Rocket Surgery #3 – “Give Life Back to Music”

By: Antawn Salinas

Twitter: @Antawn_Salinas

Music is one of those things that is important to almost everyone. We all have those artists and genres that we float to. I personally love stuff like rock, electronic, and rap, but I’m not a fan of trap music, or country (I don’t hate them, but I get to that later).

Whether you pay a ton of attention or you are just a casual listener, we all have our own problems with music, and I have many, most of it having to deal with modern music, the past 10 or so years. Some of the problems with modern music are problems it has always had over decades. If you like any of the bands or artists I criticize on here, good. Don’t let me stop you from enjoying them. I’m just here to point out what I see as wrong or bad and maybe help open a few people’s eyes.givelifebacktomusic

The Genre Problem – Just like movies and video games, our world likes to divide music into categories. It’s not a bad idea at all, defining something as a genre can help show the artists influences on that song or album and make them easier to find. It can also make music easier to organize. But, there is a massive problem with genres. I can’t count the amount of times I have heard people say, “Oh, I only listen to rap,” or “I only listen to old stuff, new music is crap,” or even “I don’t listen to them because they are too mainstream.” By that, those people are skipping out on entirely different (key word there being different) worlds of music. They are people that are scared of being out of their comfort zones.

That’s why I love and respect artists like Daft Punk, Rage Against the Machine, Gorillaz, and LCD Soundsystem. Nothing is wrong with being just one genre. Green Day is a fantastic pop-punk band, AC/DC is probably my favorite Rock band, and Run the Jewels is the duo that does the best modern rap, at least in my opinion. Though those artists dip through every once in a while with other genres, they are known by those specific genres.

In a Gorillaz album, there is rap, hip hop, rock, funk, electronic, house, and reggae. There are artists out there that you can’t define with a one or two types of flavors, and those are the places I recommend people start with. Lean towards your favorite genres, but don’t discount or insult one of them just because you can’t get into it. If you act picky and only look at music by genres, you’ll be really bored, really quickly.

Like What You Like (Just Don’t Be a Jerk About It) – Don’t be a jerk about your music tastes or someone else’s music taste. This goes along with The Genre Problem. People shouldn’t act like one genre is better than the other, especially when each does have its own problems.

I don’t like most country songs (Johnny Cash is great though), but I’ve grown to respect it as another genre and understand why people love it. Same with trap rap and mumble rap. I don’t like them because it just doesn’t gel with me. While I was grumpy about it’s popularity for a while, and I still sort of am, other people like it, and I can’t stop that. Just let people like what they like, even if they like Nickelback.

The Overuse of Computers – Now, back to criticising music. Using samples, electronic beats, and sound effects for music is like using CGI in a movie. Many people use it to their advantage, while many others fail at it, hard. The best uses are either when artists blend the computer effects with actual instruments, or when it’s used to actually create an atmosphere. The worst sucks the life out of music.

Bands like Nine Inch Nails and LCD Soundsystem balance out electronic beats with actual instruments, which make things more interesting while sticking to their musical styles, while bands like Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5, and modern Fall Out Boy use it so much that it doesn’t sound like an actual human made it. It sounds like a computer went through patterns to see what makes many songs popular, with no filter. Imagine Dragons’ “Believer” sounds straight up like movie trailer music (it was used in plenty of movie trailers and commercials).

Chainsmokers is another example. Nothing is wrong with making dance tunes, but when your radio hits sound mostly the same, you have to try something new, beyond electronics. Because when you use electronics, it becomes so shiny that it loses anything that might have been interesting about it. But, that’s just my opinion. I like a little bit of grit, rawness, and power in music.

For Everyone Is Sometimes for No One – I’m tired of Imagine Dragons, did I mention that? They were a band that, at first, I thought had some promise (I liked Night Visions), but lately, all they seem to make is lifeless songs for movie trailers and car commercials. A lot of their newer songs feel so over-polished to the point that there isn’t much there that is left. Rather than sticking with one genre and blending elements from other genres in there, they decide to go half way, and by trying to call themselves everything, they ended up being nothing.

Maroon 5 is probably one of the safest bands I’ve ever heard, and I mean safe in a bad way. All of their songs from the past few years (with the exception of their song “Sugar”, which is a guilty pleasure for me) sound the exact same, while trying to stick to modern trends. But is there really die hard Maroon 5 fans out there, because if there are, I haven’t seen any. Same goes for Fall Out Boy. I really dislike “Young and Menace” (what does that title even mean?) because it tosses rock completely out the window, rather than slowly going from rock to pop. It pretty much gave me whiplash.

Genre Overflow – This has always been a problem with music. No matter what decade, there has always been a music genre that is completely overshadowing other ones. In the 70s, it was disco, in the 80s it was hair metal, in the 90s it was grunge, in the 2000s it was nu-metal, in the early 2010s it was EDM/Dubstep, and currently it’s trap rap.

I can understand why other people would like trap rap, it’s just not for me. I usually prefer my rap being mixed with beats that are more than simplistic, like RTJ, Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, and if we want to go old school, NWA, Beastie Boys, and Wu-Tang Clan, but that’s my opinion. I wouldn’t mind if trap rap existed and was decently popular, but it is everywhere on the radio. So much to the point where I can’t stand it.

But, this happens so many times. So many people want to be popular, and so many businesses want to be a part of a trend to make money off of it. Look at what happened with Nirvana in the 90s. They were a band that started and always wanted to stay small, but they are now one of the biggest names in music on the planet. They were the start of the grunge craze (along with other Seattle based bands Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains) that later influenced nu-metal. Yes, they did influence some great pieces of music, but without great bands like Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine, we also wouldn’t have crappy artists like Limp Bizkit or Kid Rock.

It’s a problem I have. I think it’s harming the music industry. It’s showing that the most creative people aren’t always the most successful, and the popular trends that will be gone by the end of the year will always succeed. I don’t think it can be stopped. It’s a yin yang like situation; you can’t have the good without the bad.

Bonus: What Happened to Cool Rapper Names? – Is it just me, but are there fewer and fewer people actually getting creative with their alter-egos? There has always had rappers with awesome names like Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Killer Mike, Snoop Dogg, Method Man, RZA, and the previously brought up Childish Gambino. There’s some sort of story behind each of them.

I’m not going to count if a rapper just use their name as bad, like Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Danny Brown for examples. I think it is perfectly fine for people to use their actual name as their stage name. I’m saying the bad rapper names are the ones that start with either Lil or young. It’s unoriginal and shows clearly how they’re grabbing onto a trend that will be dated in a few years. At least modern rappers like Logic sound like they put more effort and creativity in it. At least I know that having Lil in your rapper name is just a trend that will pass…hopefully.

You may not agree with these, but that’s perfectly fine. Like I said earlier, music is universal. With many things I see as problems, some will learn from them, and many times, they have actually done something well. Below is a list of videos that I think do a great job at talking about music. In the words of Daft Punk, we’ve got to “give life back to music.”

Kaptainkristain – Childish Gambino:

The Off Camera Show – Dave Grohl (from Foo Fighters):

Polyphonic – Jack White (from The White Stripes):