Monday, January 12, 2015

What makes a song Great?

  There are thousands of songs of the week or hits that have come and gone over the years.  But what is it that makes a song last, stand the test of time?  What makes a song classic?  How is it that songs from the Beatles are still played on the radio everyday in every city in the world?

 Is it just a product of their huge popularity?  How is it then that new people everyday can hear a Beatles song for the first time and become a fan of the group?
    It is obviously a matter of taste and opinion when it comes right down to it.  And there are undoubtedly still people out there swearing on their own life that the "Insane Clown Posse" is still the greatest musical talent ever produced.  

What if we were asked to vote in a "President of all-time music",  who would it be and why?  

We could guess that the outcome would probably be the forementioned Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson, or maybe  modern day mega Youtube /Viveo phenom's like Lorde, Katey Perry, or Miley.  More importantly, what's the difference between a mega hit song like Royals (Lorde)  and a "great song"?  Which of Today's hits will be remembered?  Or how long does a song have to be played on the radio for it to be classified as long lasting or remembered?  Will people 50 years from now still be listening to the Beatles?  

Does it even matter?  

  These questions cannot be answered.  But what may be answerable is the question of difference between "junk" and great music.  Let's think about some of the characteristics that may make up the ingredients for a valuable work of art in music.
      Although day to day life is constantly changing and will continue to do so, many of the core issues in peoples minds are most likely similar through many generations. 
 Things like love, greed, sympathy, meaning, purpose, death etc. must have been in the back of peoples minds for as long as we know that people even existed.  

      Meaningful lyrics must be a part of what makes up a great song.  Maybe even if the word's themself do not have any particular feeling but the song in whole makes reference to a timeless emotion or thought that resonates with most people.  Do the Stanky Legg by the GS boyz may not be qualified due to the fact that the only thing the song really does is come up with a catchy gimmick that sparks feelings of energy during its time of popularity.  So when it comes on you can "do the stanky legg"  with your friends lol.  It was definitely a hit, but is it a great song?  Is it even classified as music?  

       The problem with songs like this is that they are easily forgotten and replaced by new songs that produce the exact same effect.  And there is no end in sight to this phenomenon.  Producing a beat that gets people feeling pumped, meanwhile incorporating some type of catchy phrase that is completely off the wall, seems to be the formula here.  Almost a type of branding for "this particular song of the week".  But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself and injecting my own feelings and opinions too much.  

If a song of this nature is a huge success, on the mp3 players of millions of people and the band got RICH, then why can't STANKY LEGG be classified as a great song?  Maybe it is.

  Ahead of its time... 
     Nirvana, an alternative rock band that became famous in the early 90's set a precedent for a new kind of rock sound. There were surely other bands with an alternative sound at the time but non as cutting edge as the Seattle band. Or, at least none that got to the mainstream before them.

    So maybe the simple fact that a particular band or artist "changes" music, leaves a lasting impact on the minds of listeners for a long time.  Eminem is another artist to successfully change what is acceptable in the music industry.  Coming out with lyrics about killing and raping, in a blend with genius rhymes and insane beats, he was able to make a lasting impression in peoples minds.  Automatically a new Eminem song is given special openness to whatever might be coming out the speakers next. 

 Jimi Hendrix played sounds never heard on a guitar before.  Today there are many players with the skill set matching or maybe even better than the Great Jimi Hendrix, but does his name and aura alone give special credit to his music.  Ever asked someone to listen to a particular piece of music for their first time and didn't get the response you expected?  You ever found yourself explaining that particular artists "back story" to them after their disappointing reaction to the music?

   The music itself, the sound, not the lyrics.. the beat, the rythm of a song is widely regarded as a major part of what makes up a great song.  Today it may seem as though many artists could have put any words to a song and it still would be catchy depending on the "beat".   

   Putting your finger on exactly what that sound is and why it resonates with you can be endlessly tricky.  

    Stories of the Beatles using science to figure out what sounds actually cause certain reactions in peoples brains have been floating around the Internet and i wouldn't be suprised if this is actually commonly practiced.  Something worth looking into.  Other's would say that the skill set of musicians is what truly matters and most modern music or Synthetic made music using computers is not as impressive.  Others would say that to piece together a symphony on your computer is a feat in itself.

   I believe that time itself is the sole indicator of what is regarded as great music. 

 Many people will say that the "time of amazing song writing"  has long past.  But what music will be remembered 100 years from today?  Maybe none of what we hear will be remembered.  I thought about this question a lot and believing myself that today's music just isn't what it used to be, eventually lead me to a new conclusion about the whole thing.  And it pertains to all things.  Not just music itself, but life in general.  The fact is when we are looking back through time, things always seem better.  Why is this?  Well, i believe the reason for this is that with constant new stimuli, we tend to forget the things that well, we forget.  Things that did not seem to hold our interest for long enough to be replaced with something else.

    The "gems" though, whether it be classic cars or classic family vacations, stay in the mind and leave a lasting impression.  Given a long enough timeline, looking back in the past will ALWAYS seem better.  You try to compare the music of "today"  (a general range of time hovering around the present),  with the seemingly endless past.  

     With some thought, one might realize that if you they were plopped right into the middle of say 1975,  surely they would hear bad songs on the radio or see out of style clothing or ugly cars everywhere.   Individual opinion of course.  The truth is in 1975, believe it or not,  The best music was made.... you guessed the past.  

   The fact is, today, great, amazing things are being produced all around us.  What will stand the test of time and be remembered as genius works of art from a time un-beknown to future generations will be of course seen only in the days ahead. 

  The filter of time will touch all things. Bringing the cream to the top.  I believe there is a place for all creations, as long as one person see's the art in them, then it is so. 

Determing which works of art will be regarded as GREAT, on the other hand, only time will tell.
by Damon Warlick

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