T-shirts say the darnedest things. One day I saw a t-shirt that said: “Destroy Popular Culture. Rebuild. Repeat.” As being a musician who has struggled to take care of the ever-changing, flighty whims of well-known music, it was a such as a bulb going on over my head! Does something evolve if it’s continually being destroyed? To keep making money, the most popular culture industry does some spiteful things to the art forms they supposedly accept, whether you’re talking music, fashion or whatever.
Let’s take 1970s disco music for instance. Stay with me with this. Inside the 70s, everyone loved disco music. Well, most everybody. Me included. And I still do. So there.
But simply 6 months prior to the 1980s began, the tunes from the 70s was ridiculed en masse by the media, and made to look passe, pointless and worthless. Somehow we were convinced that anybody that heard disco at that point was somehow really weird and somewhat of a loser. Phase one from the t-shirt now completed. Destroy Popular Culture.
Now proceed to 1980. Alongside the synth-dominated pop of the 80s (which still had a strong disco and funk influence, in the event you ask me), there was also a resurgence in the popularity of 1960s music.
We had been hearing songs like “Stand By Me”, “I Heard It With The Grapevine”, and “Soul Man” right alongside songs like “Jungle Love”, “Billie Jean” and “I Feel For You”.
Phase Two completed. Rebuild.
In the 1990s, the same happened. Far whether it is for the fresh new teens in the 90s to be caught dead listening to anything from the 80s. Ewww! Not cool!
Yet, alongside the rap and alternative music in the 90s which had been dominating the mainstream airwaves, disco music was building a comeback. Lo and behold!
Let’s face the facts, the categorization of music has become ridiculous, and even though arguably 70s disco music had now morphed into “house music” or “dance-pop music”, the influence of disco was still strongly evident. Songs like Madonna’s “Vogue” were topping the charts. Phase 3 completed. Repeat.
The reasoning behind all this is easy. Money!
And Popular Culture industries understands how to manipulate people. How? By attractive to, and manipulating the collective and individual egos.
So it goes like this. Inside the 70s, disco was the pop music from the times, and was naturally directed in the teenage ego. Needless to say, people of any age enjoyed disco, but I’m speaking about the essential premise around the t-shirt, remember.
Then we skip ten years (within this example, the 1980s), and basically ignore those former teenagers of the 1970s, that are now out of senior high school, as well as in their 20s-likely to or dropping from university or college, getting their first serious job, struggling to make a paycheck, perhaps starting children, and possess little income to spare. And wondering what the hell happened to great music.
But in the 1990s, those same folks are now the successful breadwinners, the brand new homeowners, the ones running businesses and those with disposable income, yet still young enough to think being cool somehow matters. And they want to hear the music they loved as teens, but they wish to hear it just as if it’s still popular in the present mainstream society. This allows them feel relevant.
So, seeking to once more capitalize on the music they so wrongfully dismissed in the 1980s (namely, the songs from the 1970s), the most popular culture industry starts bringing that music into the spotlight. All of a sudden, it’s a renaissance, a revival, a rebirth, even!
Only now, perhaps they refer to it as “classic”, or unfortunately, “old fashioned” and “retro”.
Frankly, I find terms like “retro” and “old fashioned” very insulting, as they are only employed to bring something down to be able to build another thing up. This is achieved to help make the egoistic think that the existing-day music is cool, relevant and superior.
In this instance, I believe the egos targeted belong to the current crop of teenagers, but in addition to the current crop of artists, who may have also become much younger, less talented, and fewer musically literate. In any case, it’s just more ego stroking.
In discussing pop culture, the terms “retro” and “old school” really only came into common usage at the beginning of the 21st century. And when again, the reality from the slogan rears its head:
Destroy Popular Culture. Rebuild. Repeat.
Now needless to say, the Internet and the technology explosion have changed everything. Now people can tune in to anything they want, every time they want, without being susceptible to the ever-changing whims of the fickle (but shrewd) popular music industries. We have been no more susceptible to just what the radio DJ’s tell us is cool. We program our mp3 players with the music rryrcy wish to hear, and that’s that.
The Pop Culture industries keep trying, though. Even though the superficial surface of it generally seems to change, in terms of musical styles, fashions, fads, etc., underneath it all, for me, no, it will not really evolve, it simply keeps making the rounds in circles, fulfilling an extremely human need. The requirement to feel relevant, and the need to feel like we matter; to feel special; to feel “cool”. In the end, this can be my personal opinion, based by myself experiences and observances as being a musician and person. However I think the t-shirt got it right.