Evolution. It made Charles Darwin famous, brought us nature as we know it today, and makes a car drive faster around a track as a race weekend goes on. That last one, referring to the "track evolution" that occurs as grippy rubber is laid down onto the track surface, is an example of evolution occurring outside of the natural world. It can also be applied to one more thing - yep, you guessed it, music.
As time has gone on, new technological innovations and inventions have allowed music artists to continue pushing the boundaries. Bands such as The Beatles and Pink Floyd tested the limits of Abbey Road Studios in the 1960s and '70s, Kraftwerk were the first act to truly embrace the synthesiser, the '80s saw synths and sequencers give birth to the likes of House music, and so on. Distorted guitar only became a thing when guitarists used broken amplifiers in the 1950s and '60s, paving the way for it to become a feature of future amplifiers, rather than a fault.
Of course, this was all in the 20th century, during a time when new technology was being invented daily and computers were on the rise. Today, we see less invention, with all this equipment already in place. Musicians don't have to push the boundaries of the technology anymore, because the tech we have in place is so good that it can handle almost anything an artist throws at it. Hell, Muse's Matt Bellamy has a Kaoss Pad installed into his guitar these days, which is bizarre but shows you how far we have come in the last 70 years or so.
This, then, could be a reason as to why so many think music isn't as good today. Without technical limitations, artists now can be lazy, and many think that modern technology now makes it too easy for new artists to enter the industry, what with the ability to make a record in your bedroom, with possibly no outside opinion on the music's quality, and then release it onto the Internet to perhaps go viral.
But is this really the case? Sure, a little bit. The charts can, for example, be a bit samey, full of label-controlled pop artists who constantly play it safe and follow the trends set for them. In this way, perhaps a lot of the music that the masses hear on BBC Radio 1 isn't exactly as good as what it used to be, with a distinct lack of creativity and originality often plaguing the playlists.
All this means, though, is that you have to dig that tiny bit deeper to find the true gold - and it's definitely still out there. 2020 has been absolutely excellent for music across the board, with so many albums by artists who may not test the limits of technology anymore - but instead test the limits of themselves. That's how you find the standout artists of today, by looking for those who push themselves and their own boundaries in order to create the best music they are capable of.
Take Hayley Williams, for example. Her debut solo record Petals For Armor is one of our favourites of the year so far, but for Williams, it was a "scary, empowering experiece" and going into the record, she recognised a "musical naiveté and rawness" within herself, despite all her years with Paramore. With this album, then, she challenged herself to do something different, to branch out and test the limits of her own artistry. The result? A phenomenal record to which we gave a 9/10, because it deserved it.
The difference between the 20th Century and today is that, back then, new genres and styles were being invented all the time. Technological innovations helped give birth to rock 'n' roll, prog rock, heavy metal, synthpop, hip-hop, dance, house, and so on. Nowadays, whilst artists mesh genres together a lot more, there is less invention of new ones, and thus, people don't hear truly new and unheard ideas as much, with the charts instead being dominated by trends and clones.
To those who were around in the old days, this gives off the illusion of laziness from modern artists. It seems to them like the new artists aren't trying, that the lack of new outright sounds is an indication of lower quality music. It's a shame, because the truth is that modern music is full of creative artists who want to release music for the sheer love of it. Despite the common trope that music is too easy to be successful in these days, how many artists can you name that truly have no talent to them at all? No doubt there's a couple who slipped through, but to stand out in today's more saturated industry, you've really got to have something about you. The saturation of the market, in fact, is another reason why music standards remain high - these artists know that, to achieve success today, they've got to make good quality music to ensure that it's them who people want to listen to.
The overall quality of music is still high, then - it's just often buried that little bit deeper below the pop market. Great music is out there, but you need to find the artists who are pushing themselves and doing their own thing. This can still be found in the pop musicsphere - Taylor Swift's surprise new album was also a surprise in style, and excellent to boot - but it's more likely to be found in other genres. Nonetheless, the point remains that music is just as good today as it ever was - you just need to go and find it.
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