In writing my post from a few months ago about how I love Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, I reflected on the fact that during No Doubt’s heyday in the 90s, the state of music and technology – and music technology – was vastly different than it is now.
Back then, you couldn’t just jump back and forth between countless songs, artists, or genres whenever you liked. You were limited to the music you had physically gone out and purchased, and even further limited by whatever you had with you at that moment. If I wanted to listen to No Doubt but was on the go and only had the Jock Jams volume 3 CD with me? Jock Jams it was. Not that I would ever really complain about listening to Jock Jams. Even now. That was a great collection. Just saying.
Because you really had to commit to music back then instead of switching around as we can do now, you really spent more time on each song, album, or artist. That’s why I know all the songs on No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom album, even the ones I don’t like. Today, if I decide I don’t like a song, I never listen to it. I can go to a concert and be convinced I’ll know 100% of the songs, only to realize – when I hear something unfamiliar – that there are songs I’ve forgotten about because I decided after the first go-around that I didn’t like them.
Recently, Michal Menert (an awesome e-funk/soul producer) posted a Tumblr rant about the current state of music. Specifically, he expressed discontent with the fact that, because people aren’t limited to a small number of albums, they’ll more easily give up on music that doesn’t immediately appeal to them instead of giving it a few listens and working through it, so to speak. As a result, audiences put greater pressure on artists to produce the things they want to hear, instead of what the artist feels like making.
When I was having to pick 2-3 albums I could afford a month, I forced myself to find my money’s worth. This may sound stubborn but for me, it helped me take the time to understand a lot of music that today I would dismiss because “why waste your time on something difficult if you can have a whole lot of easy, right now?” The reason why is because otherwise we’re killing the artist and the album. We’re opting for the familiar and comfortable, rather than the explorative and uncomfortable, which is the essence of art and curiosity.
I never really thought about this perspective when I wrote that No Doubt post. It’s so much more than just being forced to listen to the songs you don’t like on an album that you overall love. But how many artists or albums did I only fall in love with over time, after giving them multiple listens, when there was a lack of something else to listen to? How many bands would I have never given a second thought if I were to discover them today instead of 15-20 years ago?
I’ve never complained to an artist that they aren’t making the kind of music I want to hear (do people legitimately do this?!?), but if I listen to something I don’t like I just won’t listen to it again. Sometimes I’ll hear about a band or DJ, check out a few songs on Spotify, and decide I don’t like them – all within the span of 10 minutes or less. It saddens me to think about all the good music I might be missing out on, if only I had given it the time to grow on me.
And on an unrelated note, just to show you how much of the MAN Michal Menert is, here’s a video of a Menert/Break Science/Trombone Shorty collabo from Electric Forest 2013. Menert goes totally crazy here, especially in the last 30 seconds. It’s wonderful to watch and makes me wish he could hang out with me and be my own personal hype man. Also, how effortlessly cool is Trombone Shorty? Sigh.