Popular Culture – Take A Look At This..

T-shirts say the darnedest things. One day I saw a t-shirt that said: “Destroy Popular Culture. Rebuild. Repeat.” As being a musician that has fought to take care of the ever-changing, fickle whims of well-known music, it was a just like a light bulb taking place over my head! Does something evolve if it’s continually being destroyed? To keep making money, the favorite culture industry does some spiteful things to the art forms they supposedly accept, if you’re talking music, fashion or whatever.

Let’s take 1970s disco music as an example. Stick with me on this. In the 70s, everyone loved disco music. Well, most everybody. Me included. And I still do. So there.

But just 6 months ahead of the 1980s began, the tunes from the 70s was ridiculed en masse by the media, and made to look passe, pointless and worthless. Somehow we were convinced that anybody that heard disco at that time was somehow really weird and a bit of a loser. Phase one in the t-shirt now completed. Destroy Popular Culture.

Now proceed to 1980. Alongside the synth-dominated pop in the 80s (which still experienced a strong disco and funk influence, should you ask me), there was clearly also a resurgence in the interest in 1960s music.

We had been hearing songs like “Stand By Me”, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, and “Soul Man” right alongside songs like “Jungle Love”, “Billie Jean” and “I Feel For You”.

Phase Two completed. Rebuild.

In the 1990s, the same happened. Far whether it is for your fresh new teens of the 90s to become caught dead hearing anything from the 80s. Ewww! Not cool!

Yet, alongside the rap and alternative music of the 90s which was dominating the mainstream airwaves, disco music was building a comeback. Lo and behold!

Let’s be realistic, the categorization of music has grown to be ridiculous, and although arguably 70s disco music had now morphed into “house music” or “dance-pop music”, the influence of disco was still strongly evident. Songs like Madonna’s “Vogue” were topping the charts. Phase 3 completed. Repeat.

The reasoning behind all this is straightforward. Money!

And Popular Culture industries understands how to manipulate people. How? By attractive to, and manipulating the collective and individual egos.

Therefore it goes like this. In the 70s, disco was the pop music of the times, and was naturally directed on the teenage ego. Obviously, people of all ages enjoyed disco, but I’m talking about the basic premise on the t-shirt, remember.

Then we skip ten years (in this example, the 1980s), and basically ignore those former teenagers of the 1970s, who are now from secondary school, and in their 20s-going to or dropping from university or college, getting their first serious job, struggling to create a paycheck, perhaps starting a family, and have little income to spare. And wondering just what the hell happened to great music.

But in the 1990s, those same people are now the successful breadwinners, the brand new homeowners, those running businesses and those with disposable income, yet still young enough to believe being cool somehow matters. And they wish to hear the songs they loved as teens, but they want to hear it as though it’s still popular in the current mainstream society. This lets them feel relevant.

So, seeking to yet again maximize the music they so wrongfully dismissed in the 1980s (namely, the music of the 1970s), the most popular culture industry starts bringing that music into the spotlight. Out of the blue, it’s a renaissance, a revival, a rebirth, even!

Only now, perhaps they call it “classic”, or unfortunately, “old fashioned” and “retro”.

Frankly, I find terms like “retro” and “traditional” very insulting, because they are only employed to bring something down in order to build another thing up. This is accomplished to create the egoistic think that the present-day music is cool, relevant and superior.

In this instance, I believe the egos targeted belong to the current crop of teenagers, but additionally to the current crop of artists, that have also become much younger, less talented, and much less musically literate. Regardless, it’s just more ego stroking.

In discussing pop culture, the terms “retro” and “old fashioned” really only came into common usage at the outset of the modern day. And when again, the facts in the slogan rears its head:

Destroy Popular Culture. Rebuild. Repeat.

Now needless to say, the Internet and also the technology explosion have changed everything. Now people can listen to whatever they want, every time they want, without being susceptible to the ever-changing whims of the fickle (but shrewd) popular music industries. Our company is no longer susceptible to what the radio DJ’s tell us is cool. We program our mp3 players with the music rryrcy want to hear, and that’s that.

The Pop Culture industries keep trying, though. And though the superficial surface from it appears to change, with regards to musical styles, fashions, fads, etc., underneath everything, in my view, no, it can not really evolve, it simply keeps making the rounds in circles, fulfilling an extremely human need. The necessity to feel relevant, and the necessity to feel as if we matter; to feel special; to feel “cool”. In the end, this is my opinion, based on my own experiences and observances as a musician and person. However I think the t-shirt got it right.