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FULL DISCLOSURE: When Did You Have Your Moment of Clarity?

There comes a point in every adult music lover's life when s/he realizes that things have changed dramatically, and possibly for the worse. We weren't always like this, and neither were our parents. You think there wasn't a point where I didn't listen to a song unless it was about being "up in the club" and "poppin' bottles"? It appealed to all of us somewhere along the way. And maybe offensive, brainless music was of a higher quality when I was younger (I'm actually willing to argue that sh*t). The point is, I got fed up. My familiars got fed up. And you got fed up. But what was your turning point? When did you determine that "they just don't make music like they used to?" Because let me tell you something, I got mad as hell one day and have gotten more mad since. After the bounce, check out some answers from our closest friends and weigh in with your own horror stories thoughts in the comments.

Ro:

I've been asking that question since I discovered '70s soul and funk as teenager -- on my own terms and not through a parental filter -- and found it couldn't be compared to contemporary music at the time. This ran contrary to my (ongoing) adoration of '90s R&B and Hip Hop, the beloved music of my adolescence. Obviously music is never made the way it used to be and the way each of us hear and experience it changes, and that's part of why I find it so appealing. More than anything I've been asking myself more about how I can remain open as I get older and not fall victim to locking my perception of music into stasis, prohibiting me from finding enjoyment in something I love so, so much, flaws and all.

DJ Diva:

I believe it happened when I turned 30. Suddenly my ear was picking up snatches of garbage...an increasing amount of "sexual-for-no-reason" type of lyrics. I can't pinpoint one artist but I began to say to myself "I can't play this around the kids." All of the music my mother played was suitable for my youthful ears. Maybe I'm just a strict DJ mom, but I would hate for my girls to grow up listening to how a man is going to "Trick" them...when I grew up listening to "Treat Her Like a Lady"!

DJ Stylus:

I can't even answer this, because as mainstream music has sunk ever faster into the depths of depravity, progressive music has been flourishing in a parallel universe.

I've got way more amazing music than I could ever listen to. If I didn't have to make money occasionally, I could easily convince myself that all the bullshit doesn't even exist.

Maybe that is an answer?

Butta:

When R&B started taking its cues from Hip Hop and became overly and overtly in the '90s, that was when I had to step back and assess just what the hell I was listening to. I think when Boyz II Men dropped "Uhh Ahh" in '91, that that was the beginning of the end. Whereas that song was tasteful and hearkened back to Teddy P.'s "Turn Off the Lights" and other songs in that vein, a lot of what came afterwards was just straight up tacky. (I'm looking at you, R. Kelly.) Trying to finesse your way to sex with coy lyrics gave way to hypersexualized, vulgar "let's f**k" music. Don't get me wrong, I don't see nothing wrong with a little bump and grind every now and then, but can I have my soul music without a side of filth flarn filth please? 

A. Price (songwriter):

When the deejays started talking more and repeating the songs I didn't want to hear...again... at all. The clarity made me spend more time in Kemp Mill records and The Wiz...random record stores, searching for cuts among undiscovered songs, falling in love with songs naturally... not because it was engraved in my brain.

ill Mami:

Once the Bad Boy era of the late '90s meant that to stay current, everyone and their mama found themselves poorly sampling anything, spinning a hook, getting Hype Williams for the video and voila! Instant (bullsh*t) hit. Case-in-point: Jay-Z's "Sunshine." It was almost as though originality was an afterthought. Fast forward to the Auto-Tunization of every new R&B song out currently, and you can easily see the seeds were sown early back in the late '90s era of which I speak. That's when I knew laziness was beginning to become a virtue that was rewarded, handsomely I might add.

nOva:

My turning point was fairly recent and led to me starting this website. As my immediate company and my frequent haunts on the Internet tried to convince me that the popular stuff was to be exalted, and the artists themselves got more arrogant, over-the-top and less about the actual music, I thought "wait a minute." The popular stuff everyday is more and more about all the extraneous, incidental things like "swag," gossip and appearing on red carpets. It's a distraction. I could not sit idly by and allow people to convince me that record sales, big hair and Google trends meant someone was good. When I was able to tune all that out and boil it down to the music -- the melodies, the compositions, the talent -- I got mad. I got mad at labels for throwing their energies and budgets behind these people. I got mad at everyone I knew for falling for the okie doke. And I got mad at myself for not getting mad a lot sooner. And although I'm aware I have options and have made some great discoveries (that's what this site is all about, after all), I continue to be sickened by the culture of stupidity and complacency perpetuated by popular music.

Now it's your turn. When did you have your moment of clarity?


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12 Responses

  1. I remember coming back to the states after being stationed in Germany for 3 years, where listening to the radio you mostly got oldies and music from Europe. When arrived back in 96, some of the music to me was lackluster at best. I remember Whitney Houston's Exhale (Shoop Shoop) was popular and I couldn't figure out why. Then it click; the song was popular because of it association to the movie and video. The popularity of music video change how we approach selecting artist. We are more worried about what they look like and dance like; so who cares if you can't really sAng. Back in the day artist and those who entered the music video age were selected because of there ability to sing because nobody can see you in a radio. Now we have a new generation who were fed on mediocre music so what do they put out...garbage.
    And what's up with the talk singing, no bars required. Sounds like Ray Parker Jr. (The Other Woman).

  2. dear Lord, it's hard to narrow it down, but i'm going to have to say my moment of clarity happened when i started hearing four-letter words in ballads. generally, it was just the hypersexualization of R&B, which as Butta mentioned, began to occur around '90, '91. to try and pinpoint it, it would be the album version of the Intro joint "Come Inside." a total jam, but it was ruined by the second half of the song, which contained (what i hoped to high Heaven to be) an acted out explicit sexual encounter. there was a lot of that around that time. couple this with the fact that i was more innocent than i probably should have been in 1991. even now as a grown-ass man, i can't stand to hear R&B joints that are ridiculously and unnecessarily sexually explicit (Janet i love you, but kill that noise). it just seems so extra to me. if you're trying to have "a moment" with your girl or whatever, the music you're listening to is not supposed to outshine that moment. anyway, that whole era in R&B and hip-hop is when i realized that things were going awry. for hip-hop specifically, it was both the hypersexualization and the hypermaterialism that began to rear a very ugly, Craig Mack-looking head. and let's not even get started on violence . . .

  3. I agree with all of you. Musical despair comes in waves. I've played, written, loved, collected, studied and lived music before people started calling IT a GAME.
    My last A-ha moment came the day after Lauryn Hills "Unplugged" performance on MTV. I was so HYPED after hearing those new songs. Waiting for a studio album of those songs was akin to meeting your Lover after she's been away for a year. Anticipation bordering on the sexual.
    I fully expected it to be the re-incarnation of "Songs In The Key Of Life" . Live instruments, chord progressions, provoking lyrics and such.
    But when nothing happened I was taken aback. Where was this positive cultural shift that was supposed to have happened. Where was the earth shattering Kaboom? THERE WAS SUPOSSED TO BE AN EARTH SHATTERING KABOOM!!
    ....nothing...... silence from her.........lackluster discussion from other musicians
    I now realize that it was right around that time that "911" happened. I was thinking that this is what I needed. What we needed. Nobody stood up to bat with ANYTHING lyrically or harmonically close to those songs.
    I NEVER had any faith in Black Radio or popular culture. For me it was always about musicians following thru with an idea and the public finding it ...regardless of Mass communications.
    Everything else has been pain relief and life support. Still waiting for the cure.

  4. Wow! I think I realized popular music was changing for the worse while I was working at a very popular radio station in Atlanta and took a look at our non-Quiet Storm playlist and realized how many of the same artists repeated over and over in a 2 hour span. I also noticed that the "songs" of the moment were so inconsequential and forgettable that if you were to play them at a party, not one person would think about dancing or singing along to it. Finally, I think the biggest a-ha moment is when I started hearing 20-somethings and younger refer to contemporary singers as "legendary" and behave as if they were "other-wordly" somehow. Point blank the end was upon us when Ashanti was given the Aretha Franklin award by Soul Train.

  5. WOW!!! before I even read Ill Mami's response I was thinking the exact same thing. The era of Bad Boy's peak minus BIG with shiny suits and ridiculous sampling just killed the hip hop game. To me it has never fully recovered. From that point on hip hop become about entertainment, showmanship, popularity, and money making without substance, great lyrical content, originality, authenticity, and artistry. Remember the days when MC's were putting out records not for hype, recognition, money, status, but because they had a story to tell, their story and they just wanted to share it and their talent with the world. Shiny suits killed all that!!

  6. My realisation that modern music was on a (one-way?) downhill path was fairly recent. While at University I noticed that everyone listened to the same songs by the same artists, the clubs/bars played the same songs by the same artists, radio played the same songs by the same artists ... I thought there must be more out there that we are not being exposed to.
    My parents were huge Motown fans so I appreciated the 'older' stuff but, the UK (outside of London) being as musically sheltered as it is, I never got exposed to non-mainstream current music. One day trawling through some internet radio I heard Floetry's Say Yes and D'Angelo's Untitled and from then on I was hooked. That was only a few years ago but I'm definitely making up for lost time!

  7. When the big music stars started synergising their "product" with Pepsi, they stopped playing the system and became it.
    I remember being shocked that they'd do that, sell themselves, their work, it felt wrong. But then, I'm poor and what do I know...?

  8. in r&b, I must admit r. kelly may not have been solely responsible for the oversexualized shift in r&b, but in my opinion he sure made on of the biggest contributions into it's becoming a popularized mainstay..when it comes to hip-hop my moment of clarity was when Master P came out..make 'em say unnhh, na na na na? gosh I loathed him from day one as a middle schooler..

  9. I don't have an exact moment, but I can say that within the last 5-6 years (and heavily over the last 2) I've noticed a real shift in what gets radio play. Someone mentioned that you can count the number of times a "popular" song is played in an hour on a traditional radio station- it's like they're on a loop of songs. Unfortunately, the majority of popular songs are only talking about "bend it over, drop it like its hot, let me 'super soak that ass'..." or about "I'm a boss, i pushed 'caine" or "I'm flossin Louis vitton...." ( the crap goes on and on), sprinkle in a wack-a** ballad or a Beyonce track and, not to mention Lil' Wayne,,,,and that is pretty much the landscape of "urban radio" right now. However, growing up in the 80s and 90s, we had a balance of everything. Yeah, we had nasty songs---2 Live Crew and any solo Uncle Luke song is nasty as hell- but we also had A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul......we may have had "Freak Me" by Silk but we also had "Optimistic" by Sounds of Blackness. Nowadays, however, you are hard pressed to find a really well-balanced playing of music on "urban radio." Someone like India.Arie, Anthony Hamilton, Anthony David....don't get played on the stations geared for young ears, their songs are only played on the "30 an older stations" or smaller, college stations. What?!!!! What foolishness is that? Put the crap filled mess on the stations kids rock, but put the intelligent stuff on the station for the parents? hmm...somehtign ain't right.....

  10. I didn't have an exact moment but I noticed a shift in my taste & in what I heard after graduating high school in '02. Back then I loved rap. Jay Z, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, etc. I listened to just about anything played on the radio. Then for some reason, I got more into R&B...real R&B. I listened to the lyrics and saw how much effort went into making songs with real meaning. Not just another random song about sex, money, labels, or being gangsta. Soon after that, I almost completely cut off the radio, especially within the past few years. I can't begin to express how I am so tired of hearing snap music, songs centered around a dance (like Soulja Boy's stuff), and hearing Akon or T Pain on EVERYTHING! Then you have artists who have dumbed their music down to stay relevant, like Mariah Carey. I really don't understand how she went from Vision Of Love to Touch My Body! My point is, the new Millenium seemed to have ushered in an era of music that lacks originality when it comes to lyrics and beats. Its rare that you'll find someone who can balance both. So for the moment, I turn the radio off and stay online, where I run across hidden or not-so-mainstream talent like Algebra, Conya Doss, Anthony Hamilton, etc.

  11. at the end of high school and early college i pretty much abandoned R&B. growing up i had a limited musical lexicon (gospel and motown) i decided to see what else was out there musically. i discovered artist like fiona apple ben harper, dave matthews, and aperfect circle (just to name a few). over the years i let a few R&B artist in like jill scott and Anthony hamilton. now i'm drawn to those who have feeling in their songs not just yelling at me about how to put a ring on it.

  12. My moment came around 1991. I used to DJ making mixtapes for myself ,when I realized I was going to the record store and having a hard time buying anything I liked. Since I didn't like to use the same songs on a blend tape, my choices (and tastes) were limited.
    I believe the last record I purchased before I "retired" was "They want fx" by Das FX.



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