As I get older, there aren't all that many things I think were better when I was a kid. I don't wax nostalgic for more innocent times. My childhood was painfully banal, boring to the point of depression. Weekends wandering the halls of the mall were the high point of my teenage years. Drinking too much took over as recreation as I hit high school. Technology changed my life for the better, moving to a city provided me with an energy source and inspiration that challenges me still. No, I don't look back all misty eyed, wishing for yesteryear.
Except, when it comes to music.
I sound like a crotchety grandmother (and in some places I'm old enough to be one) when I say, music today is generally awful. Watching the Grammy's last night, for the first time in many years, I was sad and shocked to see how little music there actually was. There was lots of spectacle. Insane costumes. Dancing troupes dressed as soldiers, as robots, as mechanics I think. Lots of screaming, posturing. Moments of hairography, which I only know about from giddily watching Glee. But the moments that resonated were either current artists trying (and not often succeeding) at re-interpreting older songs, or when veteran artists were on the stage. I had to laugh when Lady Gaga went piano to piano with Elton John. His songs resonate with feeling, with emotion, with (and I borrow this from Strictly Ballroom), musicality. She's most famous for outrageous outfits. He was famous for that too, but there was music of substance to back him up.
Where we the bands? Where were instrumentals? Where were musicians? Yes, they were were playing, but as back up, as support systems, not as the artists themselves.
I'm talking both last night and in general. Where are the artists who evolve with us, whose lyrics and melodies orchestrate our lives? Bands and artists who were far more than one hit (or several) wonders, whose music developed and changed. Right now, it's all about getting AS MUCH HYPE AS POSSIBLE before a spectacle burnout out. Or a barely noticed fizzle back to obscurity. I felt a twinge of sadness watching Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers—they're over but don't quite know it yet. And they're not coming back unless there's a major reinvention. Someone else has already taken their place.
Then again, music in general is different. We don't have to buy an album anymore. We hit the buy it now button on itunes and have exactly what we want, immediately. I remember saving up my 99 cents to head to Sam Goody's and buy the latest 45 I heard on the radio. My dad would drive me to the mall. I'd head up the escalator, stare at the wall of top 100 hits, buy my record and then would impatiently suffer the entire ride home, anxious to play my song over and over. Sometimes, I'd discover my yellow plastic 45 things would be missing or broken and I'd try to place the record in exactly the right spot on the turntable, so it would play.
Now it's immediate satisfaction.
I'm noticing this seems to be a theme lately and perhaps something I do think is missing these days. Anticipation. Build up. Wanting and waiting. When you can get amazon prime deliveries anytime, when you can stream movies on your computer, when you have Tivo, hulu, or shows on demand, specialness is lost. There was something lovely (ok, I saw it as more frustrating when I was 11) about waiting for the weekend, spending time with my dad, so excited to finally own this song that I loved and couldn't imagine living without. And then, finally having it, listening over and over until I memorized all the lyrics.
Am I saying people today aren't loving things as much as when you had to wait to be gratified?
I think I am.