Pop music in a coma

Music has power. It can bring joy and it can move people to tears. Drums have been used in war since time immemorial to rouse people to fight and strike fear into the enemy. Other types of music are used to have a calming effect, even to hypnotise. “Muzak” is used in shopping centres to relax people, in the hope that they will spend more money.

Often when I listen to music on the radio these days I feel as if I’m being lulled into a stupor. Most of it seems to be clichéd, predictable, lightweight imitations of past hits. It’s not that there’s no good new music being created – it’s the stuff they choose to play on the radio that seems programmed to have us racing for the comfort of memory lane or indulging in whiny teenage angst. There was always whiny teenage angst, but there was also music that would wake you up and even make you think.

I’m not the only one of this opinion – The Artist Taxi Driver puts across similar sentiments in a delightfully crazed foul-mouthed way here.

Is it because I’m middle-aged? Maybe. So what? It’s meant to be the younger generation who are startling us, not the other way round!

I went to see the singer Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl discussing her autobiography, Bedsit Disco Queen, at Glasgow’s Aye Write festival last Friday. She was invited to discuss the question “Why is popular music not political any more?” I put my hand up and suggested that political music is being made, but it’s not getting much radio airplay.

As if to illustrate my point, on Saturday as I drove into town I was listening to Tony Blackburn’s Pick of the Pops on Radio 2. He was playing the Top Ten from 1984, but he skipped over “Free Nelson Mandela” by Special AKA. They usually do skip over one or two songs in this show, usually the edgier ones.

In 1984 the producers of Top of the Pops had no such qualms and we happily chanted along and punched the air in our armchairs.

“Ev’rybody sound the same, commercialise the game…” lamented Nas in Hip Hop is Dead (2006). It’s like the world that Aldous Huxley predicted in Brave New World, with drugs being used to sedate the masses. Except that instead of (in addition to?) drugs we have anodyne music being pumped into our brains.

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    Our democracy in the UK is deeply flawed. Under the "first past the post" system, which is used to elect the Westminster House of Commons, the majority of UK voters are not represented in Parliament by the party they voted for.
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