In a recent conversation I had with some friends, we were discussing how there isn’t as much critical thinking among our culture as there once was. Some people would say there isn’t any at all. In either case, we all agreed that there are a number of reasons for this such as the lack of reading books, filtered news bordering on propaganda, and being distracted by too many entertainment options to fill our reflective time. In addition, we have become accustomed to getting ideas, information, and news pushed to us and not seeking wisdom and depth for ourselves. We’re told how to think and how to react.
Music has suffered similarly. We have had songs vetted, tested, researched, and pushed to us so radio will know what won’t polarize the audience and keep us from changing the station. In other words, passionless.
This highlights a more concentrated problem of country music losing it’s lyrical weight. Once upon a time many songs were about stories and deep subject matters that people could relate with and/or have an emotional response to. More recently, those real life songs are few and far between. Listeners have grown accustomed to hearing light-weight songs about partying, drinking, and trivial moments that ring hollow. Bringing depth (life) back into the equation is critical, but that means listeners will have to LISTEN again and not be pacified by non-offending, lowest common denominator testing wallpaper.
Remember listening? Letting well crafted words, story, and melody take you away or hit you directly in the heart. Having to think about what you are hearing rather than passively paying attention. Getting lost in the song. Powerful.
I’m all for happy good time music to help us celebrate or forget about life for a while. We want those songs, but we NEED songs which actually relate to our lives and tell stories that are interesting, intriguing, and moving. The songwriters and artists are out there, but labels and radio will have to make a move back toward country music’s soul, or music fans will continue to seek those songs on their own in other ways.
Regardless of where we find our music, we should all be getting back to truly listening to songs and not just be passionless consumers. Maybe then we’ll get rewarded for our active participation with higher quality music, rather than taken advantage of because we are allowing music to be dictated to us.