Staying Tuned

By: Hannah Karpinski

Whenever I’m in the car with my parents, they like to listen to classic rock. They’re always changing the station to Q107 or Rock108, but if the dial is ever turned to a newer radio station, playing songs by artists like Katy Perry or Jay-Z, the constant reaction I get is: “Turn that crap off! What are kids listening to these days?” The only answer I can come up with is: “It’s not what you were listening to when you were our age”. The truth is this: it is hard to say exactly what people listen to nowadays, considering how wide the range is. Of course, music is something that separates generations.

On December 15th, I went to the Zappa plays Zappa concert with my friend. It was a night to pay tribute to the late Frank Zappa, a rock musician who wrote many songs, some of his most popular ones being Muffin Man and Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow. He had two children: a daughter whom he called Moon Unit, and a son, Dweezil, who is currently on tour, performing Zappa plays Zappa. As a kid, I listened to Frank Zappa all the time, since my family had many of his tapes that we would always play on long car rides. Hence, I really like his music. I guess not many kids my age feel the same way, considering that my friend and I were two of the very few people at the concert under the age of forty.

It’s clear that music and musical taste have changed over the years. Take a decade like the 90s, which makes me think of bands like the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys. They’re what some people like to call “Candy Pop”. Of course, the 90s was also a big decade for hip hop and rap music, not to mention punk rock and grunge. Artists like Notorious B.I.G. and Nirvana emerged and rose to fame in the 90s. These bands were nothing like those from other generations, like the Beatles, for instance, which were most popular in the late 60s.

But now that we have reached the end of 2010, I’m thinking about the music that has defined the last decade. On January 1st, 2000, the number one chart-topping song was Smooth by Santana. On January 1st, 2010, the most popular song was Tik-Tok by Ke$ha. Also, in the past ten years, as computer technology has become widely accessible, the electronic genre of music has grown immensely, possibly more than any other genre of its time. However, you don’t hear very many radio stations blasting electronic music, or at least exclusively. It’s not as highly demanded as pop and alternative music, and many people wonder why that is. Well, for one, music has become more and more commercialized. Also, you didn’t see ten-year-old kids in the 70s asking their parents for money to buy songs off of iTunes. So, the audience has changed, becoming open to younger listeners, which in turn have become the targeted consumers. Personally, I like the classic rock that my parents listen to, because the musicians of their days worked so hard to produce it. Someone played every sound on every record, whether it be a guitar, a drum kit, or a keyboard. And, there were usually lyrics that weren’t about hooking up in a club.

Nowadays, it seems as though most mainstream groups don’t try as hard, and it’s not about the music anymore, but about the money. Take the song The Time (Dirty Bit) by the Black-Eyed Peas. They took the chorus from The Time of my Life from the movie Dirty Dancing, and then threw it onto a techno beat. And those aren’t even their lyrics. In fact, they’ve been charged with plagiarism—for the second time. Although what we often hear on the radio isn’t exactly “original”, that’s not to say that there aren’t any bands out there that do write their own lyrics and play their own instruments.

So although it’s hard to say what defines our musical generation now, maybe it will be clearer in a few years’ time, when things change even more. And, since we’re at the start of a new year, who knows what it will have in store for us? We’ll just have to stay tuned.