About This Blog

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the greatest economist of my time. His greatest works can be accessed here at no charge.

Mises believed that property, freedom and peace are and should be the hallmarks of a satisfying and prosperous society. I agree. Mises proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prospect for general and individual prosperity is maximized, indeed, is only possible, if the principle of private property reigns supreme. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. When the line between yours and mine is smudged, the door to conflict opens. Without freedom (individual liberty of action) the principle of private property is neutered and the free market, which is the child of property and freedom and the mother of prosperity and satisfaction, cannot exist. Peace is the goal of a prosperous and satisfying society of free individuals, not peace which is purchased by submission to the enemies of property and freedom, but peace which results from the unyielding defense of these principles against all who challenge them.

In this blog I measure American society against the metrics of property, freedom and peace.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What's Up With Today's Pop "Music?"

I'm a baby boomer. I grew up listening to Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, the Beatles, Brenda Lee, Aaron Neville, the Rolling Stones and the Supremes. The music was fantastic. The songs were great. They had rhythm as well as beat...melody was king. You'd hear a song, say by Johnny Cash, and it stuck in your mind forever. You whistled the melody. Hell, Lou Rawls, Jack Jones and even ol' Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra were still making recordings of the great American Songbook. It seemed every genre of music -- Pop, Country, Blues, Motown -- were at the peak of their game, churning out the music they're selling now on TV through Time-Life.

Nowadays I can't play the car radio. The music is bland, no melody, repetitive...boring! Lyrics -- if you can understand them for the shouting -- are tedious. Music today reminds me of the folk music of Joan Baez with a faster beat and childish lyrics. Taylor Swift, Katie Perry, Rihanna, Keith Urban...they all sound the same to me, cookie cutter songs written by computer. Every genre nowadays is infected by this melody-less boredom. Of course, I can't claim to be an expert on rap, hip hop, alternative, punk, goth, metal and other nouveau genres that masquerade as music. Sorry, I can't listen to them.

Even considering the great music I grew up with, my favorite music is the music of the Big Band era, the 1930's, '40's and early '50's. To me, this was the golden age of American music. This was the era when guys like Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, Harry Warren, Gus Kahn, Rogers and Hart and Cole Porter (to name a few) were in their prime. These were the best composers and lyricists who ever breathed.

Moreover, the music was arranged and presented by musical geniuses, like Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Harry James...too many to name and do them all justice. Furthermore, the singers who sang the music were one-of-a-kind talents, like Frank Sinatra, Vaugh Monroe, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, Doris Day, Jo Stafford, Helen O'Connell, Helen Forrest, Vera Lynn...again, way to many to mention them all.

Truly, if this era was the Golden Age of American music, I don't know what today's era qualifies as.

On the other hand, I am occasionally surprised. The 2010 song of the year, "Need You Now," by Lady Antebellum is written in the traditional verse/chorus style and has a great melody. Lady GaGa can carry a tune with the best of them (if she'd cut the crap!). There are others, but, sadly, they are few and far between. Here's "Need You Now."

Here's Nat King Cole singing "Stardust." Note the lengthy verse at the start of the song. The relatively melody-less verse gives way to the high-melody chorus later on. Today's music reminds me of endless verse with no chorus.

Allow me two more. Listen to Peggy Lee singing with Benny Goodman at both the start of her career and the Second World War. I think she was about 20 years old at the time. Note the beautiful dulcit tones of Benny's clarinet. Note also that the first half of the song is instrumental, with the vocalist joining in the second half. This was customary in the times because the bands, musicians and arrangers were so talented.

Lastly, listen to Artie Shaw's rendition of "All The Things You Are" from 1939. The vocalist is Helen Forrest, perhaps the best big band singer of the era. Note how she sings the song purely and honestly without the grandstanding "runs" of modern day exhibitionists like Christina Aguilera. Again, the first half of the song is instrumental, highlighting Shaw's great clarinet and band.


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