At least once every single day there is an age-old musical dilemma that passes through my mind – what is the purpose of music in the lives of people? When I reminisce of my teenage days listening to my favorite band KISS, many thoughts and feelings arise. They wrote songs and lyrics that really shaped the way that I think until today – they planted roots of thought and energy within me (absurd as it may sound). When I turn on the radio in my car these days, I get a different feeling all-together from the music that hits my ears. Pop music has changed. I can’t really tell if for the better or for the worst, but what I can say is that in a most profound way, although the producers may be brilliant, it all just sounds the same…
The biggest hits are always those “party songs” that we all know and love. They all have that mantra chorus, with the same old mantra lyrics, with some melody that goes oh-oh-oooh-oh-oh. They all contain the words “love,” and “baby,” and “free,” and… and… and… On the one hand, it seems redundant and shallow, while the big question is, if people love this music so much, and if this is the music that makes them happy, then should I not use my talents to compose songs that people will enjoy and sing back to me? None of my friends would ever approach me to say, “Hey Ronny… how about you write a song that will be really interesting to me…” They just want me to write them a song that they can blast in their car and that’ll make them feel like they’re on the edge of the world!
Music plays such a huge role in our lives. In many ways I see it as a sort of seasoning to life; kind of like seasoning on food. If I were to tell a friend about the incredible hamburger that I ate last night, I would most likely describe to him that it was made out of grade A angus beef, with the scent of garlic and hickory bacon over the top, a bit of BBQ sauce, on a freshly baked bun with lightly toasted sesame seeds… OR I could just say that I had some really good ground meat on a piece of bread. Both are the same thing, yet the first description was exciting, intriguing, moving, inspiring, and manifested in my mind as if it had just come off the grill. Music works in the same way; we remember eras in our lives, great loves, great losses, the highest highs and the lowest lows, our childhood, our anger and our happiness based on the songs that played on our stereos at the time – it is the soundtrack of our life. Does it however only effect our memories, or can it change our future as well?
My drummer a while back (when we just me) listened to some new lyrics that I wrote for a new song. I remember that I told him that the words talk about the conflict in the Middle East between the Arabs and the Jews – a sort of metaphoric, artistic insight on the whole bloody mess that has been raging on for hundreds of years. He told me, “I don’t think you should mix politics into your music… music should be clean…” But then I asked – Does it? Is music meant to be simply music? Is the composer and writer not supposed to inject his/her beliefs and ideologies into the music that he/she writes? Was John Lennon not a political writer? Bob Dylan? Pink Floyd? Lionel Richie? Leonard Cohen? And countless more artists? Did slavery and oppression of the black people by the white man in early America not birth gospel –> blues –> Rock and Roll? Did they not sing about all of those boring, cumbersome issues that we hate talking about day-to-day, yet are the deep reaching roots of our musical family tree? God? Politics? Wars? Social Rights? Economic Ideology? etc… Of course! Interestingly enough, without the rebellion and the politics, the face of music as we know it today would have been completely different. Rock and Roll would have never been born… and how many damn love songs can the human race write for God’s sake?!
In the boring world of injustice and Political Correctness… The one thing that should NEVER be politically correct is music, paintings, poetry, ART! It seems to me that the medium of art is the last standing fortress of emotion and human spirit in our world today – and even that is turning against us. The biggest party hits all sing about the same stuff: set me free, I’m cool, I’m happening, I have lots of girls, I drive the boys crazy with my booty, I drink a lot, and I party like a MOFO, I got tons of money, fast cars, a big house, and raise the volume because tonight I’m going CRAAAAAZZZYYYYYYY. It seems that if a musician/singer/record company wants to make a hit, the lyrics can’t be about anything that has to do with real life; It has to be about some sort of fictional fantasy – it has to talk about something that will be relevant to the greatest possible amount of people and must not offend the greatest possible amount of people, otherwise not EVERYONE will listen to it. Let’s keep it simple and lets keep it stupid. Let’s make it with a beat that will get the girls to move their pretty little behinds – that way guys will consume it, in dire anticipation that one day they may be able to consume one of them pretty little behinds (given the right mix of alcohol and music). I don’t know… it sounds really boring to me…
And so who are our heros these days? If we dont believe the politicians, and the rabbis and the priests; and our teachers and parents are all old fashioned; then who do we listen to when we want to undersand the world a little bit better? Who will be that mainstream act that shall be the catalyst to the rebel yell that’s looking to break out? I’m having trouble finding it in pop music… and I want more. As a matter of fact, I don’t really want more for myself because I have my own channels of music that I love to extract my values from. I do want a greater rebel yell for young people around the world. I want them to CARE about things, and if once upon a time, I thought that the generation doesn’t really care about anything because they’ve become idiots, it is much clearer to me today that we have an incredible lack of real life content in mainstream pop music these days.
So YES! I wan’t my favorite artists to have something worth listening to the next time that they’re interviewed on TV. YES! I want my children one day to be mesmerised by the new ideas that music will inject into their minds. YES! I want my musicians to be individuals who give a damn about things in life and stand strong for a cause even if I’m against it. YES! I want the ART to be that who raises the spirit and quality of people upwards, and not that people will pull the spirit and quality of the art downwards – and this my friends, takes a great deal of balls and initiative by the musicians/artists. I began this article by asking: “…it seems redundant and shallow, while the big question is, if people love this music so much, and if this is the music that makes them happy, then should I not use my talents to compose songs that people will enjoy?” The question bothers me every day. And perhaps the answer is somewhere in the middle. Perhaps many will read this and think that I’m a “like button” prostitute (doing whatever I can to get a “like”) just writing and composing whatever I must to get it on the radio ro sell a CD. Perhaps others will think – “oh please… let go of all that heavy “life” stuff… we have enough of it every day…”
I can tell you personally however, that there will ALWAYS be a big idea that shall stand behind every lyric that I write. There will ALWAYS be an energy that I wish to convey in every melody I choose to represent a feeling. I may dive deeper in one song, and may also play in shallow waters on another, however the heart and spirit which gives music a divine meaning to us all will always be there between the words. I WILL be political – I WILL be provocative – I WILL make you think – and I WILL do my best to make the most intimate or most profound feelings emanate from within our hearts. Isn’t that in fact why I got into this business in the first place?
What do you think? Does music have an influence on the political and ideological preferences which we assimilate throughout life?