Icons create music that is inspiring, original and revolutionary. They combine memorable lyrics with unforgettable sounds, enabling their music to stand the test of time, even at their end. Over the last decade or so though, a musician’s popularity seems to be so fleeting: no one musician has really stood out; no one has really made a significant mark on music. Why is that?
Maybe everything has already been done. Musicians nowadays have adopted the same fate as the fashion world, resorting to recycling past trends. In the eighties, Madonna pioneered the hypersexuality of women in music, and since then there has been a plethora of female artists who have tried to do the same. Britney Spears was featured on Madonna’s track “Me Against the Music,” but paled in comparison in every way, almost like she was trying too hard to be Madonna. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” is often regarded as an imitation of Madonna’s “Express Yourself”, completely negating its authenticity. Every musician is going to be inspired by someone who preceded them but when there’s no effort to put their own spin on it, the similarities become obvious. The audience can easily detect them and inevitably, peg one musician against the other, but the original always stands taller.
Maybe there’s nothing left to sing about. A lot of music released during the sixties was derived from the anti-war sentiment. That’s how Woodstock was created: a three-day music festival to make love and not war. Music at that time became so popular because people could hold on to it, people could relate to it, people needed it. The Beatles were largely successful because their music was about peace, love and wanting to hold your hand. Their music affected an entire generation, as well as those that followed because it meant something and it was timeless – how can peace and love ever go out of style? These days, no one really sings about current world issues. On occasion there will be a song or two to help raise money to support foriegn countries in need, but no one really addresses any issues in their music. The few that do, are musicians that have already stood the test of time.
Maybe music just isn’t about music anymore. It’s about what sells: and in this day and age that’s everything but the music. It’s no secret that sex sells. Boy bands survived on this notion alone. Typically comprised of a group of young, mildly talented attractive boys, they captured the hearts of all teenage girls. But everyone grows up: girls do not stay teenagers forever and neither do Backstreet Boys. Fans moved on, and boy bands faded because their music alone was never substantial enough to take them anywhere. Add to that, scandal, drama, pregnancy, marriage, rehab, jail, appearing on reality television shows and any sub par artist can become famous, even if for fifteen minutes.
Music shouldn’t need an image, it shouldn’t need a specific demographic, it shouldn’t need to be tied to a scandal – it should simply sell itself. No musician really tries to be a legend, they just become one, and as years go on, it becomes more and more difficult to stand out. Maybe there are musicians just starting out who will one day be iconic; for now we will just have to wait.