Article By Adam. H
Is it fair to say that popular music no longer has the impact and social currency it once had? Have we entered a time where one could say that popular music is dead?
It could well be.
As I write this little 500 word brain fart we are almost half way through 2019 approaching the final straight of another decade. It has me wondering what music has made a cultural impact this decade?
Of course there have been excellent albums produced and released over the last 10 years. Many of which have been polarising, have split opinion, critical acclaim vs public opinion is as divided as ever. With the advent of social media everyone has an opinion and a platform to express that opinion on any given subject. For as many people that like something, as many dislike it in equal measure, it’s just today we hear both sides.
As I talk about the change in popular music discourse, 1 album in particular springs to mind. Kanye West’s Yeezus, an extraordinary album that I am sure will be looked back upon as a major catalyst in further transcending hip-hop from the fringes into the mainstream. However, the album was probably the most polarising work I can recall that was a hit world wide.
In 2013 the critics came out en masse and heralded the album as the second coming of music. The work was treated like a tomb that was brought from the mountain by Moses himself, well the album is called Yeezus (Jesus).
Although it was a number 1 album in 7 countries Yeezus coughed its way to 1 million copies sold world wide and only managed to sell 750,000 units in the US. The album was the 37 most successful album in the US that year according to the Billboard chart. Small fry numbers in comparison to decades gone by and not necessarily in line with the artists self proclaimed “greatest” and “genius” tag lines that he likes to shout from the roof tops.
But why did the people not come out and buy an album that was as critically acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic?
Firstly, it boils down to West himself. Kanye West is the greatest showman, producer, business man, rapper and human being of all time… You ask him, he’ll tell you. His brash in your face arrogance has not come across well to the majority of the music buying public. Kanye West loves to play the villain, and though playing the villain creates interest and gets people talking, I would hypothesise that failed to develop into a sale this time around.
Second of all, music sales are down across the board. Of course artists like Kanye West still generate huge sales. 1 million sales of anything is huge in the grand scheme of things. However, when measured to musics past sales it is poor in comparison. Music is moving from a sales based economy into a music as a service. Spotify, Tidal, Google Play, iTunes are all streaming services that do not deal in traditional transactions but in monthly subscriptions.
I don’t think that we have reached a point where artists and record companies know how to best communicate with the “online generation”. The music industry have traditionally beem so far behind the curve, they seem to not want to develop skills to reach an audience in new media which has contributed to the decline in sales as a result.
This is coupled with music becoming worthless. Movies and TV are going to reach this crisis soon, where an over abundance of content appears on a platform leaving the user overwhelmed and therefore listens, watches and plays nothing as a result. Be honest, how many times have you looked for something to watch on Netflix, spent 30 mins looking and moved onto something else? Music has suffered that fate throughout this decade, which has left the audience fatigued.
The genie is out of the lamp, music is no longer something that you buy or acquire, it is background music, it isn’t something that you sit and give attention to any more. But, things change, technology is constantly evolving maybe we will get our music from other sources in 10 years time. Maybe there will be no music by then? Who knows.
(Thumbnail Image -Kanye West – Album Yeezus)