T-shirts say the darnedest things. One day I saw a t-shirt that said: “Destroy Popular Culture. Rebuild. Repeat.” As being a musician who has fought to keep up with the ever-changing, flighty whims of well-known music, it was a like a bulb taking place over my head! Does something evolve if it is continually being destroyed? To keep making money, the popular culture industry does some spiteful things to the art forms they apparently embrace, if you’re talking music, fashion or whatever.
Let’s take 1970s disco music as an example. Stick to me on this. In the 70s, everyone loved disco music. Well, most everybody. Me included. And That I still do. So there.
But simply 6 months before the 1980s began, the songs of the 70s was ridiculed en masse by the media, and designed to look passe, pointless and worthless. Somehow we had been convinced that anyone who heard disco at that point was somehow really weird and somewhat of a loser. Phase one of the t-shirt now completed. Destroy Popular Culture.
Now proceed to 1980. Alongside the synth-dominated pop in the 80s (which still experienced a strong disco and funk influence, in the event you ask me), there was clearly additionally a resurgence in the popularity of 1960s music.
We had been hearing songs like “Stand By Me”, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, and “Soul Man” right alongside songs like “Jungle Love”, “Billie Jean” and “I Sense Of You”.
Phase Two completed. Rebuild.
Inside the 1990s, the same happened. Far be it for that fresh new teens in the 90s to be caught dead hearing anything from the 80s. Ewww! Not cool!
Yet, alongside the rap and alternative music from the 90s that was dominating the mainstream airwaves, disco music was creating a comeback. Lo and behold!
Let’s be realistic, the categorization of music is becoming ridiculous, and even though arguably 70s disco music had now morphed into “house music” or “dance-pop music”, the influence of disco was still strongly evident. Songs like Madonna’s “Vogue” were topping the charts. Phase 3 completed. Repeat.
The reasoning behind this all is simple. Money!
And Popular Culture industries understands how to manipulate people. How? By popular with, and manipulating the collective and individual egos.
So it goes like this. Inside the 70s, disco was the pop music in the times, and was naturally directed in the teenage ego. Of course, people of all ages enjoyed disco, but I’m speaking about the basic premise on the t-shirt, remember.
Then we skip ten years (in this example, the 1980s), and basically ignore those former teenagers of the 1970s, who are now out of secondary school, and in their 20s-likely to or dropping from university or college, getting their first serious job, struggling to produce a paycheck, perhaps starting children, and have little income to spare. And wondering what the hell happened to great music.
However in the 1990s, those same folks are the successful breadwinners, the new homeowners, the people running businesses and the ones with disposable income, and still young enough to believe being cool somehow matters. And they wish to hear the songs they loved as teens, but they would like to hear it as though it’s still popular in the present mainstream society. This lets them feel relevant.
So, looking to once again capitalize on the tunes they so wrongfully dismissed within the 1980s (namely, the songs from the 1970s), the favorite culture industry starts bringing that music into the spotlight. Instantly, it’s a renaissance, a revival, a rebirth, even!
Only now, perhaps they refer to it as “classic”, or unfortunately, “traditional” and “retro”.
Frankly, I find terms like “retro” and “traditional” very insulting, because they are only utilized to bring something down in order to build something different up. This is achieved to make the egoistic think that the current-day music is cool, relevant and superior.
In this instance, I think the egos targeted belong to the present crop of teenagers, but additionally to the present crop of artists, that have also become much younger, less talented, and much less musically literate. In any case, it’s just more ego stroking.
In referring to pop culture, the terms “retro” and “old fashioned” really only came into common usage at the start of the twenty-first century. And once again, the reality of the slogan rears its head:
Destroy Popular Culture. Rebuild. Repeat.
Now obviously, the Internet and also the technology explosion have changed everything. Now people can tune in to whatever they want, when they want, without being susceptible to the ever-changing whims of the fickle (but shrewd) popular music industries. Our company is no longer susceptible to exactly what the radio DJ’s tell us is cool. We program our mp3 players using the music rryrcy desire to hear, and that’s that.
The Pop Culture industries keep trying, though. Despite the fact that the superficial surface of this seems to change, with regards to musical styles, fashions, fads, etc., underneath all of it, in my view, no, it will not really evolve, it just keeps going around in circles, fulfilling a really human need. The need to feel relevant, and the need to feel like we matter; to feel special; to feel “cool”. In the end, this really is my opinion, based by myself experiences and observances as a musician and human being. Having Said That I think the t-shirt got it right.