Turn on any radio station playing “popular music” and it’s hard to not grimace, that is, if you have had any experience as a musician. To a person who has studied the history and techniques of music as an art and language, today’s pop music sounds like baby talk. When once a complex, multi-passage piece of music enthralled masses, today, a 3-minute, melody-heavy-but-substance-deficient diddy ranks atop the charts.
What happened to music? Why are the most accomplished artists the ones who possess lesser talent? Why aren’t musicians who push the limits of conventional music lauded?
The answer lies with the slow elimination of meaningful music education from schools. In typical school systems, music appreciation is taught to primary school students. Teachers will have their students practice songs with simple rhythms and melodies to establish a foundation for musical growth. But once the student reaches a certain age, usually around 10 years old, the student can decide if they want to continue studying music or playing an instrument.
Because not everyone sticks with music, the result is a large population of people whose brains have only been taught elementary-level music. Their brains seek out music they can understand. Knowing this fact, the music industry mass produces low caliber music that a child can understand.
In the early 2010s, electronic musician Avicii released a few albums, with two songs standing head and shoulders above the others. The first was “Levels”, a repetitious song that played on a melodic line that followed a descending major pentatonic scale. The other was “Fade into Darkness”, which followed suit and based its melody around an ascending major pentatonic scale.
Major pentatonic scales are among the most basic scales a musician learns, as all the notes are “easy”. Yet here were two major pop songs by the same artist that sounded, to trained ears, too similar. They achieved the same purpose and did nothing to challenge the listener.
Pop music today is simple because the masses can’t handle anything more. It’s a sad reality that the human race has progressed so far with technology and science education but has forgotten about the language of the world: music.