Music/Popular Culture

TunesDay: talent v. hype…

archies.jpg We’ve all heard the mewling and puking about the music business – it’s not about talent, the labels no longer care about artists, good music goes unheard while media conglomerates push prole drivel down the throats of the public, Clear Channel/Infinity/Whoever have killed radio’s power to lead the public to talented new artists with their computerized market segmenting and overly tight play lists, etc., yadda, so it goes….Let me begin by disabusing you of some of these notions:

1) “It’s not about talent.” Folks, it’s never been about talent. I’d remind you of the famous communique sent to Brian Epstein (for our younger readers, Epstein was the manager of a group called The Beatles who had some small success in the music business):

Groups with guitars are on their way out. – Dick Rowe, Decca Records A&R

2) “The labels no longer care about talent.” The labels have never cared about talent. Want to know who the hottest group of 1969, the watershed year of “classic rock” was? Look here. Want to know who was second, the group who won all the Grammies that year? Look here.

3) “Good music goes unheard while media conglomerates push prole drivel down the throats of the public.” We all know that media conglomerates probably hold less power over the listening public than they ever have since T.A. Edison sang “Mary Had a Little Lamb” into that inverted megaphone all those years ago – that’s why Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Reuben Studdard, Clay Aiken, et. alia, have sold only millions of units for their corporate puppet masters. But to hear some guys in the know tell it:

There’s been an incredible democratization of the music world. Mainstream critics mean less than your buddy. – Bob Lefsetz

Maybe. But do they mean less than Radio Disney which is indoctrinating a whole generation of listeners? (That shiver is you as well as me, btw.) Last I heard, Disney was a media conglomerate.

4) “Clear Channel/Infinity/Whoever have killed radio’s power to lead the public to talented new artists with their computerized market segmenting and overly tight play lists….” Well, first there’s this. Then there’s this. And for those who thought satellite radio (and its merger) might open the way for talent discovery to again be a part of radio, read this. So who knows what the hell radio will do – or be – in 5 years?

So we’re left with our new old best friend the Internets. Thanks to, among other sites, YouTube, we can find out about new artists and share them with each other. Here are three I’ve found lately. Maybe you’ll like them – maybe you won’t. But the nice thing is, all of these are about talent, not media orchestrated hype, not anything but our old friend, music:

This not ready for MTV guy is Antony with his band the Johnsons:

Learn more about Antony and the Johnsons.

Next up is a cool band out of Nashville just doing their own thing very well, Swan Dive:

Learn more about Swan Dive.

Finally, George Harrison’s son Dhani is in a terrific band. Hey maybe there’s something in that genetics thing (if you’re a Boomer, don’t worry, you’re not flashing back – he looks a lot like his dad):

Learn more about thenewno2.

Happy listening….

Categories: Music/Popular Culture

7 replies »

  1. thenewno2 is fantastic. Period. The thing is that this vid is for a song that sounds pretty unlike everything else of theirs I’ve heard. Clearly young Dhani has listened to a good bit of trip-hop, is all I’ll say.

    Now, about Antony & the Johnsons. I first saw that video a couple weeks ago, and like a lot of folks, I imagine, my first reaction was “what the hell is this guy?”

    Then the song hit. The beauty, the unvarnished pain was SO PURE. Damned, it just about peeled me out of my chair.

    I fairly sprinted over to eMusic to see if they had the disc. They did. Now I have it and you should, too.

    Fuck radio. Fuck Clear Channel. Fuck the labels. But thank the gods for the Net. Great piece, Jim….


    My first introduction to Antony and the Johnsons was on the show Friday Night With Jonathan Ross (above link).

    Swan Drive’s tune was truly sublime…

    Sweet watching George Harrison’s lad. Good sound too.

    I guess two people can make me press the ‘go’ arrow on TunesDay. 😉

  3. Jim,

    Like you have shown, there’s a lot of great music out there. The only problem is separating the wheat from the chaff.

    As for the Archies……I loved them:)


  4. On another note, I bought the new REM album that was released today. Being a huge REM fan, I would have to give this labum a C+ as there was no stand out song.


  5. There was a big feature on REM and this record on one of the Sunday morning shows the other day. The band seems convinced that this is their best in ages (and that their last one represented a low-water mark – which I really don’t agree with). They admit that they’re running out of time to make lasting, great, relevant records, so they seemed to have a lot invested here. I was hopeful – they haven’t been truly great since AUTOMATIC.

    Kinda like U2. No question they’re the greatest living band, but that’s a tricky claim since they haven’t done a really great record since ACHTUNG. ALL THAT YOU CAN’T LEAVE BEHIND was a very good effort and the last one had its moments, but I’ve begun to think that these two bands, the greatest of the great for my generation, are now done.

    I hope not, but I can’t point to many signs that I’m wrong.

  6. Gotta strongly disagree with your slight of The 5th Dimension. But I give you a big thumbs-up for singing the praises of Swan Dive. Outstanding group, huge fan base in Japan.

  7. The Fifth Dimension had talent–not that there weren’t a LOT of great bands in 1969…but it’s not like they were talentless hacks.