Being of a certain age – I’m 55 – and a music guy, I naturally share some of the perspectives of my late boomer cohort. Newer, we’ve learned, is not always better. We’ve experienced the depth of analog recording, we remember the visual richness of Super 8, we’ve watched Antonioni without a fast-forward button and understand the value of a longer attention span.
But sometimes the opinions of colleagues, friends and acquaintances in my demographic shade into cranky middle-age guy prejudice. Specifically when it comes to pop music.
I’ve been a casual-to-heavy listener to pop music since about 1966, and a lifelong student of the pop song. I tuned out briefly in the late ‘90s when my kids were little and tuned back in in the early 2000s. I make a point of listening to pop radio from time to time. Because to me there’s nothing better than a great pop song.
With this in mind, I decided to look through the top 100 songs from each year of from the last six decades. After scanning the charts, and listening to any unfamiliar cuts, I can say that current pop music (2012-2013) is no worse nor any better now than average. There are lots of mediocre songs that are popular, and some good ones, and occasional great ones. It was ever thus. This is the result I expected and was based entirely on my own subjective judgment about the songs on the lists.
This is not to say that tastes and programming decisions don’t fluctuate over the years to render some eras more fertile with creativity than others. The music of the mid-to-late 60s and early 70s seemed to yield more good hit songs than average, while the 80s were particularly rife with bad hit songs.
What this survey reinforced for me is the notion that pop music has more continuity than not, that it is primarily young people’s music, and that if you don’t like one song, just wait for the next one to come on.