard.They’re just there.
There are also still PEOPLE who need trends.If you look hard enough, you’ll find some article or post somewhere that tries to push a trend, and inevitably some people will latch onto that as the truth.It’s a security blanket, an easy way to feel plugged into and a part of something, if you can say THIS type of music is hotter than that old other type of music.But at this point it takes more effort to be that restrictive and exclusionary than it does to just open up and accept that IT’S ALL OKAY.
We all know people who seem either very determinedly rigid, or always wary and uncomfortable.Whether it’s about proximity, acceptance, or even just the mere mention, these people bristle at “otherness”.They resist human connection.They resist seeing how much they have in common with those “others”.They create boxes and put themselves and their perceived kind in one and everyone else in the other. At best it just lets them feel safer and more secure in who they are, and keeps whatever danger they feel exists at bay.At worst it gives them a reason to demonize, discriminate, blame, and put a host of negatives in that “other” box to justify their prejudice.
That shit takes a lot of energy – like how a frown is way harder to make than a smile.It takes WORK.It takes a constant vigilance of potential “threats” and “infiltrations” from ALL sources – IRL or URL.It takes constant SELF-monitoring to make sure you’re not slipping free from the self-constraints.Above all, it takes a CONSTANT SELF-DELUSION to deny reality, the truth, and the overwhelming consensus that the “TRENDINESS” of white-hood died out a long time ago.It’s now just one of dozens – hundreds – thousands – millions of strains of what we are and can be.So let’s all try to stop seeing boxes that don’t exist, trends that have no hold.Let’s turn that existential frown upside down and learn to accept that all of it – and all of us – are all okay.