Posts tagged ‘music’

December 12, 2015

#103) How not to complain #4: Heil…Taylor?

Life’s three certainties are death, taxes and looking silly when you trot out a Hitler/Nazi comparison. The latest individual to break Godwin’s Law is critic/author Camille Paglia, who recently used the term “Nazi Barbie”, referring not to Klaus but Taylor Swift.

Paglia’s essay in “The Hollywood Reporter” has a viable premise: female bonding, particularly in the entertainment industry, can be a double-edged sword. On one hand,”girl squads can be seen as a positive step toward expanding female power in Hollywood.” Paglia also notes however, “Hollywood has always shrewdly known that cat-fighting makes great box office.”

So far, so good, but Paglia loses her credibility by admonishing Taylor Swift to “retire that obnoxious Nazi Barbie routine of wheeling out friends and celebrities as performance props…”

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that Holocaust survivors reading Paglia’s words may find that comparing a pop singer to a Nazi is a stretch. It’s understandable for Paglia to dislike seeing women trying to rise in the entertainment business by latching onto a queen bee such as Swift, rather than “focus[ing] like a laser on their own creative gifts.” Sure, Swift is nothing if not calculating and no one will ever accuse her of being subtle. But when it comes to murders, however, Swift trails the competition by about 11 million. As tempting as it is for musicians like me to say, “Shake It Off” is no “Mein Kampf.”

To her credit, Paglia falls on her own sword, at least to a degree, by admitting, “Writing about Taylor Swift is a horrific ordeal for me because her twinkly persona is such a scary flashback to the fascist blondes who ruled the social scene during my youth.” Fair enough, Cam, but let’s face it: you weren’t the only teenage girl who’s had to deal with fascist blondes.

Anne-Frank-Desk

 

 

 

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November 30, 2015

#101) How not to complain #3: Noah Henry

Dear Mr. Henry,

First things first: I’m on your team. As a musician myself I couldn’t agree more with the basic premise of your recent article on Mandatory, “11 Reasons Music Sucks Now Worse Than Ever”. As someone who has been complaining about virtually everything for longer than you’ve been alive, however, I have a few suggestions.

You see, as enjoyable an activity as complaining is, it’s all the more rewarding when you get some sort of result for your efforts. My goal is to take your inherent love of music and your disdain for today’s climate and help you turn these feelings into something that may inspire action for your readers.

CITATIONS NEEDED

Right off the bat, you claim that “it’s been…proven that repeated exposure to a song makes you like it more.” Where? In my experience, it’s been the exact opposite: 25 years ago I listened to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Hotel California” in complete reverence; now I instantly turn the station when I hear a single sixteenth note. I’d also like to see a link to the Scientific American article you quote at the end of your piece.

CHOOSE YOUR STATS WISELY

There’s no such thing as agenda-free statistics; numbers can always be curated to suit the purpose of the curator. Yours don’t really tell a story. For example, so what that Zeppelin hasn’t had a number one hit and Rihanna has had 13? Apples and oranges. Michael Jordan never threw a touchdown pass; Ghandi was never voted People’s Sexiest Man Alive.

DON’T PREACH TO THE CHOIR

If all you do is get people who already agree with you to continue agreeing with you, you haven’t gained any ground. Yes, “the Billboard 100 is full of idiots, morons and losers.” Yes, “focus groups rule the artist.” Yes, “Everything is safe and easily digestible like baby food.” The indie songwriter reading this on a laptop connected to the internet via the neighbor’s wifi feels you, but your audience will be limited unless you are willing to reach across enemy lines. Most Taylor Swift fans are going to check out of itemized rants about how much she sucks after the first bullet point.

I’LL SEE YOUR ANGRY YOUNG MAN AND RAISE YOU A GRUMPIER OLD ONE

Long all you like for the days of Everclear, Third Eye Blind, the Wallflowers and Sugar Ray and the other bands that represent your good ol’ days of music; to me, they’re really not that different from Fun, Maroon 5 and Coldplay. (Okay, I guess Coldplay really are in a class by themselves when it comes to suck.) Today’s young Turk is tomorrow’s “Kids these days…” guy; in 30 years, graying millenials will wonder what the hell mid 21st century young’ns see in whatever tops the 2045 Billboard Hot 100. It’s hard to control peoples’ opinions. Respecting theirs, however inane they may seem, is the best way to be heard yourself. Sometimes people just need time to outgrow stuff.

WHAT DO WE DO?

Like Lynn Shepherd, the author whose JK Rowling rant backfired, you don’t seem to have a clear result you’d like to see. For example, what are the bands we should be listening to instead of the truffle butter (see what I did) that’s out there? In fact you explicitly bypass the issue, working in a potshot at hipsters in the process (say what you will about them, at least they’re at every crafts fair from Silver Lake to Brooklyn supporting their favorite cajon, ukulele and didgeridoo dubstep trio). Should we boycott Justin Bieber? Burn Adele pictures in effigy? Send our local radio stations vinyl copies of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” to play instead of the latest offering from Ke$ha?

I know you mean well; you obviously care about music and I appreciate that. I hope that you’re able to find ways to get your message across that are inspiring, actionable and maybe just a little humorous. (Your opening line about only slitting your wrists three times while listening to the new Selena Gomez album is a good start; you may want to check out Axis of Awesome’s “Four Chords” video for more ideas.) Nothing gets done if someone doesn’t kvetch about it and with a little fine tuning, I believe you will soon be complaining with the best of them.

All the best

David Lockeretz

 

October 28, 2015

#98) When it’s OK for sex to sell

Note: this post is a companion to my review of Hilton Ruiz’s album “Strut.”

That sex sells is a given; the variable is how people react. Most responses are either outrage or a shrug of the shoulders. Don’t like chicks pouring water on themselves? Don’t buy the product. However, there just might be a legitimate upside to the use of sexual images in selling: when sex serves as a gateway to a longer-lasting relationship.

Observe. Fall, 1990. It was my sophomore year and as most of the world was in 1990, I was getting tired of heavy metal. I had been dabbling with jazz for a while, both as a listener and as a player, but it was yet to really click for me. One day while browsing CDs at the library I noticed one with a tasteful and understated cover.

Hilton Ruiz's record, What I didn’t know was that this pair of legs would unlock jazz for me. When I listened to this record by Puerto Rican pianist Hilton Ruiz, I heard the jazz language with which I was still not comfortable mixed with rock energy and a Latin flair that was an exotic contrast to the Boston winter that was rapidly approaching. Suddenly jazz was exciting, not just an academic subject to be graded on. Within weeks I was listening to the Modern Jazz Quartet, Brubeck and Lee Morgan, the doomed trumpeter whose signature composition “The Sidewinder” was covered by Ruiz on this disc. To be sure, the image on the cover of “Strut” may have turned some people off, but it also begat at least one jazz snob. My relationship with jazz has been contentious at times over the last quarter century, but at least I have a relationship with it. Might I have become a fan without Ruiz’s salacious cover? Perhaps, but there’s no doubt that that pair of legs served as an agent for change.

Is the creation of a jazz geek worth the price of objectifying a woman? Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes you have to wait a quarter century for the answer. Perhaps if the woman on the album cover was someone I knew or loved, I’d feel differently but because of the impact that this record had on my life, using sex to sell will never be a black and white issue.

May 19, 2015

#93) Escape artists

Note: this is a simulblog, appearing both on “D-Theory” and “Positive Music Place.”

When one of my friends posted her concerns that the internet would spoil the finale of “Mad Men” before she had a chance to watch it, I reassured her in my typically smart-ass manner: “Already saw it. Vader is Luke’s father.”

My knowledge of “Mad Men” consists of having watched about 10 minutes of it and listening to people praise it. The show has helped me see that just because something is popular, that doesn’t make it bad. I get the show’s appeal: timeless themes of pride undone by a tragic flaw set against a glamorous ’60s backdrop is a winning combination. I’ve realized that the problem is not Don Draper; it’s another “D”. My tastes in TV are escapist (see #44 and #84 for more info). Thus, if I don’t want to be judged for favoring lighter entertainment when it comes to the tube, I shouldn’t judge those who prefer Adele to Mahler.

A few days ago I was listening to a popular country song that was the requested first dance at a wedding where I was performing with the 40-Oz. Band. Overhearing it, my wife gave me a look that needed no explanation. All I could do was tell her, “Not everyone wants to be challenged on their wedding day.” Similarly, not everyone wants to be challenged after a long day at the office.

Like all creative professionals, us musicians put so much work and heart into what we do that when someone doesn’t notice, it’s a hard pill to swallow. We shake our heads when people download Nicki Minaj tracks by the millions  while our heart-felt oeuvre, honed by the light of a midnight lamp, is met with indifference at Open Mic night.

Yet we ignore, too: whether it’s by eating fast food instead of going to the farmer’s market; by reading “Twilight” instead of Shakespeare or by watching “The League” and “Shipping Wars” instead of “Mad Man.” That doesn’t make us bad people; everyone needs convenience and escapes now and then. Most dieticians agree that you can’t expect yourself to eat perfectly 24/7. Play for the people who want the challenge, don’t let the ones who don’t bring you down and step outside your own comfort zone now and then. You may pleasantly surprise a writer, chef, candle maker or photographer who assumed you were just looking for an escape.

July 14, 2014

#80) The restaurant time forgot (and what musicians can learn from it)

Note: this is a simulblog, posted on both D-Theory and Positive Music Place.

The story sounds familiar: a restaurant consistently received bad reviews, so they looked over surveillance videos to see what was going on.  The plot twist came when management looked over the film.  The results were surprising–not because they were shocking, but just the opposite.  There were no bodily functions performed on the prime rib; no one playing Words with Friends as a grease fire broke out; no managers putting the make on waitresses in the office; none of the employee hijinks that might be expected.  In fact, when they compared the recent footage to tapes from ten years earlier, the employee behavior was pretty much the same.  It was the customers that were different.

According the article about this restaurant’s findings, seven out of the 45 customers observed on the recent video asked their servers for the Wifi password.  Twenty-seven of the 45 requested that their waiter take a picture of their group; 14 of those 27 asked for a second picture.  Long story short: the restaurant’s conclusion was that customer behavior increased the average length of stay by 50 minutes compared to ten years ago.

Here’s where the restaurant missed the mark.  “We are grateful for everyone who comes into our restaurant, after all there are so many choices out there.  But you please be a little more considerate?” they implore at the end of the article.

The problem is, the restaurant doesn’t accept the fact that–whether or not they agree with it–for many customers, the cell phone is as important a part of the meal as the locally sourced vegetables and the craft beers.  The restaurant customer of 2014 expects to be able to take photos of their food and themselves enjoying it.  Savvy restauranteurs embrace the free advertising and integrate cell phones into the dining experience they provide;  proprietors stuck in the past complain about how kids today have no manners instead of trying to figure out how to better cater to them, thus resulting in poor online reviews.

So far you’ve read over 300 of my words (which I appreciate, thank you!); none of which is “music.”  What does this restaurant and their grievances with cell phones have to do with music?

Musicians face a similar dilemma in terms of getting their product out to new audiences.  Yes, we all want to do it our way, but trends, buying habits and tastes change.  Many consumers expect to be able to get music for free.  Music fans often see Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as ways of connecting with their favorite bands.  (Check out this post on CD Baby’s DIY Musician blog for more thoughts on the subject.)  The musician who evolves to fit the needs of  2014’s audience will likely have more gigs than the one who shakes his fist and rants about how no one appreciates AC/DC, Zeppelin or Sabbath anymore (the fact that I am writing this blog instead of playing a show might give a hint about the category in which I belong).

Elitism can have its place.  Fattburger’s slogan is “We’re not for everyone”; the Stone Brewing Company Arrogant Bastard’s bottle reads, “You’re not worthy.”  Businesses sometimes have funny have signs mocking Wifi obsessiveness.  Similarly, the independent musician who doggedly sticks to their guns and refuses to cave in to any trends, technological or otherwise, sometimes succeeds.  Let’s be honest though; these are usually the exception, not the rule.

I don’t claim to have much experience in the food service business (unless you count the lemonade stand my brother and I had as kids) but I do know this: the restaurant’s choices are to either to brand themselves as a cell-phone free zone (a move which may make their following smaller but more loyal) or adapt to changing times and train waiters to accept taking pictures of drunken customers as part of their job description.

Today’s consumer typically has more options for night life, dining and entertainment than they do time or money; as a band, restaurant or other purveyor of goods and services, you have a lot of competition for customers/fans.  If you look down on Wifi use at your restaurant, customers will likely go to the place down the block where it’s embraced.

Let’s face it, time can be a harsh mistress.  Yesterday’s rock star is today’s grumpy old man telling kids to get off their lawn.  Today’s rock stars–culinary, musical or otherwise–are often ones that let people on their lawn, but charge extra for Wifi.

free-wifi-geek-ashole-1026106

January 28, 2014

#70) You can’t give it away: #1 & #2

Good afternoon readers and welcome to another new sub-series of D-Theory posts.  In this series I will write about free things I’ve been offered but have turned down.  The world is changing and sometimes free ain’t good enough.  In this series of posts I will explore why.

The rule for these posts is that the declined free offer has to be made aware to me by permission marketing; the provider of the free products described here will in fact have reason to believe I might be interested in it.  In other words, you’re not going to find any free vacations for listening to a time-share sales presentation.  Offers described in this series will truly be no-strings-attached; yet I have still declined.

I don’t wish to make these posts a negative reading experience; rather my goal is to enlighten.  As a vendor, it’s easy to assume that “free” is some kind of magic word that will automatically get you the results you want; this is a mistake I’ve made many times when I’ve been on that side of the equation.  I hope that by sharing my own experiences I can help readers understand the consumer’s perspective.  If you, the reader, has either declined a free offer similar to one that I describe or perhaps have made a similar offer to your customer base but have had disappointing results, feel free to share your stories.  Without further ado:

#1) Mark Knopfler, “Privateering”

Last October my wife and I saw Mark Knopfler, former guitarist and lead singer of Dire Straits, in concert.  After purchasing the tickets I was given a link to download Knopfler’s latest solo record, “Privateering.”  I have not yet done so.

As a musician, I understand Knopfler’s desire to keep creating and growing as an artist.  I also can guess that, just as I get tried of playing the same songs over and over again, Knopfler probably isn’t in a hurry to bust out “Sultans of Swing”, “Walk of Life” and “Money for Nothing.”  Here’s the problem: I think I speak for the majority of his audience when I say that I’m not paying for “Privateering”; I’m paying for “Sultans of Swing”, “Walk of Life” and “Money for Nothing.”  I did not hear any of those songs.

The concert was still an enjoyable experience; the musicianship was top notch and the songs were good.  Some of them were on “Privateering”, but I can’t remember which.  My non-downloading of “Privateering” is not intended as a slight on Knopfler or as a revenge ploy for his set list.  It’s simply a reflection of the fact that, while Knopfler might have put just as much effort into “Privateering” as he did into his earlier music, it’s the latter which is in higher demand by myself–and I’m guessing, the majority of his fan base.  Making something free doesn’t automatically give it urgency.

#2) $10 Sam Ash gift card

Sam Ash, the nationwide music store chain, has been providing customers with a $10 gift card for an in-store purchase of $50 or more.  No-brainer, right? Here’s the problem: The gift cards are mailed to you, come with an expiration date and they can only be used in the store.  The motivation behind the gift card is obvious: Sam Ash wants you to come back to the store and buy more stuff.  All well and good but when I have to spend $5 in gas (not to mention an hour in transportation time) to redeem my $10 card, I’ll just order stuff online without the discount.  Removing the expiration date might help; if I am going to be near both a Sam Ash and a Guitar Center and need to pick up strings or another accessory, if I have the Sam Ash gift card and know that I can use it regardless of the date, my decision will be easy.  The lesson here is that “brick and mortar” businesses have to be able to counter the convenience and effectiveness of online shopping and that a $10 gift card probably won’t do much to tip the balance.

December 8, 2013

#65) Lorde Have Mercy: Tackling another one of my New Years’ Resolutions

I only have three weeks to finish my New Years’ Resolutions project and one of the items was to “Read at least one article/blog post/etc. that contradicts [my] beliefs.”  I found one putting for the idea that Lorde, a teenager from New Zealand whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor and who has burned up the airwaves with her song “Royals” is the heir apparent to Nirvana.  The article can be found here.

I will concede the following: “Royals” is one of the few new songs I’ve heard recently that sounds different from everything else  and that if I had a teenage daughter I’d sure as hell rather have her see Lorde as a role model than say, Snooki.  However, the comparison between her and Nirvana is, to me, somewhat of a stretch and judging by some of the comments on the article, I’m not the only one.  In truth I’m not a huge Nirvana fan, probably due to timing in that they broke once I had irrevocably entered my jazz snob stage.  When my roommate told me that Cobain killed himself I said, “Who’s Kurt Cobain?”

But I digress.

Before reading the article, the main point on which I disagreed with Powers is: can anybody really be declared the next anyone else on the strength of one song?

Author Ann Powers argues her point vigorously.  She compares Cobain to a Molotov cocktail; Lorde to a virus, alluding to the fact that the former was explosive and the latter is stealthy; also perhaps referencing the modern connotation of the word “viral.”  Powers points out that just as Nirvana and the grunge movement was the antidote to bloated ’80s rock, Lorde is becoming at least to some the answer to “MileyMania.” Powers doesn’t go so far as to predict that Lorde will put New Zealand on the musical map the way Cobain et al did for Seattle, but she does point out that both Cobain and Lorde hail from places outside pop music’s “centers of power.”

Yet, despite her well thought-out case, I must simply agree to disagree with Powers.  At this point we just can’t tell if Lorde will become a leading voice of her generation or a one-hit-wonder.  I also can’t help but feel as if Powers is over thinking the room: at times she seems to want to use Lorde as a prism with which to view the world of 2013, dropping references to “The Hunger Games” and Trayvon Martin, discussing class warfare and other weighty topics.  She almost seems to write too well for her own good.

That said, the article fit my project guidelines nicely.  The best way to understand your own arguments is to learn those of the opposing side and as a purveyor of internet content (who’s overthinking the room now, D-Lock?) I am on the same team as others who do the same, even if our view points differ.  While I still don’t agree with Powers, I defend to the death her right to say that Lorde is the Nirvana of our times.

September 8, 2013

#59) Miles and Manning: Score another one for the music geeks!

Note: this is a Simulblog, posted both on Positive Music Place and D-Theory.

It’s rare to hear the name  Miles Davis mentioned on any non-jazz radio station–especially a sports station–so when it happened yesterday morning I assumed that either I needed another cup of coffee to clear the fog from my head or that there was another Miles Davis being discussed; perhaps a little known tight end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But no, it was the Man with the Horn; the jazz legend who gave us “Kind of Blue”, “Birth of the Cool”, “Bitches Brew” and much more.  Exactly just was Miles doing on the “Weekend Warriors” sports talk show?

The guest was David Epstein, author of “The Sports Gene“, and he was discussing a theme from his book: parallels between the thought processes of great athletes and great musicians.  Epstein said (paraphrasing here): “Musicians like Miles Davis and Steely Dan* are known more for what they don’t play; how they use space to shape their music; defining what’s there by what’s not there.  Similarly, an amateur quarterback, like me, would look downfield at all of the wide receivers to decide where to throw the ball while Peyton Manning looks at where they aren’t, because that’s where they will be as the play develops.”

So there you have it – an example of how seemingly disparate worlds have parallels.  In high school, the star quarterback and marching band geek may be on opposite sides of the social spectrum, but in achieving greatness after graduation, they just might have something to teach each other.

* Epstein didn’t actually mention Steely Dan; I just felt like dropping them in.

December 29, 2012

#51) New Year’s resolutions inspired by 2012

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as if 2012 was a year when the world was on edge.  From the tragic shootings in Connecticut, Colorado and Oregon to the acrimony of the presidential campaigns and election, it’s enough to make me understand why some many people believed in the Mayan Apocalypse.  It’s gotten me thinking about ways to make 2013 better.  Most of these are not goals I think are realistic to keep for the full year; rather they are more like “projects”; periods of sacrifice or behavior change, along the lines of Lent.  Perhaps as a result, the new behavior after the goal is completed.  We’ll know in 365 days.

1) Read at least one article/blog post/etc. that contradicts your beliefs.  Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, pro-choice or pro-life, you can learn a lot from at least understanding the other side’s point of view. You may be even more convinced your own opinion is right, but the best way to be a solid debater is to know the other side’s arguments.

2) Idiot Driver Amnesty Day.  No matter where you live, whether you commute by car, bus, bike, skateboard or foot, odds are you have to deal with drivers who are dangerous, selfish, distracted or just plain not that bright.  I propose picking one day and simply forgiving drivers for these transgressions. I’m not suggesting a lack of follow-up if an accident occurs; I’m not suggesting you don’t use your horn for safety.  But don’t flip the bird; don’t flash your lights at the person in front of you, no matter how slowly they’re driving.  Is it a drag to be late to work because of slow traffic?  Of course it is.  It’s not the end of the world.  I don’t mind saying that this resolution is probably the one which with I will have the most difficulty.

3) Radio Silent Hour Week.  Every day for one week, disconnect from all media for one hour.  No email, voicemail, Facebook updates, tweets, Youtube; you get the idea.  Will you lose clients because you don’t get back to them quickly?  Maybe.  I recently missed a gig because when the call came in, I was having sex with my wife.  I am not sure that, should a similar situation arise in the future, I would do things any differently.

4) Piss someone off.  Huh?  Isn’t this supposed to be about making the world a better place and making our own life better?  Well, when I suggest pissing someone off, I don’t mean going out of the way to do it; I simply mean, saying “no” when you mean “no”; not doing something for someone else that benefits only them.  Someone once said that if everyone likes you, you’re not doing your job.  I forget who they were, but they were right.

5) Facebook free day.  Exactly what it sounds like.  You can always see pictures of your co-worker’s kids, pithy political cartoons and game invitations tomorrow.  As for your own posts: quality over quantity, people.

6) Media free food week.  Huh?  Yes, media free food week.  In other words: don’t eat in front of the TV.  Don’t eat while talking on your phone.  Don’t eat while driving.  Don’t eat while surfing the web.  Next to #2, this will probably be the toughest one on the list for me – but I’m giving it a shot.  Studies have linked eating in front of the TV (and one can reasonably conclude that the computer and its kin are also guilty) to weight gain; check out this article for more information.

7) Twitter free year.  Yes, year.  I have to say that while every technology and every website has its good and bad sides, with Twitter, the negative far outweighs the positive.  Lots of people have been disciplined over poorly timed tweets, whether it was Boston College soccer player Stephanie McCaffrey or collegiate football player Bradley Patterson.  True, one can always refrain from making offensive tweets, but regardless, what has Twitter really done for you lately?  We all loved watching Obama use it to build support in ’08, but I can’t help but feel as if the site’s days as an agent for publicity are done.  Maybe I’m wrong and will be eating my words at this time next year; all hating can be directed to @dlockeretz.

8) Write a letter.  A letter to the editor, a letter to a friend, a letter to family.  No postcards; you will probably do those anyways.  No holiday card either; no one wants to hear about how great your year was when theirs sucked.  While I have handwriting that is worse than any right-handed person I know (and I have a substantial number of the lefties beat too), I enjoy busting out the pen and paper from time to time; it’s a little more personal than an email or a text message.

9) Listen to one record that you haven’t heard before.  By record, I mean physical recording – compact disc, LP record, cassette, 8-track, wax cylinder.  Start to finish, no media interruptions, no conversations.  Maybe this is just the reactionary musician who doesn’t want to get with the times going on a rant, but just try it.  You might discover something new.  Might I suggest Donald Fagen’s “The Nightfly” or Charles Mingus’s “Ah Um.” As with #8, I”m not trying to fight the new; I’m just suggesting that maybe the old isn’t completely obsolete.  Tweet @dlockeretz if you disagree.

10) Visit one place that you’ve never heard of.  Most people reading this probably use Google Maps or Mapquest to look up directions to appointments and meetings.  If you’ve done this, perhaps you’ve noticed a park, a local business or some other site that looks interesting, but never got around to checking it out.  I say: check it out!  You might even find a good hiking trail near you.  Not that I have any kind of vested interest in getting people interested in hiking, of course.

Thanks for reading & happy new year!

December 12, 2011

#34) Why the “12 Extremely Depressing Facts About Popular Music” might not be as bad as it seems

Note: this is another simulblog, appearing both on “D-Theory” and “Positive Music Place.”

Recently, a list of 12 “extremely depressing facts about popular music” has been circulating around cyberspace.   The facts, such as that the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Got a Feeling” is more popular than any Simon & Garfunkel or Elvis song, have undoubtedly caused much eye-rolling, head shaking and many grumblings of “Kids these days…”

But is there another side of this?  Both as an exercise in critical thought and as one of many steps I’m taking to not let myself become a grumpy old man when it comes to music, I’ve tried to dig a little deeper and see if there may be positives about the facts presented on the list.  No, I don’t think it’s a “good thing”, per se, Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” has outsold any Beatles single, but I do argue that things might not be as bad as they seem.

Before getting into the specifics of each fact, there are two general trends that apply to much of the list.  First is that a lot of today’s music is heard and consumed differently from the classic rock to which it’s being compared.  The population of the US has almost doubled since 1960, which probably accounts for the inflated numbers of some of the more recent acts.  Another point is that, like it or not, opinion does play a role in the selection and presentation of these facts.  Am I here to argue that the Black Eyed Peas are better than the Beatles?  No, but I do think that this list is best looked at with an open mind.  It doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

1. Creed have sold more records in the US than Jimi Hendrix

Creed is one of my least favorite bands.  But I think it’s important to recognize the difference between a true flash in the pan (insert “Foster the People” cough here) and a band which, while not appealing to me on a personal level, has stood the test of time.  I read the fact that they’ve outsold Hendrix is more a case of “agreeing to disagree” than as a “what have we come to?” moment.  Also note the silver lining that the fact has to include the qualifier “in the US.”  In Hendrix’s own lifetime, he found popularity overseas before making it big back home.

2. Led Zeppelin, REM, and Depeche Mode have never had a number one single, Rihanna has had 10 

This could be seen as a case of comparing apples to oranges.  Led Zeppelin was primarily an album-oriented, not single-releasing band.  Their fourth record, sometimes referred to as “ZoSo”, has sold 32 million copies worldwide; 23 million in the US, according to Wikipedia.  There’s also that little thing about “Stairway to Heaven” being the most played song in radio history.  As for REM and Depeche Mode, they both came out of the “alternative” movement of the 1980s; they weren’t even supposed to be popular in the first place.

3. Ke$ha’s “Tik-Tok” sold more copies than ANY Beatles single

I don’t know anything about Ke$sha, other than that the dollar sign makes her name difficult to type.  I could have listened to “Tik-Tok” as research for this blog post, but I didn’t.  I do know this: fifteen years ago, everyone was upset when “Macarena” outsold Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”  We survived that; we’ll survive Ke$sha too.

4. Flo Rida’s “Low” has sold 8 million copies – the same as The Beatles’ “Hey Jude”

Another artist and song I am not familiar with, and I plan to keep it that way.  Would I sound like a musical snob if I said that long after people have forgotten “Low”, cell phones (or whatever people will use to serve the purpose once served by cigarette lighters) will be waving to “Hey Jude”?

5. The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” is more popular than any Elvis or Simon & Garfunkel song

Another opinion case.  We all love “Mrs. Robinson”, but let’s face it, Simon & Garfunkel has historically been somewhat of a niche act.  As for The King, one could certainly make the argument that his body of work is greater than the sum of the individual parts.  That one BEP song has outsold any of Elvis’s can be read more as a statistical anomaly than a nail in music’s coffin.

6. Celine Dion’s “Falling Into You” sold more copies than any Queen, Nirvana, or Bruce Springsteen record

Like it or not, music fans, non-threatening acts will always have their place.  You don’t have to like it, but just know that it’s not something new.  Take comfort too, in the fact, that it wasn’t Celine Dion who topped a recent list of the 10 catchiest songs of all time, as proven by science.

7. Same with Shania Twain’s “Come On Over”

Admit it, you’ve waved your phone to “You’re Still the One.”

8. Katy Perry holds the same record as Michael Jackson for most number one singles from an album

This fact is a little obscure to really be upsetting.  According to “Wikipedia”, “Thriller” has worldwide sales estimated between 65 and 110 million units.  If Katy Perry puts those kind of numbers, then I might get upset.

9. Barbra Streisand has sold more records (140 million) than Pearl Jam, Johnny Cash, and Tom Petty combined

Barbra Streisand is basically a Jewish Celine Dion.  Or Celine Dion a shikse Streisand.  Either way, Babs will always have her audience, like it or not.  It doesn’t mean that messrs. Vedder, Cash and Petty’s catalogs are languishing in obscurity.

10. People actually bought Billy Ray Cyrus’ album “Some Gave All…” 20 million people. More than any Bob Marley album

It’s hard to let Billy Ray off the hook, especially considering that most notorious thing he made wasn’t even a recording.  But perhaps we can take some happiness in the fact that the music of Bob Marley continues to reach audiences 30 years after his death, while Cyrus & Daughter continue to be punchlines.  No daughter, no cry.

11. The cast of “Glee” has had more songs chart than the Beatles

There’s a certain hypocrisy to getting upset about this one.  As a TV show, “Glee” reaches an audience of millions, thus powering the sales of the music.  But the Beatles were also helped by television, notably their “Ed Sullivan Show” appearance.  If you’re not shocked by the fact that there are more TVs in American households now than in 1964, then don’t be upset that “Glee” has the influence that it does.

12. Justin Bieber exists.

“Talentless and absurd.”  “Like a jug of corn-liquor at a champagne party.”  “A danger to the security of the United States.”  Oh, my bad–those aren’t quotes about Justin Bieber, they’re about Elvis.  Am I going to argue that Bieber is the successor to the throne?  Am I going to insist that my band starts covering “Baby”?  Not in this lifetime.  But I am always aware that the laughable can someday become relevant, and while I think that Justin Bieber having a lasting musical legacy is very much a longshot, it wouldn’t be the first time that a teen idol lasted longer than many people expected.

So where exactly does this list leave us?  I like to think of it as a wake-up call of sorts; a rallying cry.  If fans of Marley, Springsteen, Petty et. al sit by idly, they have no one to blame but themselves when Katy Perry and Ke$sha eclipse their record sales.  The fact is that a lot of the classic rock that was once iconic doesn’t connect with audiences the way it used to.   It’s a bit of a catch-22: it’s hard to preserve and revere the legacies of the Beatles, Elvis and Hendrix without making them feel like museum pieces.  Just as symphony orchestras have an uphill climb, classic rock may well face the same battle before long.  But despite the financial struggles that orchestras may face, everyone in the world knows Beethoven’s fifth symphony, “Fur Elise” and the “Hallelujah Chorus.” John, Paul, George and Ringo could do worse than to keep company with Johann Sebastian, Wolfgang Amadeus and Ludwig Van. Who knows, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber may even join them there someday.