Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Next Big Thing

I've been waiting for some time for The Next Big Thing in music. A few years ago, the hope was that a Next Big Thing would arrive in time to save the recording industry. Guess not. On a macro scale, you could say the last Big Thing in all of music was rock 'n roll, which you can date back to the 50's. Or, if you don't consider it a sub-genre of rock, you could say that the last Big Thing was hip-hop, which still dominates pop charts today. Even still, hip-hop is over 30 years old now. It's the music of the parents' generation, heading quickly towards becoming the music of the grandparents' generation. Grandmaster Flash, who had the genre's first breath-through hit in 1982, is 51.

I'm not suggesting that there are no new innovations in rock and hip-hop, or any other category of music being produced these days. And one of the things I find exciting and refreshing about a lot of new music now being produced is the trend towards a willingness to explore all aspects of musical expression and a distinct lack of concern as to how the music will be categorized.

But there has not been a new style of music which can be considered "game changing" since those early rap records in the 70's. Now I'm wondering whether that's even possible in the context of current culture. Consumption is so accelerated, and attention spans are so contracted. Honestly, it's hard to imagine a new music style coming along that can ignite a mass market and have a long term (30+ years) arch. Is that no longer even possible?

Now it's all about short-term trends. Maybe that's just fine. If there's one trend that I hope will continue to blossom, it's one I touched upon in my previous post: using video to produce a long-form narrative in music, ideally in a performance setting. Most of my favorite Cedar concerts so far this season have had this element, the most recent being last Tuesday's great show by The Books. When this clip was posted on Pitchfork a few weeks back, I didn't realized that it represented how their entire performance was presented. It was a delightful set, leaving me wanting more of this kind of thing:

Maybe there will be no Next Big Thing in music, and we'll just have to settle for a series of Next Big Trends...

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