This is just a theory. Consider popular music as having two faces: One, where serious music is actually written and performed by musicians, and the other, whilst goofy music is written by a committee, handed to someone else to be sung and put to music produced by a machine. My theory is that popular music in the USA sways between the two types like a sine wave. Consider: Rock and roll was brought to light in the early 1950's by such individuals as Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. They were great at playing their instruments. Then it changed a bit into the "Purple people eater" era of novelty-pop-bop songs. Then, in the mid-sixties, everything took a turn towards the serious end of the spectrum with Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, et al. The talent is unmistakable. Then another shift was recorded with the emergence of Dylan-covering bubblegum hipsters and late Beatles. (I dig the Beatles, but I feel their late stuff is really goofy. I am the eggman.) Early seventies - Funk. Late seventies - Disco. Eighties - Well, you remember. Early nineties - Grunge (which, whatever your feelings, was actually written and performed by people.) Late nineties - Alanis Morissete/Britney Speers. Now, I'm not saying it's perfect, but it seems to be a noticeable trend, eh? Maybe, if I'm right, we can look forward to a new era of pop, or at least the death of the current one.

This is also similar to the old idea of Classicism vs. Romanticism (or, Apollonian vs. Dionysian). The theory is that throughout history, there is a constant alternation between two approaches to art.

On the one hand, we have Classical or Apollonian periods wherein formal elements such as line, color, balance, and proportion are lifted up as the essential aspects of artistic expression. This focuses on the abstract and shies away from things like social context or subjectivity. Under this approach, emotion is said to be induced in the listener or viewer by the work of art.

On the other hand, we have the Romantic or Dionysian periods wherein the focus is placed on the emotional aspects of the work of art and lack of perfect balance is preferred to absolute balance. Emotion, in the context of a Romantic period, is said to be present in the work. Subjectivity and social context are the order of the day.

In so-called "serious" (read: academic) art, the 20th century up until the 1970s is considered to have been a Classical period. It is believed that we are progressing toward a Romantic period as I write this.

While this may hold true for academic art (which is in quite a stunted state of growth), I believe the "real" Classical/Romantic alternation has shifted to popular culture. Every decade or so, we get a shift and every two decades is a full cycle. For example, the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s were all Classical periods while the 1960s, 1980s, and upcoming 2000s are Romantic periods. If you remember, the 1970s revived music and social fashion of the 1950s (albeit, in somewhat modified form) and the 1990s did the same for the 1970s. Likewise, the 1980s reacted against the 1970s by reviving the music and culture of the 1960s.

Academics largely refuse to believe that popular culture is now the "real" culture to be examined and that the traditions carried on by academia from the old European world of the 19th century are obsolete. Mass communications have had an enormous effect on the speed of Classical/Romantic alternations and this can be seen in popular culture but not in academic culture because academic culture is pedantic and artificial.

Popular music is like sheep chasing after the shepard with the most fashionable grass.

Patterns in music tend to follow trends that initiate from an underground sub-culture. It always stems from some "vague" source, becomes more and more familiar to larger and larger groups of people and eventually becomes the new thing. Once a big "hit" is recognized commercially, all the major labels (shepards) run around looking for a similar artist, and put them into play. Soon the airwaves are saturated with the same sound (Green Day >> Blink 182 >> MXPX >> New Found Glory >> Sum 41; or Backstreet Boys >> NSync >> 98 Degrees; Nirvana >> Pearl Jam >> Sound Garden >> Bush >> Stone Temple Pilots; etc.). People get bored of hearing the same thing and begin to look for new sounds. Meanwhile, the Majors are looking to the Underground Music scene to find what's the next hot thing (Emo? Ska? Hardcore? Oi? Math Rock?), and sign some to test the waters. If they hit, they become the new genre definer, and then all the labels rush in to fill the void of the sole newcomer.

Good bands that last, usually buck the trends and constantly redefine themselves, not necessiarily following new trends, but trying to supercede the mold (Maddonna, U2, REM). Bands and artists that can't, fall into the category (Hair bands, ska, heavy metal, raprock), and die when the genre dies. Where are they now? After a genre dies, it's forgotten for a while, and potentially cycles back in time when it's new again (punk, ska, rap-metal) either as the same forms or in new hybrid forms.

This whole process is call co-opting. This is the process of digging into the subcultures and making them mainstream, often destroying the context and true meaning and symbolism of the original subculture. Jocks moshing is not how it was meant to be.

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