Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Who Stole The Soul II? (Very Little Has Changed)

I've got a new plaything. It's really not new because some of you have probably been using this for a while. It's called Pandora. Pandora is an automated music recommendation service and custodian of the Music Genome Project. Users enter a song or artist that they enjoy, and the service responds by playing selections that are musically similar. Users provide feedback on their approval or disapproval of individual songs, which Pandora takes into account for future selections.

While listening, users are also offered the ability to buy the songs or albums at various online retailers. Over 400 different musical attributes are considered when selecting the next song. These 400 attributes are combined into larger groups called focus traits. There are 2,000 focus traits. Examples of these are rhythm syncopation, key tonality, vocal harmonies, and displayed instrumental proficiency.

However, I'm not really writing about Pandora per se... Pandora just helps me find a lot of music that I used to love and songs just like it. While you can stream it on your mobile phone, iPad, or what have you, I access it through my computer.

As you can probably guess, I use it to find rare R&B (or Soul Music) cuts from the 70's, 80's, and 90's and rare hip-hop from the 80's and 90's. There is not too much from the past ten years that I call up and the reason why is sadly because so much of the newer music doesn't interest me anymore.

At first, I thought it was just because I'm getting older, but then I started hearing chatter on Facebook and other blogs by people young enough to be my kids that they are also less than satisfied with the state of today's music.

I was reading a post by 12Kyle in which he stated that today's music and it's artists are all about profit, getting paid, and extremely less and less about putting out good music. He said that they are only interested in putting out one good single where in the past you got an entire albulm of good music.

He brought up a humorous point that goes along with one observation I made a few years ago... Nowadays, you'll hear more about a collaboration and "who" produced "what" than what is actually on an album. I also noted a few years back that there were more engineers on a track than actual musicians.

Autotune (which I deplore) takes care of pitch and tone problems. It makes "singers" out of people who can't hold a note and takes real singers (like Usher and Mary Mary, who unfortunately use it) and makes you scratch your head.

Why would they waste their obvious talent with the gimmick of the moment? There are other gimmicks that help people who have no talent cover that up and slick marketing which hypnotises you into buying or downloading music that generally sucks, for lack of a better word.

So, in a world where apparently nobody has anything interesting to say, we get boring, unchallenging music... which makes my love for Pandora grow even more. I just call up all of the truly inventive good music I know/knew and Pandora calls up like music with no stale substitutes. I withdraw from this reality and languish in the music of my past.

I get people who can really sing without autotune and gimmicks; musicians who can (and actually do) play instruments... not samples and loops played ad nauseum; real songs that meant something and were actually written by somebody and not by a producer and several people who never met but have to be credited because their original song was sampled and looped on to a clever hook; and rappers like Rakim, Chuck D, Biggie, and Pac who took their craft seriously and actually had something to say.

Don't get me wrong... Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Anthony Hamilton, Angie Stone, Leela James, Seal, Jaheim, Erykah Badu, Sade, Jill Scott, Maxwell, and even Drake are some of the contemporary artists that I call up on Pandora from time to time, but these artists are few and far between.

Still, hopeful person that I am, I still wish for the next big thing and hope that it's real and pure. It is, after all, a new decade.


CurvyGurl ♥ said...

I hear ya, Keith. I've been so disenchanted lately that I've contemplated ending my little music blog. There's simply very little that stands out these days...what a shame.

vincee101 said...

Total agreement, brother. All of my radio presets are programmed to old school R&B. I feel so sorry for today's kids because they missed it. The 70's and the early part of the 80's music was the bomb! Those cats could say whatever they wanted without gratuitous profanity or obscenity. We had groove back then, a band had to be funky. If you weren't up and dancing when the bass player plucked the first few notes, or the horn section hit their opening riffs, it wasn't happening. And the subject matter!

Thank God for the Pandora's, Youtube's and itunes of the world because that's where you'll find it nowadays.

SLC said...

So on point. At this moment, my 11 year old son's favorite album is Songs In the Key of Life, and his favorite song is Share My World by DeBarge. Most of the music I purchase nowadays comes via download from Amazon.com, based on what I listen to on Pandora.

Today live concerts require laptops instead of instruments.

Felicia Monique said...

Pandora is the ish! She seems to know exactly what you need to hear ...

Btw, I didn't know my boy Usher uses autotune! So not cute!

Keith said...

@Felicia - He's used it on at least one song on his new CD.


"Mommy, can I go to Timmy's blog and play?"

Click on image to enlarge for reading

Click on image to enlarge for reading

Click on image to enlarge for reading