A Load Of Noise: Why Not Liking Modern Music Is A Rite Of Passage
My Dad always told me there would come a time when I stopped liking most modern music and instead stuck primarily to the songs and artists I grew up listening to. I didn’t believe him. It wouldn’t happen to me. I was adamant that I would somehow manage to skip this peculiar milestone, that I would always have my finger on the pulse of modern music. But it did happen to me. I hit 25 and almost overnight I found myself saying things like, ‘Music has really gone downhill,’ and, ‘All this modern stuff sounds the same.’ I’ve become one of those people. Nowadays I’d rather listen to Absolute 80s than Radio 1. I can often be found muttering, ‘They don’t make music like this anymore,’ when Bowie or Queen is playing. It’s true; they don’t.
The evolution of music is a truly fascinating phenomenon, but my goodness modern music is generic. Perhaps it’s my age and the fact I’m nearly thirty, but a lot of it just sounds so repetitive. Not only that, but it’s also getting lazier, or the people who make it are. Of course there are and always have been incredibly gifted musicians, but there are also an awful lot of mediocre ones who coast off their looks and can’t perform live for toffee. We’ve all heard tracks that sound as though very little effort went into writing and producing them. They lack craftmanship. No real passion or care has gone into them, and that for me is what’s missing from a lot of modern music.
I am not suggesting that every track has to be some intricate, Grammy-winning magnum opus in order to be worth a listen. I’m a child of the nineties; I love nothing more than some good old cheesy pop of the guilty pleasure variety. But the cheese of the nineties was at least self-aware. It knew it was cheesy. No one was labouring under the impression that bands like the Spice Girls and Steps were musically accomplished, but that’s what made those tracks such rollicking good fun.
People disliking the music of the generations below them is a tale as old as time. Research has demonstrated that people tend to have deep emotional and psychological connections to the music of their youth. It’s therefore easy to scoff at the music of the younger generations, dismissing it all as rubbish when the truth is we just don’t have the same emotional connection to it. And therein lies the problem. I feel so disconnected from modern music now, like it isn’t for me. I am no longer part of the main target audience. I was, during my adolescence and later as a student, but not anymore. Few things have made me feel more like an adult than realising I had passed out of that youth culture bubble.
In my humble opinion, 2014 was the last really good year for music. It was the year I discovered the auditory delights of Sia, George Ezra, Sam Smith and James Bay to name just a few. That being said, 2015 had its fair of decent stuff too with Adele, Jessie Ware and Hozier all standing out for me. As a student, it was easy to keep my finger on the pulse, what with having an active nightlife and being surrounded by people my own age. That was the last time I was conscious of feeling au fait with modern music. It was also the last year for which I have a separate Spotify playlist.
It’s no coincidence that my interest in modern music largely ended in 2015. That was the year I finished my Teacher Training and embarked on a fulltime career. Anyone who has been a teacher will know that it’s an incredible demanding job, especially for the newly qualified. I had little time for music, and when I did, I was so exhausted that I just wanted the comfort of listening to something familiar. Discovering new things takes time, energy and willingness, and I was short on all three.
The result is that from 2016 onwards, my interest in modern music has dwindled away to almost nothing. Since then I’ve been able to count the number of contemporary tracks I a) knew and b) liked on my fingers. On Spotify, the last four years are all mushed together into a single playlist creatively titled Late Twenty-Tens. I don’t play it all that often. Unlike the tracks in my nineties and early noughties playlists, these songs don’t have many strong, positive memories attached to them. I associate them with commuting, or running errands, or cleaning the bathroom-hardly the kind of activities likely to forge deep emotional connections.
Instinct says me not liking modern music anymore is a bad thing as it means I’m getting on. But acknowledging that contemporary music is not aimed at me is actually a form of self-acceptance. Instead of trying to keep abreast of modern music purely for the sake of it, I am content to like what I like and have done with it. I am not pretending to like things in order to keep up appearances or project a certain image. I don’t care anymore. On the rare occasion that I do hear a modern song I like, I of course add it to one of my increasingly short playlists, but the likelihood is it will never hold a candle to those records I have loved for years. I haven’t even bothered to make a playlist for 2020. There aren’t enough songs I like to warrant it. I have reached the point in life that Dad always said I would reach, and much to my surprise, I am actually fine with that.