Now that the presidential election is over, it's time to start
talking about important issues again. Where the hell is pop
and hip-hop going in 2008? I've been thinking about this a lot.
Recently I ran into a comment complaining
the new Christina Aguilera single Keeps Gettin' Better is too
similar--maybe even derivative of (pop music, derivative,
who knew?) the Britney Spear's single Womanizer.
Do you think they sound the same? Sure they sound similar.
But if you're really interested in finding an overlap compare
Keeps Gettin' Better with Gwen Stefani's Bubble Pop Electric.
Certainly Bubble Pop Electric has half a gazillion more beats
per minute, but apparently sugary vocals riding electronic beats is the order
of the day. And the order of four years ago, when Bubble Pop Electric
Pop music is heading towards electronic music and the spectre of
overproduction. This is a problem, because electronic music is a
genre that has struggled in vain to reinvent itself, but hasn't.
Even looking in the revered halls of IDM we're hitting stagnation
where the current set of masters are toning down and backing away
from the mathematical insanity put together by Aphex Twin.
Look at two of the stars of IDM, RJD2 and
Elliot Lipp, and how they've
ended fleeing Aphex Twin's complexity panic for tranquility.
Those, like Venetian Snares,
who are keeping at the complexity are creating some amazing things,
but you wouldn't know one had been created sixteen years after
Did you know that Aphex Twin makes the most horrifyingly
screwed and terrifying music videos ever made?
I can't really recommend watching them, but you might
do it anyway.
Watching Windowlicker is amazingly painful.
As it becomes more apparent that electro-pop has surpassed the
critical level of overproduction then there will be a panicked
reaction towards almost absurd simplicity. And the sad tale of
the electronic genre will be retold with sex symbols and
vocalists on the credits instead of producers.
Worse, I think, is that hip-pop is just a couple of years behind
pop in descending into that over-produced sweeter-than-saccarine
direction. Take a listen to a song from T.I.'s recent album and the
production is uniformly excellent (although I haven't
found a Swizz Beatz produced song that does it for me).
The production is clean, varied and rarely does it overpower
T.I. on the tracks. That's the sound of production in hip hop
just starting to reach the plateau of overproduction.
If you want another example of the effects of overproduction,
when I saw this video I started laughing
because it showed Nicole Scherzinger playing the piano.
I don't even know that she can't play the piano, but
just seeing her pretend to play the piano that was being...
looped... by a machine... kind of killed me.
But hip hop is going in a bad direction as well. Take a moment
and listen to Universal Mind Control by Common Sense.
I have to say, Common Sense is probably my favorite rapper of
all time. And Universal Mind Control doesn't have a damn thing
on Common Sense of a 1997. He's decided to be a
guest vocalist on his own track. The lyrics still have good
wordplay--and Common's delivery has smoothed out over the
years--but the quantity of lyrics is miniscule compared to his old stuff.
Do you remember when Paul Oakenfield release Bunkka and you
were staring blankfaced listening to the track with Ice Cube on
it and wondering what the hell he was thinking trying to merge
hiphop and electronic music with such a heavy hand? Which is to
say, that it sucked?
Well I remember staring in dismay. I was dismayed, damnit, and
a few years later the entire industry has followed that roadmap
into the abyss.