Sunday, September 16, 2018


Pop radio in 2018 is enough to make you want to pull out your hair. An insipid girl army led by Taylor Swift, Drake-inspired mediocrity and Charlie Puth provide a colorless pastiche of ho-hum that's manifested by the likes of iTunes. But there are signs, maybe due to the fall of the format, that a renaissance is upon us. From Childish Gambino to Elle King, there is a new pop that's emerging and a sense that despite the corporate focus on the run-of-the-mill, pop (and rock as well) is not dead.

AM provides a forum for the phenomenal output of rock and pop over the past 50 years with far less emphasis on the music that has befallen us since the 1990s. Indeed, if there was a decade that I would dismiss, it would be the 90s. Of course, there's Radiohead, Tool, and Weezer, but with Cobain's death and the passing of the rock torch to the disappointing Peal Jam (one phenomenal LP and a thousand to follow that sound exactly the same – note the difference in Bowie), pop music has hobbled along. We've discussed in the past the exceptions, with Kid A and Weezer's Blue LP as good as anything from the 80s – indeed, OK Computer ranks with Dark Side – but no one will argue for the 90s as the greatest rock era.

All this sounds as if there weren't Nicki Minaj equivalents in the 70s, while there certainly were, and yet the 70s cavalcade of posts here on AM in the past several months show a wealth of diversity unheard of since. So let's bring this back around to the positive. It's amazing to me that an LP like Stevie Wonder's Innervisions (AM10) could provide a base for both LP and pop formats. Here was music as art for the masses – conceptual, political, accessible and overflowing with stellar musicianship, unparalleled songwriting, wrapped in a pop sensibility. We're not back there yet, but with the death of iTunes as the barometer of modern music comes what – keep your fingers crossed – may be a new era of musical integrity. All that said, it's so refreshing to see the charts veer away from Justin Bieber and Maroon 5 to find singles like "This is America," Jack White's "Over and Over and Over" and Death Cab's "Gold Rush."

My questions, though, remains, does this new renaissance have the legs to be remembered 40 years on the way that we relish in songs like "Livin' For the City," "What's Going On?" or my all-time favorite single, "Ventura Highway"? Indeed, look at the popularity of Weezer's cover of Toto’s "Africa;" never was there a more faithful tribute to the way it was.

The point, there's hope. Trump will be impeached; music, with the death knell of iTunes still ringing in our ears, will find its renaissance.     

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