Songs are a cultural indicator—so what are they telling us right now?
this essay seems to have been written in D Minor,
“The Saddest of All Keys”
So-called mope-rock of the early 2000s had its roots in '80s bands like The Smiths and The Cure, who were preceeded by such glum groups as Velvet Underground, The Doors and Joy Division, who were preceeded by a whole list of sad teenage tragedy singles from the late '50s and early '60s -- Mark Dinning's "Teen Angel" (1959), Ray Peterson's "Tell Laura I Love Her" (1960), Wayne Cochran's "Last Kiss" and the Everley Brothers' "Ebony Eyes" (1961), the Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack" and Jan & Dean's "Dead Man's Curve" (1964). Teenagers are always going to be depressed.
“Gen Z has brought a raw, authentic new reality to expressing their emotions,” Or maybe just a bunch of crybabies? Yeah, antisocial, angry, hostile, all of the above. We've become sadder because our country USA has become sadder . . .
Start liking it.
"Happy" is seen as "weak and sentimental", and weakness and sentimenality increasingly are seen as contemptible in a world where there are ruthless, cynical winners and then there is everyone else.
Add in the fact that the middle class is picked clean and left to rot and there you go.
One very striking thing about Gen Z and the millennials before them is that their minds tend to go right to sexual abuse or worse. This means that songs perceived as perfectly innocent when they originally came out are viewed as being about something menacing. The song "I'm a Girl Watcher" by the O'Kaysions was originally perceived to be about boys appreciating pretty girls going by, but a millennial or zoomer is liable to perceive it as being about stalking. If a baby-boomer hears Ringo Starr singing "You're Sixteen", we'll just hear it as a remake of the happy Johnny Burnette song that's a teenage boy singing to his teenage girlfriend. Millennials and zoomers often perceive it as a middle-aged lecher openly lusting after a teenage girl. This tendency of millennials and zoomers to perceive something dark in things once deemed completely innocent may be the cause of the turn to sad songs, but what's the cause of the tendency that drives it?
I wonder if the sad music is also related to whatever's causing all the self-help memes one finds on social media, where people ballyhoo their mental illnesses or drug habits because they think having those problems makes them "strong". They even do this on sites that are for professional networking!
“There's no love song finer, but how strange the change from major to minor”
From “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” by Cole Porter
(And yes, the song harmonic structure changes from major to minor... check out Ella’s version)
May I suggest that, rather than "Babyboomers" we could have "Babybummers!"
You know what makes me sad? It's that today's young people have nothing decent to listen to. Those of us who came of age in the late '60.s and early to mid-70's were the last generation that could enjoy real music, played by real people (many or whom wrote their own songs) and who recorded with minimal studio trickery. Now, it's just junk performed mostly by people with no real talent who would be lost without recording "enhancements," Guess what? If I was a teenager now, I'd be sad and depressed as well.
Sad songs are a way of experimenting with pain - long live sad songs! Good article mate!
Beware semantic inflation. There is a lot of it going round these days. Not so many years ago a lot of songs had, “yeah, yeah, yeah,” in the lyrics. It didn’t mean much then either.
New pop I mostly for young people. Old usually have more money and are less inclined to change their idea about the world. People who haven’t suffered are less inclined to empathy. Societies are forgetful. (Fukushima happened 40 years after I read a popular scientific article about Japan’s deadly tsunamis!)
Young people have been either aware of the immense dangers of global warming, spelled out in detail to the US senate in 1985. Other young people are immensely angry for not being able to pursue capitalist ideal without the green Jeremiahs. Real Housewives shows that money really doesn’t make you happier and yet millions of people have no knowledge of other ways to pursue contentment and fulfilment.
The Doors sang a lot about death. Today people listen to music that deals with the unjust of not being counted and not heard. It’s gonna continue until some real series of ultimate catastrophes come along to teach us all the value of empathy.
I would LOVE to read more about how repressive societies have a fascination with lovers conjuring suicide. That's so weird and fascinating, but I feel like I "get it" on an intuitive level.
It is up to us to show the demoralized Zoomers what good music is. Perhaps Ted can start sharing Spotfiy playlists? Classical music, movie soundtracks, and 80s music are all uplifting.
Here is a happy summer playlist full of cheerful music from not long ago: https://yuribezmenov.substack.com/p/yuri-summer-mixtape-90s-2000s-millennial
Lotta boomers on this comment thread.
All explained in "Infocracy" by Byung-Chul Han! (why the masses have given way to the swarm).
Love your stuff on trends. Thank you