Music has a tendency to do one of two things: either it will create and define a culture, or it will echo and promote the current culture. If the past is any indication of the future, then there’s really no question of what’s coming next. Study the history of music over the last 100 years (and especially the last 60), and you will begin to see the patterns emerge.
The music of the 60’s (and even the 50’s to a degree) was all about rebellion and fighting against the current cultural values. While the top hits of 1955 were songs like “Mr. Sandman” by the Chordettes and “The Ballad of Davey Crockett” by Bill Hayes, ten years later the hits were songs like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones and “Mr. Tamborine Man” by The Byrds. Instead of embracing the values of religion, family, duty and service, the music instilled the new values of “Sex, Drugs and Violence.” The youth of the 50’s and 60’s looked at what their parents’ were doing (the segregation of blacks, the horrors of war, etc…) and didn’t like what they saw. This new “counter-cultural” music influenced an entire generation that extolled virtues such as equal rights, peace and free love.
The “life’s a party” mentality emerged strongly in mid 70’s and 80’s with hits like “Get Down Tonight:” by KC And The Sunshine Band and “Walk Like An Egyptian” by The Bangles. Now, instead of embracing the altruistic views and sense of service, it became about looking out for number one and self-gratification. Music was pushed heavily as a commodity. A lot of it was watered down and over produced.
The 90’s brought us back to a more raw and visceral sound rebelling against the greed and conglomeration that was rampant in the 80’s (Pearl Jam and Nirvana were very much against the commercialization of their music). The music spoke to a lost generation who grasped for answers but never applied the solution. Whether due to complacency, lethargy, or ignorance, it lacked the activism of the 60’s. During this time we looked to the very institutions causing the problems to solve the issues for us. The music became even more of a commodity, resorting back to the cookie-cutter model yet again.
Now we come to the present day, where we’re standing on the brink of a new rock revival. The music today is once more about partying and self-gratification (Lady Gaga???), and the backlash will be rebellion. It won’t be enough to just point the finger and hope something gets done. The new wave of music will actually empower people to do something about their situations. The rebellion will come with a cause and action plan.
If you want to set this “new” emerging trend, I would encourage you to evaluate the current values in our culture and go in the other direction. You will not be able to offer generalities or finger pointing. You must be authentic and provide solutions. If you are able to that, you will be among the rare artists that are able to create and define a culture rather than merely echoing the current trends.
Cary Crichlow, Senior Producer and Engineer
RCR Recording Studios