Category Archives: music

Writer’s Block: Too mainstream

I tend to like bands and musical artists long before they do hit the mainstream. I remember Tom Petty when he was a relative “nobody” and getting to see him live in Iowa City in a University setting, with the Fabulous Pink Poodles (a punk band) opening for him. By the time he started getting mainstream radio airplay time, they were playing his songs to death. I still really very much appreciate his music, but the repetition and running songs into the ground by the rest of the world can become really rather annoying.

The same happened with Loreena McKennitt. I loved her music back when she put together her album “The Visit”, which was a dark romp through the mists of Samhain or All Hallows Eve. When “The Mummer’s Dance” was popular I would find myself grinding my teeth by the time I heard the first three notes of the song! Danny Elfman and (The Mystic Nights of the) Oingo Boingo were in my stack of CD’s long before he became THE name in cinema soundtracks. I still remember sitting in a recording studio in 1984 when Oingo Boingo was due to appear at the Orange County Fairgrounds for a concert and saying, “Danny Elfman is GOD!” One of the musicians in attendance, Lanny Cordolla look at me and said, “Who?” Danny still a career. Lanny, on the other hand, is at this writing long-term inductee into the “Where Are They Now” file.

Azam Ali of Vas and Niyaz is probably one of the most unique and beautiful voices on the planet. Her haunting vocals cannot be disguised no matter how many sountracks she does for movies, computer and video games that she does. Personally, I doubt that very many in America could understand or appreciate a decidedly Eastern-style singer. Thankfully, Azam’s voice is far too unique to ever get any real popular airplay. Every song carries the life experiences of this beautifl Persian woman whose family fled Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Her story is an amazing one that continues to unfold and is tied up in the musical artforms that she releases, whether it be a film soundtrack or a solo album.

Just because popular doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s any good. 99.9% of what passes for “talent” on shows like American Idol will follow a particular type of formula that the mainstream has become accustomed to. I wouldn’t walk across the street to see a free sidewalk concert to any of what has made it on the show let alone purchase it, and yet that seems to be the kind of thing that America wants. The last company I worked for, that was the dominant conversation in the break room and over lunch was what was on American Idol and it never interested me in the slightest. Formulaic films, music and entertainment is just meant to generate dollars for the production companies, music executives and investors, it’s not necessarily art.

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