During my commute home from work the other night, a song came on the radio that caught my attention after a minute or two. It was something in the pop rock genre, but what stood out to me about it was the fact that for the duration of almost the entire song, it never left the chord on which it began. The singer put some variation into his voice — but not much. The instrumentals behind him lent a little bit of interest to the song — but not much. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the whole song was the percussion — but not by much.
I kept waiting for the tune to progress to the next chord, to throw in a suspension, to modulate, to do — something. And it never did. The chorus did actually progress through the standard I, IV, V chords, but even those were pretty bland and were so covered up as to be almost unnoticeable. And while this is an extreme example of rock, it does put into sharp relief some of the things about popular music that I dislike.
I’ve been a musician for most of my life, playing piano since the 1st grade, and adding several other instruments to my repetoire over the years. I’ve played music by many of the greats — Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, and many, many others. The music I grew up playing and listening to had a level of interest, complexity, technical difficulty, and artistry that you just can’t find today. Granted, there is a lot of popular music that I enjoy listening to, but if given a choice, I will opt for the classic works by the great composers of yesterday. There is simply a richness and depth to their work that I admire and that I find lacking in so many of today’s supposed ‘artists’. The creativity of the great composers is why I will pick classic over pop every single time.