By Mollie Campbell.
Now I’ll start off by apologising in advance for the rant I am about to give, this is something I feel very passionately about. And this article is totally just my opinion, everybody’s is different but as a young song-writer/musician, I thought I would put my views together in one place!
Shows like American Idol and the X-factor were developed in the early 2000’s, singing competitions designed to create the perfect popstar. I’ll admit, not every single artist is bad, there have been some notable talented winners e.g. Kelly Clarkson (American Idol) or Leona Lewis (X-Factor). But the amount of rubbish that is churned out of this pop-factory is astonishing, they are either musically inept or have good vocals but absolutely no originality. It has caused an influx of people who are now trying to get famous instantly, meaning that the main aspect, music, is being stripped away. Because of these shows, children are encouraged from a young age to try and become successful in something that they haven’t developed or even worked hard at, their biggest desire is to become famous instantly without any hard-work, originality, creativity or talent. This has also developed societal expectations within the music industry to shift, the need to be perfect whilst at the same time showing absolutely no level of talent is becoming ridiculous.
When it comes to vocals, my opinion is that an artist should be able to hold a note to be considered a vocalist or musician filling the position of lead singer, but it doesn’t have to be completely pitch-perfect. Now obviously I am not underestimating why good vocals are needed, but before, it was ok and very popular within the mainstream music world that an artist may not have the perfect singing voice, but if the music was good, it worked and became popular. Now everybody has to be ‘perfect’ which is something we have been trying to assure is impossible for years, there is no such thing as perfect so why are they telling young people that they need to be, this has not only narrowed everyone’s minds and creativity due to the fact that they are training on one instrument, their voice instead of learning what it takes to make music from the bottom up, but it has also restricted our access to record labels that would have been easy to sign with say 30 years ago. Technology/the Internet has created too much of this constant instant gratification, “if it doesn’t work in one minute, scrap it” seems to be the new mentality.
These days it is a major achievement if an organic artist who worked their way up from bottom actually manages to maintain their popularity after one year. Where has artist development disappeared to? A&R is essentially non-existent in 2019, unless you are one of Simon Cowell’s little protégé’s singing mindless crap which doesn’t mean anything. Song-writing has turned into the same monotonous structure each and every time, there is no diversity, why sit down and write a song when you can be handed one from the hit-making machine employed by Cowell’s chart-dominating label, we are all be subject to his musical brainwashing, and the internet has just added fire to the flames.
Some people tell me ‘look, there has also been crap in the pop world of the past, look at some of the terrible songs released in the 80’s’. But the point is, those terrible songs from the 80’s are now dominating the industry, there isn’t any space for quality music anymore. I mean, I am 21 years old and the only radio stations I listen to are classic rock or simply ‘older’ stations, because if I switch over to something like Capital or Heart, I only like an average of 1 out of every 30 songs played. In terms of the vocal dilemma I am referring to, I will give you an example that might put things into perspective. For example, when Tom Petty was starting to achieve commercial success in the late 70’s, some said that he didn’t have a very good singing voice. And at times it was true, he wasn’t always pitch perfect, but that was ok because it was damn good music. If Tom Petty was just starting his career now, in this music industry, he’d be disregarded without a second thought and songs like ‘Freefallin’ and ‘American Girl’ wouldn’t exist. And that is what is happening now, there is some modern Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Lennon/McCartney out there who has incredible potential and talent but is being let down and disregarded by this new music industry. We are missing out on so much because of our restricted opinions and endless expectations. But the only somewhat positive thing in all this are things like Spotify, now an artist doesn’t have to be signed to a record label to release their music. This means that they have their own sense of creative control, shaping their artistry themselves as opposed to being moulded into a perfect little pop-star.
Although there are some downsides to things like Spotify, e.g. taking away creative input like artwork and album sleeves, which I’ll talk about in depth in another article, and the financial downsides but it does mean that we have access to some pretty good music that isn’t being treated in the way it would if it was released 40 years ago. It means that we have all of this excellent music which would have been considered mainstream in times gone by but isn’t today. I urge everyone to listen to this music now, before it is too late and we have signed ourselves up to a never-ending circle of monotonous crap. I am sick of this continuous genre in which every song sounds the same and there is no middle ground, no space to venture out into the waters of diversity and change without being publically booted out of the limelight. Every now and then, a talented artist will sneak in under the radar, contributing heavily to a genre long-gone. These are the artists we need to hold onto for as long as we can, this is the only way we will be granted the power to change it up. Shows like the X-Factor are just worshipped by the masses yet there is no value to the music, it is incredibly ironic. If an artist signs up to Simon Cowell’s record label and doesn’t comply in the way he wants them too, they are dropped, they aren’t given the freedom to write songs and develop their own artistry, and if they are dropped, there is an attempt to completely erase them from the history of the show or the music industry itself. It has become a musical dictatorship, stay in line or they will make sure you are forgotten and destroyed. It sounds dramatic but it is happening right in front of our eyes, and it is only getting worse.
In conclusion, whilst there are pros and cons to the digital music world, there doesn’t appear to be anything good that is coming out of shows like the X-Factor, and I just hope that after it gets worse, it starts to get better. Where else can we go but back? We have exhausted every musical possibility, now let’s head back to the era in which the music mattered, and actually sounded good.