Friday, September 29, 2006

Revolution or evolution?

I meant to blog about this earlier in the week, but the trip to New York distracted me a bit. Better late than never, though . . . .

Anyway, this week marks the fifteenth anniversary of the release of Nirvana's Nevermind, which, supposedly, is a record that changed music forever. To commemorate, MTV News ran an article where they asked various current artists about Nirvana, and whether they thought any modern bands would have the same effect. (Seriously, though, the list of artists is pretty lame. Panic! At the Disco, Fall Out Boy, and O.K. Go are somewhat defensible, but really, couldn't they try just a teensy bit harder?)

I was in my junior year of high school when the album came out, and yeah, I loved it. It really was -- still is, actually -- a great album, and so different from just about everything that was out there at the time. And yeah, it influenced a lot of music that came afterwards. But I think that the people who say that it was this monumental revolutionary new thing, completely different from everything that came before, are a little full of it. I think music was changing, and Nirvana was a symptom -- not the ultimate cause.

That's like those people who look at Bill Haley & His Comets as the origin of modern Rock n' Roll but fail to see the bigger picture out there -- all of the other sources and influences that merged together over the course of a number of years. Or currently, it's like blaming the whole boy band thing on the Backstreet Boys or the current state of pop music entirely on Britney Spears. Yeah, they're a part of it, but they're only doing what they're doing because some music industry guy somewhere decided that what they happened to be doing was going to be the next big thing.

It's the whole creationism versus evolution debate, just in music.

Some music may be revolutionary, but as an art form, it is constantly evolving, constantly changing. That's why they don't play chamber music at bars. Seriously.

I mean, that's why you occasionally laughed at your parents' choices and why most people cringe at the thought of having to sit through an opera or the ballet. (My mother loves Johnny Mathis and has a scary collection of Engelbert Humperdinck 8-Tracks.) That's why your parents yelled at you to turn the volume down, and refused to play that song in the car. (Or how my mother absolutely adored the Motley Crue posters in my bedroom when I was a teen.)

And that's why your theoretical future children will probably hate your CD collection. (But not my live U2 collection. No one could possibly hate that.)


Ryane said...

Firstly, all children must like U2. (Isn't that mandatory?? haha).

I have to disagree with you about liking the music of our parents--I love big band and classical music! (But then again, I have very eclectic musical tastes..) I basically think that music is, a lot of time, someone's attempt to re-invent the wheel. Not thatall current bands aren't original and etc..but c'mon. Britney et al...they are all carbon copies, one of the other. It's pathetic

"Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief."
Didn't someone famous say that??

Dara said...

One of the best U2 quotes of all time. (Although, it's missing something without the "All kill their inspiration and sing about the grief" part.)

I'm not saying that everyone hates everything about their parents' music -- I love Elvis and the Beatles, and countless other things in my parents' collection. (Heck, I just paid a ton for the 40th anniversary collector's edition of Pet Sounds.) But they have a lot of cringe-worthy stuff too. And I'm sure they cringed at some of the lesser stuff that my grandparents listened to.

It's some sort of musical growing pains.

And, even if you hate Britney or Christina, you have ot admit that there was something just the teensiest bit interesting about the first time you heard "Baby One More Time" or "Genie in a Bottle." Then, likely thanks to their producers and some smart management, they did something interesting and, at the time, different. (After that . . . . well, whatever.)

But it wasn't some sea change. I mean, it's notlike they invented a new form of music or changed the industry forever. They just started a trend. And that's not the same thing as a revolution.

jason said...

I love the Motown my parents turned me on to as a kid. I can't stand my mother's Bread albums.

OK, I am a Hater by nature and I always catch flack for the following statement: I think Nevermind is posiibly the most overrated album in the annals of pop music history. But I always liked the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video.

P.S. - F' the Mets. They're going down tonight.

Dara said...

Jason: I loved Nevermind. But, as you can see, now I cringe when people talk about it as this seminal moment in music. So, yeah, I'd agree that it's somewhat overrated.

And Bread is still way cooler than Engelbert Humperdinck and Johnny Mathis. Sometimes I'm surprised I like music at all.

I'll be at the Mets game tonight. I was supposed to be at the Phillies game last night, but 11:30 is too late for a start time.

Glamorous Redneck said...

It's so hard to believe that someday Nirvanna will be (and maybe it already is) considered "oldies". I was only in 7th grade when Smells Like Teen Spirit was #1 on Dial MTV. But I cranked it up and my mom hated it. I imagine she got a taste of what it was like for parents of her generation when the rock 'n roll stuff made it big.

But now she goes to Nelly and Nine Inch Nails concerts. So maybe just getting past the fear and giving something you wouldn't normally listen to a chance is something that more people should try.

Dara said...

Glamorous: Thanks for the visual -- I just imagined my mom at a NIN concert, which is just about the funniest thing ever.

Actually that's not true -- It would be funnier if she were there with my 81 year old Nana and 93 year old Grandma. That's friggin' hi-larious.

Scooter said...

I also thougth Nirvana was overinflated by Cobain's death. Had he not put a shotgun in his mouth, Nevermind would have been just a footnote in musical history and band would have just sank into obscurity or broken up like every other grunge band.

Dara said...

Scooter, I don't know.

I agree that Kurt Cobain is bigger than he would have been had he not died. And yeah, I'm pretty sure that had he lived, he would have been tabloid fodder: rehabs and band/relationship breakups.

That's the easy part.

But even before he died, Nevermind was being heralded as some kind of generational benchmark. Which seems like hyperbole to me, even as a fan. I mean, I'm not even sure that, as an album, it's better than In Utero.