T-shirts say the darnedest things. One day I saw a t-shirt that said: “Destroy Well-known Culture. Rebuild. Repeat.” Being a musician who has fought to take care of the ever-changing, fickle whims of popular music, it was a like a light bulb going on over my head! Does something evolve if it is continually being destroyed? To keep earning money, the popular culture industry does some spiteful things to the art forms they apparently accept, if you’re talking music, fashion or whatever.
Let’s take 1970s disco music as an example. Stick to me with this. In the 70s, everyone loved disco music. Well, most everybody. Me included. And I still do. So there.
But 6 months prior to the 1980s began, the music of the 70s was ridiculed en masse by the media, and made to look passe, pointless and worthless. Somehow we were convinced that anybody that listened to disco at that point was somehow really weird and a bit of a loser. Phase one from the t-shirt now completed. Destroy Popular Culture.
Now proceed to 1980. Alongside the synth-dominated pop of the 80s (which still had a strong disco and funk influence, should you ask me), there was additionally a resurgence inside the interest in 1960s music.
We had been hearing songs like “Stand By Me”, “I Heard It From 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, exactly the same thing happened. Far whether it be for that fresh new teens from the 90s to get caught dead listening to 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 building a comeback. Lo and behold!
Let’s be realistic, the categorization of music is becoming ridiculous, and although 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 all this is straightforward. Money!
And Popular Culture industries is able to manipulate people. How? By popular with, and manipulating the collective and individual egos.
So it goes such as this. In the 70s, disco was the pop music from the times, and was naturally directed at the teenage ego. Obviously, people of all ages enjoyed disco, but I’m talking about the essential premise in the t-shirt, remember.
We skip 10 years (in this particular example, the 1980s), and basically ignore those former teenagers in the 1970s, who are now away from senior high school, and then in their 20s-likely to or dropping away from college or university, getting their first serious job, struggling to produce a paycheck, perhaps starting a family, and possess little income to spare. And wondering exactly what the hell happened to great music.
However in the 1990s, those same folks are now the successful breadwinners, the brand new homeowners, the people running businesses and the ones with disposable income, but still young enough to consider being cool somehow matters. And they would like to hear the music they loved as teens, but they want to listen to it as though it’s still popular in the current mainstream society. This allows them feel relevant.
So, hoping to yet again take advantage of the tunes they so wrongfully dismissed inside the 1980s (namely, the music from the 1970s), the favorite culture industry starts bringing that music into the spotlight. All of a sudden, it’s a renaissance, a revival, a rebirth, even!
Only now, perhaps they consider it “classic”, or unfortunately, “traditional” and “retro”.
Frankly, I find terms like “retro” and “old school” very insulting, because they are only used to bring something down so that you can build something else up. This is done to help make the egoistic believe that the existing-day music is cool, relevant and superior.
In this case, I believe the egos targeted belong to the present crop of teenagers, but additionally to the present crop of artists, who may have also become much younger, less talented, and less musically literate. In any case, it’s just more ego stroking.
In discussing pop culture, the terms “retro” and “old fashioned” really only came into common usage at the start of the twenty-first century. And when again, the reality from 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 listen to whatever they want, whenever they want, without being subjected to the ever-changing whims from the fickle (but shrewd) popular music industries. We have been no longer subject to just what the radio DJ’s tell us is cool. We program our mp3 players with the music rryrcy want to hear, and that’s that.
The Pop Culture industries keep trying, though. Despite the fact that the superficial surface of it seems to change, in terms of musical styles, fashions, fads, etc., underneath all of it, in my view, no, it can not necessarily evolve, it just keeps making the rounds in circles, fulfilling a really human need. The need to feel relevant, and the necessity to feel like we matter; to feel special; to feel “cool”. Ultimately, this can be my personal opinion, based on my own experiences and observances being a musician and individual. However I think the t-shirt got it right.