In a recent two-part Gray Matter column, Margaret Dorr quoted extensively from Bob Reed, a former Marcus resident who maintains a blog site.
Reed believes, and Dorr concurs, that the music young people listen to these days lacks the quality of music from the good old days. Their critical view of today's youth culture clearly marks both Dorr and Reed as curmudgeons. But that's OK. I'm a curmudgeon myself.
I'm highly critical of music that doesn't fall into my definition of good music. During interludes of calm between my tirades against the awful music that I'm forced to hear, I'm willing to consider the idea that enjoyment of music is a subjective matter and that my preferences are not the result of immutable divine truth.
This dubious idea, that my musical taste could be questioned by a rational person, does not extend to rap, which cannot be regarded as music by any imaginable definition.
Whereas Reed believes the arrival of the Beatles on the music scene signaled the end of good music, I believe the time of the early Beatles was not yet the start of really great music.
I don't give a particular time as the end of good music. I didn't like disco but there was still good music made during the disco era. I abhor rap but good music was still made after the introduction of rap. There may be good music still produced but I don't give it much chance. I retreat to classic rock whenever possible.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to debate the merits of musical composition. An individual's reaction is highly personal and subjective. I believe Reed is on shaky ground when he praises the lyrics of pre-rock pop music. Actually, the best examples of pre-rock 20th century music are big band tunes with no lyrics.
Most rock tunes have repetitive lyrics but then pop music always has had repetitive lyrics. Typically, a song has a few simple lines between a repeated refrain. When a person doesn't like the music, only the repeated refrain is heard in annoying repetition.
Reed stated, "Where is the 'our song' of today -- the one that says it all for two lovers in a lovely tune with memorable lyrics? The venerable 'Embraceable You' was it for some."
Here are the memorable lyrics for Embraceable You:
Embrace me, My sweet embraceable you, Embrace me, My irreplaceable you, Just to look at you, My heart grows tipsy in me, You and you alone, Bring out the gypsy in me, I love all, The many charms about you, Above all, I want my arms about you, Don't be naughty baby, Come to me, Come to me do, My sweet embraceable you, I love all, The many charms about you, Above all, I want my arms about you, Don't be naughty baby, Come to me, Come to me do, My sweet embraceable you.
For lyrics that tell a story, a person can listen to folk music which predates rock and continues to the present. Country and western also has a tradition of story telling.
I suppose rap does too. Since rap singers aren't making music, they must be saying something, in a vernacular familiar to their intended audience. I don't know for sure. I haven't bothered listening to rap for profound insights into the meaning of life.
Frankly, I think words have very little to do with what music is about. If I want meaningful words, I'll read a novel. If I want music, I'll listen to classic or swing without lyrics or, far more frequently, classic rock with meaningless lyrics.