Mainstream music wasn’t always as it is today, and in fact, a band in the 1970s and before only became mainstream because of the talents and music they created. Then came hair metal, in which many of the bands sprang up organically, however when record labels saw the profits being raked in, began manufacturing the look and bringing together musicians and dressing them up to fit the role. This also occurred in the 1980s with many of the boy bands, which were anything but organic and in which few had actual talent or songwriting abilities.
Then the 1990s came and grunge took over essentially killing hair metal, and almost immediately labels began making sound-alike grunge bands from any random pool of musicians and quickly over-saturated the market with the same sound, same aesthetic, same song topic bands. In the 2000s it happened with the abomination that was/is Nu metal and the many gimmicks that came about from the genre.
Now, I’m not saying I hate all of those types of bands or even all mainstream music, I like some from each of those genres, especially in regard to the bands who were innovators and who wrote and created their own music. That being said, today the talentless rise to godhood… Singers like Beyonce who have 20-50 people write her music and coach her singing and produce her to sound good are normal. Beyonce, who does absolutely nothing on her own, who doesn’t write music, produce anything, or even sing without a coach, is considered art, while others who create their own music and express themselves genuinely, are often set aside or considered not art.
Art is supposed to be self-expression, even within a band, each member expresses themselves through what they do, but if you are basically a face and body and everyone else does the creating for you… you are not an artist, and the mainstream is full of them!
Today, mainstream music’s top artists are fabricated, and few are organic and those who are organic never seem to reach the pinnacle that the label-made “artists,” do. Art is replaced by algorithms, what notes do people respond to best, what dance moves will get people to enjoy the video or emulate on social media, what should the lyrical content be that meets the current of society, everything is fabricated and reminds me of why fast food uses certain colors in restaurants.
Mainstream music is in fact, fast food music, it is formulaic, coached, and made for consumption by the general populace and not for the expression of the artists. It is no more than a throwaway prepackaged commodity, a product more so than a spontaneous act of creation and expression. I find more artistic expression in the music of Yoko Ono, Wesley Willis, black and death metal, punk, spoken word, etc… than I find in mainstream music today. From the creation of “boy bands,” to cherry-picked “pop stars,” the mainstream creates musicians and singers where neither existed on their own merit.
MTV is the culprit truthfully, it made it to where the image was most important, taking away a homely but talented person’s ability to be heard and replacing them with comely but talentless hacks. In an era where video truly killed the radio star, it also killed off a lot of talented and expressive musicians’ careers and replaced them with pretty, talentless, manufactured people. Music Television essentially killed music and replaced it with first, fabricated “artists,” and finished off the job with reality television!
Whenever someone hears heavy or extreme metal, goth, industrial, etcetera and says, “That’s not music,” they will often tell you their favorite bands who they believe are music and nine times out of ten, their favorite “artists,” are mainstream tripe. Cookie cutter, prefabricated, manufactured, formulaic, algorithm-based, studio-created musicians, and “artists,” are just not my thing, I enjoy organically created art, expression, and individual creativity, even if the art isn’t beautiful by accepted standards.
Mainstream music seldom comes across as genuine or expressive, because it isn’t, and for that… I hardly ever listen to it and strongly dislike it.