Music is and forever will be prelevant in general pop culture, but how it is consumed and how it has evolved has changed a lot in the past few decades.
As you know, around the Christmas holidays, ‘All I Want For Christmas (Is You)’ by Mariah Carey is everywhere. Everyone knows the song. I was talking about it and its pervasiveness this past holiday season when the following question was posed to me: will there ever be another song that’s as iconic and widely known?
And I answered no.
Music is so spread out nowadays that it’s is no longer forced upon us. Fifteen, twenty years ago, there was no Spotify, no iTunes. Yes, there were CDs and those on computers maybe had some mp3s, but we all still listened to the radio a lot and watched the same music videos on MTV. Thus, we all knew of the same big songs and big artists. But now, we can tailor our listening habits to our exact tastes and find songs that radios would never think of playing, so we don’t waste time listening to their set lineup. Music is now a personal thing enjoyed on one’s own, and sometimes never shared.
Obviously, Carey’s hit has the benefit of being a seasonal song so every year it makes a comeback, whereas other popular songs that everybody knows of like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ don’t have a timeline to follow to force themselves back into the spotlight, and this can affect popularity.
And since we’re all in control of music now, we can move past songs and artists quicker. Of course there are big, popular songs still, but they’re fads that come in and out, and even artists with the number one song can struggle for a lasting career past it.
And speaking of artist careers, I think this concept of music spreading out also relates to the idea that winning a competition show guarantees you a career like it’s advertised. Back in the days of there only being network TV to consume, everyone and their mom would be up to date with shows like American Idol. When a winner was announced, everyone knew their name and music, so yes, they did have a basically set career ahead of them. Even if you didn’t watch the show, you still probably know of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and even runner-ups like Adam Lambert.
So it’s super interesting to me that nowadays, shows like The Voice have had over 20 seasons in the past decade with big-name mentors, and I, someone who is fairly up on pop culture knowledge, can’t name a single winner. Not a one. Do these winners have music careers now? Am I just not in the right places to hear their music? Or is music so spread out now that the only fans are the ones who watched the show, and they struggle to grow in such a competitive industry?
I’m not complaining that the music landscape has shifted. I love being in control of what I listen to. But maybe it is a bit sad that society won’t collectively come together because of music anymore. Unless it’s coming together to agree on how awful songs are. ‘Gangnam Style’, I’m looking at you.
I’m sure in the next few decades, music as a whole and how we consume it will continue to evolve even further, and I’m fine with that. But it is interesting to consider what we may lose in this process.
What are your thoughts on this topic?