(This will be long)
I don’t really understand this surge of new indie-folk prominence in music today. Its like everyone my age (college or high school seniors) are super into folk (if you use the term loosely) indie music. I mean, its fine. If you generally just like that kind of music, great. I’m not mad, I’m simply trying to understand.
I know I probably listen to plenty of bands that you don’t understand why I like them, but seeing as I’m studying the music industry, I want to understand why certain genres are becoming so prevalent. I have a reason for liking all of the bands and genres that I do. So do you. One that transcends “I like how it sounds,” or “I connect with it.” Both of those are obviously true of a band you listen to. There has to be something more. I’m going to try and find out what it is.
First, if you like bands like Kings of Leon, Jack White, Mumford, Gotye, etc. because you think you are being hipster and anti-mainstream, just stop. Never like something just because you think no one else does. Those artists are pretty dominant in the main stream anyway, so you aren’t proving your point.
My first thought was that people like these artists because they appeal to a long lost folk root of American music. That’s true in a sense. They aren’t really folk, but they sound like it. Enough to sell the illusion. I mean, Mumford is British. Not exactly true Americana, but they sound the part. Good enough, I suppose.
Next, I think they are popular as a sort of remnant of the stick it the man era, maybe subconsciously. A lot of what I have to say hinges on the idea that American consumers are sick of the popular label driven bands. Maybe they have realized that they all kind of sound the same. (Hot Chelle Rae sound very similar to Train. Usher ft. any female singer is pretty dang close to Black Eyed Peas. Its all the same songs just with different singers.) Maybe we’re sick of that. Maybe we long for something different. Maybe we are tired of the Directioners and Beliebers. This is something mature. Its for big kids. Its not mainstream driven.
That’s sort of a lie, though. These artists are mainstream consumer label-driven. Gotye is probably still the number one artist on Billboard. Jack White dominated the front page of Spotify when his new album was released. Mumford played the Grammy’s and sold out the Ryman in Nashville for three consecutive nights. The Civil Wars won a Grammy. They are just as main-market prominent as Justin Bieber even if they create the image that they aren’t. But image is everything in this business. Label’s recognize that. They thrive on good marketing, and that’s what these bands are: examples of amazing marketing.
Finally, I think it proves that the American consumer of this age group is lyric-starved. We’ve grown up on lyrics like “you a stupid hoe, you a you a stupid hoe,” and we just aren’t going to take it anymore. We heard Gotye and Adele and Mumford and thought “wow.. this is incredible.” In all reality, the songs aren’t incredibly written. They are good songwriters, but not incredible. However, in this thirsty state, even mediocre songs are a huge improvement to Kelly Clarkson or Lady Gaga. But just know that better songwriters exist. I feel we are turning into an age group that wants to seek out good writers. That hasn’t happened in a while, but it explains why these artists are popular. We’re sick of stupid pop lyrics and want something deeper. I just urge you to search harder. Better songwriters exist. Listen to Connor Oberst. Kevin Devine. The Monday Mornings. Lydia. Don’t settle for mediocre.
Music is amazing. So diverse and unexplainable. Don’t like bands because other people do or don’t. If you truly like a band, listen regardless of what others think. You can say you like Katy Perry more than Into it. Over it. That is ok, but if you start saying that Gaga is more talented than Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah, then we have a problem. Taste is an opinion, talent is not.