Jon Pareles makes some intriguing observations in today's NY Times article about the state of pop music in 2005. Relating the pop music output to the political climate of the year, he believes that 2005 was a year of retreat. In contrast to best-selling albums of 2004 (he cites "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" and "American Idiot"), 2005 was full of gang wars and personal problems and clear-cut commercial successes ("The Emancipation of Mimi", "Massacre"). The fact that no top-selling albums took any sort of chances in what was definitely a year full of political shame, worry, anger and unrest, means to Pareles that the music indsutry is playing it safe. His actual words were "timidity and calcuclation," which come off as piercing insults.
The fact that record sales slumped more than ever in 2005 (I think 8% is the final number I've found), is due not only to all the commonly-debated issues of the digital landscape, but also, as Pareles emphasizes, to the withering quality of the music itself. He writes, "major recording companies are still unable to stop the declining sales that they blame on the Internet rather than on their uninspiring products." He insinuates that they should be spending more time worried about their artists' skills and talent – or at least as much time- than on combating filesharing.
On a more esoteric note, this caught my eye as well: "mass-market hits felt disposable, like a momentary pleasure rather than like something worth owning." The word "disposable" really hangs on to me and is full of meaning, because of two references that immediately popped into my head. One, was a memorable quote from Syriana, which I recently saw – "Capitalism cannot exist without waste!" which, in turn, may as well be the 5 word summary of Don DeLillo's Underworld.
Read the article here for the rest of the good stuff, including a great little dig at Coldplay, which makes me smile.