The Synod's Deep Depravity Revealed
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Kids These Days and Their Crazy Music

When I was twenty-ish, and probably for some years afterward, I assumed that the music of my generation would be received by my children and those who came after in the way my generation received the popular music of our parents' generation--Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, and all the other music of the '30s and '40s which began to be pushed aside by rock-and-roll in the 1950s, but persisted into the '60s, to be disdained by young people for many of whom popular music was many things more than music. It was music for old people, meaning middle-aged and older. It was boring, it was corny (what is the contemporary equivalent of that term?), it was a fashion that had had its day and was now deader than the racoons in a racoon coat, deader than twenty-three-skidoo (whatever that meant) and speakeasies. And moreover for those who were really part of the youth culture that produced the music, it was an emblem of the old straight conformist commercialized world against which we had rebelled. 

All that was at least half absurd, of course, as the putatively counter-cultural music of the mid-to-late 1960s was inextricably bound to the corporate music business which sold it to us, profiting very well from it. It still surprises me a little to recall that The Velvet Underground and Nico was available in record stores in the small southern town where I went to college. Granted, it was a college town, but still....

I expected my generation, and the music of my generation, to meet the same fate. Somewhat to my surprise, that didn't happen. My children (for the most part) took to rock music as readily as my generation had. By 1980 or so, when the '60s kids were well into middle age, the music of our late adolescence had become "classic rock," and younger people listened to it as much as we did. Now, forty years later, the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix are still widely liked by people who were young enough to be their children, and even, theoretically at least, young enough to be their grandchildren. On my bookshelf there is an instructional book for guitar called Jimi Hendrix Note-for-Note, which is exactly what the title says, and was left behind by one of my now-forty-something children.

In expecting that rejection, I was of course completely misreading what was going on: the music of the cultural revolution continued to be favored in part because the revolution succeeded. But that's another topic.

On the other side of that division were the old folks whose reaction to rock-and-roll in general and to post-1965 rock in particular ranged from puzzled to outraged. They might acknowledge that the Beatles sometimes had some good tunes, and the radio still played a lot of fairly conventional music, but the whole hippie side of the thing made no sense to them. Why would a band call themselves the Grateful Dead? Or the Jefferson Airplane? Why would anybody want to look like that? Why would anybody want to listen to that stuff?

Now, at last, I have some idea of what they felt. I've noticed for several years now that on the infrequent occasions when I hear current pop music that I have a distinct and sometimes strong--very strong--aversion to it, not just to individual pieces but to the basic sound. A few days ago, deciding that I should take a closer listen, I watched this video in which Rick Beato listens to the Top 10 songs (as measured by Spotify, not Billboard, as of old) and evaluates them. You may know of Beato--his music-related videos are very popular and usually interesting. The title of this one tells you what he thought.

I had that adverse reaction--by which I mean "I hate this"--to at least half the songs he samples. (I've forgotten which ones now.) Beato supports his reaction with rational, music-based specifics. But I don't really care to analyze my reasons. Suffice to say that in those cases I hate the vocals and the instrumentation and, usually, the songs, or "songs." (With that last bit of snark I recall my grandmother, ca. 1966, saying "These songs today don't have any tune to them.") 

A few remarks: (1) I think rap/hip-hop has had a big part to play in all this, especially in the un-song songs which tend to consist of uninteresting complaints. (2) I absolutely cannot stand the "warble" effect produced on vocals with Auto-Tune--the impossible leaps and twists of pitch and tone that don't even sound human, because they aren't. Beato and others say that Auto-Tune, when used for its intended purpose--to make a note absolutely on pitch--takes the life out of music, and I believe it. But that warble is, to my ears, death itself, musically speaking. I suppose to say that a sound is like fingernails on a chalk board may no longer make sense, when chalkboards have probably long since disappeared from classrooms. If so, I guess it's appropriate that I use an obsolete comparison. (3) I was a little surprised at how bland and dull the Taylor Swift track is. I've never heard much of her stuff but I've had the impression that she is pretty gifted.

In general most current commercial pop doesn't register on my ears as music. It seems just a sort of processed sound product--Cheez-Whiz for the ears. I denounce it without shame, embracing my out-of-touch-old-man identity.

I am by the way very aware that there is plenty of good pop music being made, some of it no doubt by people under thirty. But it doesn't seem to make it into the mainstream. 


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Funny this should come up at this time, when I had a striking experience related to it just the day before yesterday. I went to a nearby fast food joint, a Chipotle as it happens, and was so annoyed by the music that I didn't stay. Back when this chain first came to our area about 15 years ago the music they played in-store was eclectic and interesting, and even though I didn't eat there very often I usually enjoyed the experience.

On Monday however the music was all of one type: contemporary pop/R&B with "beats" and prominent auto-tune. And played very loud. This continued for about three "songs" while I got my order, and sealed my decision to take my grub home and eat rather than stay there. I cannot stand the stuff -- Cheese-Whiz for the ears, indeed.

I do not think this is strictly an "old man" phenomenon, however. I've heard quite a few younger folks -- mid 20s to early 30s -- say that they can't stand it either. Apparently even the rapper who himelf put auto-tune on the musical map has stated that he never intended it to become the universal thing that it now is.

I'm mostly being tongue-in-cheek about the geezer-generational part. Not that I'm not technically a geezer, but that's not the problem. I have way more adventurous and eclectic musical tastes and interests than most people of whatever age. And I don't categorically dislike rap etc., although I've never heard much that I liked. Good to know that there are some young folks who don't like the current popular stuff.

Your restaurant experience is unfortunate but not surprising. The choice of music was bad, but why play loud music in a fast-food restaurant? Even people who wouldn't object to the music as such might object to that.

I've never been to a Chipotle but that may change sometime in the next year or so, as there's one opening near here fairly soon. There will probably come a time when I want to try it.

And by the way, something I didn't mention: there seems to be more relentless repetition in pop music now than ever. I base that on several months of hearing a local station that tries to appeal to a crowd that doesn't go for the stuff that makes up Spotify's top 10. Most of what they play is not obnoxious in the way we're talking about. But gosh some of it is almost "Hey Jude"-level repetitive.

I've been hearing more radio in the past few months because I bought a used pickup which appeared to have a pretty nice sound system, with cd changer and aux input, but only the radio works. A few weeks ago I bought a little gizmo which connects via Bluetooth to my phone and sends a very low-energy FM signal to the radio. Nice solution, as I was not willing to spend what it would have cost to replace the whole thing.

I always was suspicious of cd changers. The whole idea always seemed like something very likely to break to me.

One thing Beato sometimes points out is that all these pop songs use the same 4-chord progression. There is little of the sophisticated harmonic complexity of, say, Billy Joel or the Beatles.

The first pop song that used autotune was by Cher.

My kids love the old stuff. But they like some of the contemporary stuff, too. Like 21 Pilots or AJR.

I don't know either of those. Not surprisingly.

I can't remember whether it's Beato or somebody else, but I've seen several videos where people go into Auto-Tuning in some detail, doing before and after treatments of various vocalists. I say "seen" meaning I just see them listed on Y ouTube. I haven't actually watched any of them. Probably interesting.

I was surprised that after the first two songs which were absolutely awful, the next eight did not really offend me too much. I didn't get excited about them either. Taylor Swift is pretty blandly inoffensive and non-memorable. That said, I enjoy her music much more than Beyonce's. They seem to be the two heavyweight musical champions of the world right now, for whatever reason.
Neil Young did an album called Trans decades (40 years - OMG) ago where he sang into something to make his voice sound different. It didn't work for an entire album, but the one song that was popular from it (pause to look up name of song on Wikipedia) "Transformer Man" was fun! Is this what people are doing now in popular music?
The only good thing about today's music is that I never really hear it. A little bit when I'm in some sort of store, but really just as likely to hear Led Zeppelin or some classic rock act too. Back in the 80s I remember music being everywhere. You could not get away from: Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen....whoever else was a big deal then. I was very sick of all these acts, but I'll take them over the current crop of nonsense. ;-)
We are definitely old and grumpy, Mac!!

I should also note that I find myself listening to the music of my parent's generation quite a bit. Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Louis Prima, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Julie London, Elvis Presley (!!!).....and many more. Glenn Miller would be more of my grandparent's, I think. All of this is really great music and worth listening to. I'm not sure future generations will be adoring today's stars quite as much.

Not to mention the old country music stars, who are all uniformly GREAT! Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, etc.
The current country music is about as horrible as the other pop-music stuff. It's just fast-paced electric guitar driven pop music sung in an exaggerated Southern Accent and with (to me) offensively patriotic lyrics.
There are a few people still singing country music: Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovett, Patty Loveless, Vince Gill, et al. But they are in their 60s, don't know if others are coming up, or if everyone has taken the road to mediocrity.
What the "new country" have in common with the new pop music stars is they all sound the same.

Pop country is one of the genres or sub-genres that I dislike pretty uniformly. I dislike it as much as I do the top 10 stuff we're talking about. Even the old stuff was never a big favorite of mine but I respect it. Not so with pop country.

I have to give some artist a bit of credit, though. I was putting gas in my car the other night and heard (I think from somebody else's car) a bit of a countryish song about a guy's wife leaving him:

I remember it like it was yesterday
'cause it was

It made me laugh.

I think it was around the early or mid-1990s, so 25-30 years ago, that a good friend of mine started proselytizing for the pre-rock Great American Songbook jazz or semi-jazz artists, principally Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. He succeeded. I came to really appreciate and love a lot of it. It isn't at the top of my list of favorite types of music, but it's pretty high.

That thing Neil Young did is not what I'm talking about. That was sort of a distorted robot-type effect, wasn't it? I only vaguely remember hearing it. Didn't realize he did it for a whole album!

I'm not sure I've ever heard enough of Beyonce's music to have a definite opinion, although that doesn't prevent me from thinking it very likely that I wouldn't like it. :-) I did see some show, maybe a Superbowl half-time show, that featured her, and I think the music just registered as the sort of un-music Cheez-Whiz thing. But what really struck me was the ugly dancing. It was sort of stiff and aggressive, suggesting fighting more than dancing.

That is a funny lyric, Mac. Anyone should be able to write occasional interesting lyrics, but the music they put them to is the problem.
It occurs to me that no one would be able to put out an album titled Trans now. It was around that time when Geffen Records sued Young for intentionally making albums no one would buy. He did a country one, a rockabilly one, and the aforementioned "electronic voice" album.
I should also have mentioned Ella Fitzgerald. What a voice she had!
The aggressive dancing you mention goes along with the entire idea, if I am understanding it of course, which tends to be about empowerment. Gender, race, etc. etc. But I could be completely misconstruing the intent. Like I said after trying to watch Barbie, "I'm not the target audience here."

Maybe I’m not allowed to comment on this, but I will. I like music from the dawn of time until about 2000. Being a production snob, I consider the producer, mixer and board all to by separate instruments. With the dawn of digital recording, different studios stopped having their own sounds, and now folks just download production templates…and it all sounds like AI made it. There was a NY sound, an LA sound, a London sound. No more.

Digital technology has really changed the way folks learn too. Whether you were learning a tuba or a guitar, until very recently, you got the music and did your best. Now, with intricate video of every aspect of your favorite musician's technique and the ability to download the exact setting used to records or set up the electronic part of the instrument, everyone sounds the same.

I sound like only myself on my guitar because it was impossible to completely copy my heros. In fact, attempting to sound like them and failing is what’s makes me sound like me.

There is a huge gap between musicians 30 and younger, and those who are older. Boomers, Xers and Millennials scratch their head in unison at the new breed of TikTok to Spotify stars. If I wanted to hear that, I could just program some midi.

Why wouldn't you be allowed to comment?

"Whether you were learning a tuba or a guitar, until very recently, you got the music and did your best."

Unless you were a teenager in the '60s wanting to play rock and folk guitar. There weren't any books, or hardly any. You were better off doing it by ear, which is what most kids in bands did. Thinking I needed a book actually set me back. I did have a couple but they were transcriptions from the records made by somebody with a really good ear writing down what they heard. Hence according to the book Dylan played songs in impossible keys like Eb and G# because he was using a capo, and I was baffled. Not that I was ever going to be very good anyway. I sound like myself because I'm no good.

Beato recently did a top-ten country video and some of the stuff wasn't half bad. A few tracks leaned more towards country rock than pop country.

The gizmo that Neil Young used on 'Trans' is a vocoder. It dates back to the early 70s if not before. It's not the same as pitch control/auto-tune. I pretty much hate the latter except when it's used sparingly as an effect. A few artists that I like have done that and when used in that matter I don't mind it.


Vocoder--yeah, I couldn't think of the word. I disliked it but it was an obvious gimmick that didn't get used all that much. As far as I know.

Despite being very rock oriented in my tastes, I was one of those weird guys from my generation (I'm 64) who really liked the old stuff from Dean Martin, Bing Crosby and the big bands. My dad used to listen to a lot of it on his old Philco console radio. Also, I loved to listen to my mom's old '78s. I remember especially Bing Crosby's "Route 66." Having grown up on Route 66, it had personal value, I guess. Also, I remember when I discovered my mom's 78 of Dezi Arnaz singing "Babalu." I was running exitedly to the kitchen to show mom and I dropped it on the carpet. As you can expect from those old 78s it shattered into tiny pieces.

The other day my wife and I decided to listen to a Classic Country playlist on Spotify. I was amazed at how many of the songs I knew and loved. It has Hank Williams (Sr.), Dolly Parton, Waylon and Willie and the boys, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard, Crystal Gayle, Charlie Daniels, Jeannie C. Riley, John Denver, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, Buck Owens, etc. Very enjoyable. And I've never been a big country fan.

Hee Haw was funny.

I like all those country artists but am not real enthusiastic about them. Don’t have many in my collection. I love “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

I thought Hee-Haw was funny, too.

You’re probably aware that Roy Clark was a killer guitarist.

Like I said....

When rock took its bad turn in the 90's I unconsciously started drifting towards folk and what was then called "alt country." Some of those records from that period are still favorites. Around the same time I remember a friend telling me that he believed that country music was becoming more popular because a lot of people were finding the current rock to be repulsive (a professional musician acquaintance, himself a middle-aged rocker who had had a measure of national success, called it "ugly music"). It made partial sense to me at the time, even though I didn't care much for the popular country music of that period. I remember distinctly that what put me onto "alt country" was hearing Dwight Yoakam's song "A Thousand Miles From Nowhere" in the movie Red Rock West (1993). I started looking for music that sounded like that country and rock blend but wasn't overproduced and "twangy."

I cut my teeth on big band and popular vocal music in the 60's, as that was what my parents listened to. They didn't have a huge record collection, but it was big enough to keep me interested as a kid. I also had an uncle who knew a guy from either a record store or a radio station who passed various folk and country records onto him. These were usually promotional copies, and my uncle passed on to us the ones he didn't care for or had duplicate copies of. Thus we had quite a few country and folk records to listen to as well. To this day my sister is still a Roger Miller fan because of a couple albums my uncle gave us, and she and I both still like The Kingston Trio for the same reason. And along the same lines I still have a big stack of 78's that I got as a kid from my grandmother and various aunts and uncles who knew that I liked music.

I pretty much missed that alt-country thing in the '90s. But I can claim to have been a fan in the very beginning, with the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo album, which I loved at the time.

I can still quote most of a few Roger Miller songs. He was a clever writer.

I liked the Kingston Trio at the time. Some years ago when people were dumping their vinyl I picked up a copy of a Best Of album and was somewhat disappointed in it. Most of it sounds pretty dated, especially the actual folk songs, which really don't benefit from the polish.

I don't know much about the Kingston Trio's "progression." I've pretty much heard only a few of the early albums (late 50s/early 60s), which I still like. The one that got the most play in our house was "At Large."

Towards the end of the 90's alt-country began to get diluted by the proliferation of "Americana" acts, but some of the earlier stuff is very good. My favorites are probably the first two Son Volt albums and Whiskeytown's "Stranger's Almanac."

I really loved my parents' music. Maybe it's because we woke up to it on a regular basis. My father got a stereo really early on and he listened to music all the time.

When I was a teenager, I had a portable stereo next to my bed, I would stack up albums about six deep when I was going to sleep. It could have been The Beatles or Rolling Stones, but it could just as likely have been Benny Miller, Sammy Davis, or Della Reese. At this point, I probably would prefer the later.


Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, or both? :-)

I had one of those portable stereos with the spindle that held several disks and automatically dropped the next one down when one finished. Later I realized that that was probably really bad for the records. I didn't go to sleep with it like that, though. I listened to the radio, usually WLS in Chicago, which reached us late at night. There was something magical about that, as I have since discovered I'm far from the only one to think so. Fragments of foreign languages, I guess Spanish, were especially magical, because they were so mysterious.

My parents' music was mostly awful to me, though they weren't big music listeners anyway. But my mother had the sound track from My Fair Lady, and I really liked a lot of those songs. I got a mistaken idea of their places in the movies and of the plot. I assumed that both "Get Me To the Church On Time" and "On the Street Where You Live" were all from whatever Romeo was at the center of the plot.

I don't think we had any Glen Miller, but I like him. I see what I did there. My grandfather had a business partner named Benny Miller. 😊

My parents had been to several Broadway musicals, and we had the soundtracks. I listened to those over and over again, but that was when I was in grade school. I still know a lot of the lyrics now, partly because I listened to them with my youngest daughter and we took her to see most of them when they were in town.


As a kid I liked some of my parents music. I wasn't very big on the vocalists (Sinatra, Vale, A. Williams, etc., -- I appreciate them more now) but I did like some of the Big Band stuff. My dad had been a trumpet player in his early years, so he always liked music that had prominent trumpet playing. Harry James was his favorite by far, but he also paid attention to more "contemporary" stuff like Herb Alpert and Bert Kaempfert. I've liked the latter two all along, but recently picked up a couple of the old Harry James records that my dad had when I was little and really enjoyed them. One called "In a Relaxed Mood" is especially good, as it's more jazzy and downtempo than some of the other James records he had, which are mostly Big Band and swing.

My mom also had a lot of classical, like 78s of Eine Kkeine Nachtmusik (two, two-sided disks) and an LP of the New World Symphony. And Beethoven's 9th. So I learned to like it as well.

I always loved on Friday when the NBC Nightly News with Huntley and Brinkley played the Scherzo from the 9th during the closing credits.

“two, two-sided disks”

In a book-like cardboard case: an album. Hence the term that hung on even after it would all fit on one disk.

Right. The original 'albums' usually consisted of three or four 10" records, but classical releases were often done on 12" records. The first albums on one 33 rpm LP disc appeared in the late 40's, the very first two being simultaneous releases: a Frank Sinatra collection for the pop music fans and a Bach one for the classical folks.

My parents had a few classical records too. The one I remember best was an RCA Red Seal LP with the 1812 Overture on one side and Bolero on the other. We also had an album of short "classical favorites" and an album of either Hungarian or Romanian dances. My grandmother had a few opera records, but we were told that they were "special," which likely meant expensive, and we weren't allowed to touch them. I also remember an LP of the Ben Hur soundtrack, which included a book and a copy of the movie poster. That was one that my sister and I especially liked.

Oh, and another thing I remember fondly was a 2-LP set called "60 Years of Music That America Loves Best." We just called it "60 Years," and it was a commemorative collection of the first 60 years of RCA Victor releases spanning 1900-1960 across all styles. I remember distinctly that it opened with Caruso singing "Invest in a Tuba" from Pal-Yat-Chee, and closed with Belafonte's "Day-O."

Back when people were dumping vinyl by the cartload, I picked up, for a dollar or two, a box similar to the 60 Years set you describe. It didn't go back as far, maybe more like 1930-1970. So there was nothing as historically important as Caruso. But I never even listened to it before giving it back to Good Will because I had run out of shelf space. I realized that I didn't actually have much interest in hearing the commercial pop of that period.

When I was in my early teens my grandmother had two 2-disc albums of Harry Belafonte and others--"At Carnegie Hall" and "Returns to Carnegie Hall." I loved them. They'd probably sound pretty dated now but they were sort of a 1960-ish version of world music. I think I eventually had my own copy of the first one but probably gave it away or something when I realized how un-hip it was.

"invest in a tuba"-- :-) --but now I'm going to have Pal-Yat-Chee stuck in my head for a day or so.

I remembered that I had two Spike Jones albums -- one that my dad bought me, which was a "Best of..." collection, and one that I bought myself, "Spike Jones Murders the Classics," or something like that. 'Pal-Yat-Chee' was definitely on one of them, maybe both.

I think "Murders the Classics" was the one I had back in the '70s. Wonder how that came about...? How did I even know it existed?

I never did understand what was supposed to be funny about "Beetlebaum." Some now-forgotten topical reference?

No idea. As a kid I just thought it was a funny name for a racehorse, made funnier by the way the announcer said it, like a foghorn. Never gave it much more thought than that, honestly.

I saw it transcribed somewhere (Wikipedia?) as "Beetle Bomb." That doesn't help.

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