This week I saw posted on a discussion about music creation the following comment...
Just sound replace everything, autotune the vocals, correct all midi for synths and quantize the drums and sterilize the music to the point where if the artist had put soul into it. Just remove it. Today’s music sucks so bad is why no one will pay for it. I could go on. (sic)
My first thought is where to start?
There's a number of things wrong about the statement, which is filled with the usual cliches, lacks historical context and is high in rhetoric but light on facts.
Now I'm hoping the author was overstating the point for effect, but if he wasn't then I think it may be time for them to leave the music creation industry.
Let's start with the first cliche about the use of tricks in the production process to cover up for no talent, be that quantizing, tuning, etc.
All new music uses these things? If you believe that then I can only conclude that you have a very limited listening pool. Take an album like Traveller, or From A Room by Chris Stapleton, new music that's filled with great songs, great playing, recording and mixing. This week there's the new Kooks album. The beautiful new album Evolution by Alexis Ffrench. Runaway by Passenger, great songs and great riffs for those who like pop which has nods to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. There's also a new Eminem album this week.
Now you might not like any of the albums I've mentioned, it might be a simple case of genre deafness, where people write off the music because it comes from a genre they don't like. Even if it is the case that you don't care for certain types of music that doesn't mean the songs aren't good, well performed, recorded and mixed. Don't mistake your taste or limited musical experiences as an assessment of the industry. When it comes to great songs and production it's in great shape.
Then there's the poor understanding of historical context.
For as long as we've been recording musical performances there have been good and bad ones. The medium may have moved from wax to digits but the history of recorded music is littered with stories of substandard talent making it onto recordings. Take the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York socialite who was convinced she could sing, she couldn't but that didn't stop her trying to make a career of it. There is a funny film starring Meryl Streep which is worth watching, although unhearing the singing afterwards is hard.
You may never have heard of Marni Nixon, but her voice is one of the most heard voices of some of the biggest Hollywood movies of all time. She replaced the voice of Natalie Wood in West Side Story and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, you won't find her credited for this and all the other replacement vocals as the studios wanted to do it secretly, Time magazine dubbed her "The Ghostess with the Mostest" so prolific her contribution was.
Many of us are old enough to recall the Milli Vanilli 'scandal' if one really wants to call it that. A German R&B duo who were caught lip-syncing.
The absence of talent and tricks to make up for the deficit are nothing new, far from it. Anyone who claims otherwise needs to learn their musical history rather than trotting out cliches that 'all modern music is bad.' When contextualized there is little truth in that cliche.
I think my biggest problem with this kind of cliche is that it undermines the great work of the talented writers, performers, engineers and producers working in the music industry. People like Andrew Scheps, Vance Powell, Mick Guzauski, Greg Wells, Richard Furch, Paul Epworth, I could go on, but these are just a tiny number of talented people working in this industry. I know that each one of them cares about talent and quality and doing their very best.
If you want to trot out the 'modern music' sucks cliche and you really believe it then I suggest you have two options. The first one is to make great music to counter what you think is substandard. The second one is to get out of the industry and let the talented people who are doing great work get on with it.
The real problem with modern music is that the people doing great work are getting little credit and very little money for their effort; if you really want to do something useful then help change that so we can continue to make great music... even if you don't happen to like some of the music.