Firstly, this is not post written from a snobby pedestal bashing pop music for being shallow and vacuous. It’s a thought into how the public value music, a subject under the spotlight in recent years.
The Black Eyes Peas have a new song (listen here) that will, without doubt, be a huge hit. It’s called ‘The Time (The Dirty Bit)’ and includes a re-record of the wonderful, timeless chorus from Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ classic ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life,’ from the film Dirty Dancing. This is coupled with an admittedly very cool noise that drops exactly when you expect it to, not a million miles away from the Dizzee Rascall ‘Bonkers’ noise, that is repeated as variations throughout the song ……. and that’s pretty much it. But whereas Dizzee actually bothered to write a GREAT song around his cool noise, here there is no such decision. The BEP’s take the reign for the verses, but they never have the confidence to go it alone without the noise or chorus playing for more than a few seconds.
For many, pop music is defined as music that is instantly enjoyable, that requires a minimal investment of your time and effort to enjoy. The BEP’s, and many others, have built their career on fitting these requirements perfectly, and there is NOTHING wrong with this. But at least fans have needed a few listens to become familiar with the chorus, or when a beat drops, or the simple story. Even the X Factor, a concept built on exactly the same premise, asks fans to pay attention for an hour a week for several months. Who enjoys the first episode of X Factor as much as the last? Nobody. The value comes in enjoying the experience more as you invest more time in it.
My problem is this. This song has taken this ethos one step further, and to enjoy it requires the listener to invest literally NO time and NO effort. Repeated listens will not improve your experience of it. You love the chorus already, because it’s amazing and you’ve spent your entire life listening to it, so familiarisation is not required. The cool noise is instantly enjoyable from the first second you hear it, as all cool noises are. You don’t need to listen to any lyrics, follow any story, or know who is singing. Fans will love it the first time they hear it, but this love will not increase the more they listen.
So considering how much time and effort the band asks the fans to invest, how much monetary worth do we expect fans to place on the song, and the album that will be sold off the back of it? Isn’t this just ANOTHER reason why fans don’t value music?
The point is, people have been making music like this for years, but rarely groups of this stature. If this approach now passes as a viable route for one of the biggest acts in the world, what hope does the industry have in convincing fans that Music Matters (even with expensive films on YouTube preaching to the converted).
If pop artists and major labels continue to churn out songs like this, which they will, it’s this access to music that major labels should be monetizing, not the music itself.