Mike Baron's THE POP UNDERGROUND STRIKES BACK!!!
THE POP UNDERGROUND STRIKES BACK
by Mike Baron
Few shows illustrate how low the state of popular music has fallen than “American Idol.” While AI regularly finds singers of talent, the songs they feature are mostly chestnuts. The show also encourages the type of singing that is more at home on Broadway than in small smoky clubs. The judges put an inordinate amount of focus on vocal pyrotechnics encouraging contestants to test the outer limits of their ranges. The most exciting news to come out of the most recent season is the possibility that Adam Lambert might join Queen, replacing the ill-considered Paul Rogers.
I would love to see Adam Lambert join Queen. I already know all the songs. And that’s a problem. Singer/songwriters have been moving off-grid since the nineties. With the demise of the major music conglomerates, innovative talent understands it’s up to them to record and release their own material. The internet makes this possible. No one knows the extent of the effect downloading has had on the music industry, but if we are to judge from the reaction, it has been devastating. The Recording Institute Association of America has brought suits against parents whose children illegally download songs.
The music press that used to serve a vast range of interests is dying. No Depression and Blender bit the dust last year. Paste is asking its readers for financial contributions. Rolling Stone and Spin long ago gave up covering innovative grass-roots rock in favor of the ever-dwindling supply of “mainstream” acts. Rolling Stone now resembles an uncomfortable cross between The Nation and Vanity Fair.
The remaining music rags seem to be involved in a conspiracy to cover the same artists. How else to explain the simultaneous cover appearances of such bands as Vampire Weekend, Connor Oberst, and Bat for Lashes? These are the “official,” industry sanctioned “edgy artists.” Trouble is, all these music venues are waiting for someone else to sanction an artist before they’re interested. They are missing the forest for the trees.