There was a time when I could turn on the radio and just let it play, knowing everything that came on would be “my jam.” Nowadays it seems like I spend more time searching for a radio station that’s not playing the same song as the one before it than paying attention to the road. As much as I hate to say it, and as much as I hate sounding this old, it’s just time to admit it: today’s music sucks.
Nothing makes me feel older than getting into my car, turning on my radio and hearing songs like Alicia Keys’ “Fallin'” on “the throwback station.” It’s the same feeling I had when I saw “Friends” was coming to Nick at Nite. Have the songs I grew up listening to become old-school already? Are my favorites of yesteryear making way for the Nickis and the Ke$has of tomorrow?
God, I hope not.
It seems like a cycle: my grandparents said my parents’ music was awful and that they didn’t know what “real music” was, as they blasted James Brown and Marvin Gaye from their stereos; my parents said it to me when I was skipping tracks on my CD player to my favorite Jay-Z songs; and now, I find myself saying it to my little brother as he shakes his iPod to find the next Waka Flocka song he wants to listen to.
Admittedly, I’m not totally against “these young kids'” music; but the fact that I remember all the words to songs like Monica’s “Angel of Mine” and even Ginuwine’s “Pony,” and can’t remember what the biggest song was on the radio two years ago (which, according to Billboard, was Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”). And let’s not even get started on the actual legends – even Mariah Carey, arguably the last of the female R&B powerhouse generation, can’t seem to make the same impact she used to. Sure, she’s had top-ten hits as recent as three years ago with 2009s “Obsessed,” but compared to her first #1 hit, “Vision Of Love,” she has undoubtedly had to change her sound to maintain her mass appeal.
Another thing you don’t see anymore is male R&B singers – and no, Drake does not count. What Trey Songz and Ne-Yo attempt to do on their songs is cute, at best. But they wouldn’t have been able to hold a candle to guys like Joe and Ginuwine, who seemed to fade into the background when these guys started rising. There was a time when women would throw their underwear on a stage to a man singing to them; but these days, it’s the men who have to shed their clothing to get attention.
The current generation also doesn’t know what it is to be a great group; we had Boyz II Men, En Vogue, Shai, Destiny’s Child, and even B2K (I know, but you can’t deny what they did when they did it). It baffles me to learn how much of the younger generation doesn’t know that Beyoncé came from a group, or that Boyz II Men and En Vogue even existed. When I see acts like the OMG Girlz and Mindless Behavior, I cringe to think kids will think of this and say “now this is good music.”
Maybe I’m stuck in the 90s, or maybe I’m just like my father (that was a Prince reference, for those of you who didn’t catch it). I can admit that my music tastes have not evolved with the times as they once did. But will we react the same way to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” 10 years from now the same way we do to Madonna’s “Vogue” today? Will we ever see another Lauryn Hill or D’Angelo sing with so much soul that you close your eyes and belt out the entire song?
God, I hope so.