T-shirts say the darnedest things. One day I saw a t-shirt that said: “Destroy Well known Culture. Rebuild. Repeat.” Being a musician who has fought to keep up with the ever-changing, flighty whims of popular music, it was a such as a light bulb going on over my head! Does something evolve if it is continually being destroyed? To keep making profits, the most popular culture industry does some spiteful things to the art forms they apparently accept, if you’re talking music, fashion or whatever.
Let’s take 1970s disco music as an example. Stick to me with this. Inside the 70s, everyone loved disco music. Well, most everybody. Me included. And I Also still do. So there.
But simply 6 months ahead of the 1980s began, the songs in the 70s was ridiculed en masse from the media, and made to look passe, pointless and worthless. Somehow we were convinced that anyone that heard disco at that time was somehow really weird and a bit of a loser. Phase one of the t-shirt now completed. Destroy Popular Culture.
Now start working on 1980. Alongside the synth-dominated pop in the 80s (which still experienced a strong disco and funk influence, in the event you ask me), there was also a resurgence inside the interest in 1960s music.
We were hearing songs like “Uphold 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 be it for that fresh new teens from the 90s to get caught dead hearing everything from the 80s. Ewww! Not cool!
Yet, alongside the rap and alternative music in the 90s which had been dominating the mainstream airwaves, disco music was building a comeback. Lo and behold!
Let’s be realistic, the categorization of music has become 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 simple. Money!
And Popular Culture industries understands how to manipulate people. How? By attractive to, and manipulating the collective and individual egos.
So it goes such as this. Within the 70s, disco was the pop music in the times, and was naturally directed at the teenage ego. Needless to say, people of any age enjoyed disco, but I’m speaking about the basic premise on the t-shirt, remember.
Then we skip a decade (in this example, the 1980s), and basically ignore those former teenagers from the 1970s, who definitely are now from senior high school, and in their 20s-likely to or dropping away from college or university, getting their first serious job, struggling to create a paycheck, perhaps starting a household, and possess little income to spare. And wondering just what the hell happened to good music.
Nevertheless in the 1990s, those same people are now the successful breadwinners, the new homeowners, the people running businesses and the ones with disposable income, but still young enough to think being cool somehow matters. And they wish to hear the tunes they loved as teens, but they wish to listen to it just as if it’s still popular in the present mainstream society. This allows them feel relevant.
So, hoping to yet again capitalize on the tunes they so wrongfully dismissed inside the 1980s (namely, the tunes of the 1970s), the popular culture industry starts bringing that music back into the spotlight. All of a sudden, it’s a renaissance, a revival, a rebirth, even!
Only now, perhaps they call it “classic”, or unfortunately, “traditional” and “retro”.
Frankly, I find terms like “retro” and “old school” very insulting, as they are only utilized to bring something down in order to build something different up. This is achieved to make the egoistic feel that the current-day music is cool, relevant and superior.
In this instance, I do believe the egos targeted belong to the current crop of teenagers, but additionally to the present crop of artists, who have also become much younger, less talented, and less musically literate. Whatever the case, it’s just more ego stroking.
In discussing pop culture, the terms “retro” and “old school” really only came into common usage at the start of the modern day. And when again, the truth from the slogan rears its head:
Destroy Popular Culture. Rebuild. Repeat.
Now of course, the Internet as well as the technology explosion have changed everything. Now people can pay attention to whatever they want, when they want, without getting subjected to the ever-changing whims in the fickle (but shrewd) popular music industries. We are no more subject to what the radio DJ’s tell us is cool. We program our mp3 players with all the music rryrcy want to hear, and that’s that.
The Pop Culture industries keep trying, though. And though the superficial surface of it generally seems to change, in terms of musical styles, fashions, fads, etc., underneath everything, in my opinion, no, it can not necessarily evolve, it just keeps going around in circles, fulfilling a really human need. The necessity to feel relevant, and the necessity to feel like we matter; to feel special; to feel “cool”. In the long run, this can be my personal opinion, based by myself experiences and observances being a musician and person. But I think the t-shirt got it right.