Listening to the radio as I was driving to the gym I heard the DJ comment that the next song he was going to play was over ten years old, and it stunned him to make that realization.
However, he wasn't stunned because he hadn't realized ten years had passed since the release of the tune, but rather because, as he put it, "It sounds contemporary, as if it was a new song."
It hit me then that the DJ had it backwards - it wasn't that song that was sounding contemporary, it's the new releases sounding stale, dated.
Popular music is in a rut.
If you were listening to the radio in 1970 what you would be hearing would be dramatically different than what had been playing on the radio in 1960. Anything on the radio in 1980 was a far cry from what had been popular in 1970...and again, in 1990, the music on the radio had a decidedly different sound than what you heard in 1980.
However, about that time (1990)it was becoming evident that popular music was beginning to become overtly imitative of itself. The phenomenon started sometime in the mid '80's, as rap acts started lifting rhythm tracks and riffs from older songs, everything from old Motown R&B baselines to samples of Heavy Metal guitar solos.
Sampling became the primary means of composing songs for a number of Rap acts, from the Beastie Boys to Tone Loc to NWA.
Musicians have "borrowed" from other musicians since the dawn of recorded music - hell, one of the songs deemed crucial to the formation of Rock & Roll, Johnny B. Goode, recorded by Chuck Berry in 1958, features an opening guitar riff that is lifted note-for-note from the song Ain't That Just Like A Woman recorded by Louis Jordan in 1946.
These days, the more I listen to new music on the radio the more I find myself saying, "Man, this group sounds just like _____ from 1983" Or some such variation of that observation.
Music needs another shake up, needs another Chuck & Elvis, another Lennon & McCartney, another Motown & Stax, another Strummer/Jones.
Music, to swipe a line from the Nicholson Joker, needs an enema.
Popular music has always had people, usually agents or producers, who would immediately hop on a bandwagon once it was rollin' and put out something similar. Music is a business, and there is nothing more common in business than imitation of success. Whenever any style of music becomes
And cash is king. It has got to be tough for a band with a new sound to get a break these days.
Nowadays it seems that, instead of just a song style or a band/performer that is being mimicked, it's an entire genre. I have heard recent music that has reminded me of specific quantified sounds. For example, Bruno Mars, who I like a lot, is basically a hybrid of Motown and early '80's New Wave.
Listening to the radio has gotten a lot like going to the movies. The influences are so prevalent, it's hard to find anything original.