Tag Archives: video killed the radio star

Whatever Happened to Suburban Rhythm?

The old song goes “Video Killed The Radio Star”.  It was the very first music video shown by MTV in 1981, and it’s a classic.  But it’s inaccurate.

I submit to you the following question: When did modern pop music turn to crap?

Now, of course the answer is going to vary from person to person depending, in large, to personal musical preferences.  But I’d like to say that pop music died as soon as music label companies thought they could get us to like whatever they thought we should, instead of finding what we DID like and just making it more accessible.

This post was supposed to go in a different direction entirely.  I was going to write about how I missed all the great suburban rap artists that I grew up with as a kid and how catchy their music was.  These guys made music for white kids selling lemonade to enjoy.  It wasn’t hard core gangster rap, and that was OK; at the time the “harder” artists had their own niche to fill and they did well, too.

I was going to write about how I missed those days of laid back hip hop and the good feeling that listening to music would give you.  That was the plan, right up until I was driving back to work from lunch and tried listening to the radio.  In all my presets, only one station was playing a song.  I didn’t know what the song was (the voice wasn’t familiar), but it filled me with rage.  It’s now on my list of “most annoying songs”.  I have no idea what the girl was yelling about (calling it singing would be a bit of a stretch), but evidently she wanted people to know that wasn’t her name.

Maybe she thought singing about her name would garner positive results.  It doesn’t work for everyone, since not all of us are lyrical geniuses.

Somewhere along the lines, a person was put in charge of finding the next big thing that everyone would be groomed to love and bring them into the spotlight.  This worked for a time, and we found new artists and loved them.  But then it kept growing, and growing, and growing until we were expected to love them before we’d even heard what they are capable of.  If we don’t love them immediately, they are thrown by the wayside.

Case in point; ever watch the WB?  Neither did I.  If you did, you’d note that every other episode of nearly every show had a special appearance by some band-of-the-month.  Few of these were well established bands.  Typically a music scout would find some band who was supposed to be the next big thing, sign them into contract, put together 4-5 songs, play the crap out of them on the radio, and book them on the show.

Since the studio who made the show also owned the record label, no extra money was paid to the artist and no extra expenses were ever used to promote the song.  Win-win from an exec’s standpoint.

Shortpacked.com by David Willis

Shortpacked.com by David Willis

Now, I know that my favorite band in the world (The Barenaked Ladies) got their big break into the US scene with “The Old Apartment” and played it on 90210 back in the day.  Believe it or not, that was unusual at the time and was considered fresh and unique.  The first sign that it shouldn’t be done too often is that Fox Network pioneered it.

For the record, Barenaked Ladies lived on past that initial showing on 90210 by doing things their own way and not following the record label’s every order.  So much so, that they split off from the label and created their own.

The worst part of all this is that I’m no longer the target audience for pop music.  Even when I was the target audience, I was older than the current target.  Young ‘tweens have somehow become the spending force in our economy and we bow down to their mentally defunct tastes.