Is Music Really Getting Worse?

Music is getting worse. Much, much worse.

This week 50 years ago, The Beatles occupied the first five spots of the Billboard Hot 100 with, in order, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.”

Today, the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 is “I’m The One” by DJ Khaled Featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance The Rapper & Lil Wayne.

Just to compare the lyrics, take a look below.

From the “I’m The One”:

“Yeah, you’re lookin’ at the truth

The money never lie, no

I’m the one, yeah, I’m the one,

Early mornin’ in the dawn

Know you wanna ride now.”

And from “Can’t Buy Me Love”:

I’ll give you all I got to give if you say you love me too

I may not have a lot to give but what I got I’ll give to you

I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.”

Now, “I’m The One” is super catchy. But catchy doesn’t mean that it’s a great song or a piece of artistic genius.

“I’m The One” was written by a long, long list of writers: Khaled Khaled (better known as DJ Khaled), Jason Boyd, Quavious Marshall, Chancelor Bennett, Dwayne Carter Jr., Nicholas Balding, David Park, Bobby Brackins and Ray “August Grant” Jacobs. It leaves me wondering how hands-on the musicians featured on the track really were in the process of creating the song.

“Can’t Buy Me Love” was a collaboration between two of The Beatles’s members whose ability to write together would become one of the most legendary partnerships in musical history – John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

To be fair, the Beatles did have a career that spanned a decade and has been the subject of countless documentaries, books and films. The band currently has 25 Grammy awards. The individual members themselves had very successful solo careers, too: Paul McCartney has 12 individual Grammys, John Lennon was awarded 4 Grammys, Richard Starkey (a.k.a. Ringo Starr) has two and George Harrison won five.

DJ Khaled’s musical career began 11 years ago when he released “Listennn…The Album.” To date, DJ Khaled has been nominated for two Grammy awards but hasn’t won.

From an objective standpoint and apparently in the opinion of the Grammy award givers, popular music today is just not as good as it used to be.

No one today can compare with artists such as Queen, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Tupac Shakur and The Ramones. These musicians changed music and American culture in various ways.

Elvis Presley became a music and film icon, known still as the “The King.” David Bowie and Freddie Mercury from Queen became and hugely important figures not only in the music industry but also in the gay community. Tupac is remembered as one of the hip-hop genre’s most important figures. The Ramones contributed hugely to punk rock music genre in their time.

You would be hard-pressed to find the level of artistry that they each put into producing their music. The Beatles wrote all of their own music and even invented new ways to use the music studio that bands ever since have been inspired by. The Beach Boys’ album “Pet Sounds” was written entirely by the band’s leader and co-founder Brian Wilson, and is still hailed as one of the most influential albums of all time, called a “pop masterpiece” by Rolling Stone Magazine.

It’s hard for me to think of any successful album made in the last ten years that demonstrates as much songwriting talent, musical composition skill, and instrumental fluency as Fleetwood Mac’s dreamy “Rumours,” The Beatles industry-changing “Rubber Soul” or Nirvana’s unapologetic “Nevermind.”

While there are musicians today who are definitely iconic figures, such as Beyonce and Lady Gaga, and there is good music being made, I still believe that the quality of music has declined in the last twenty years and is going to get worse before it gets better.

Commentaries are the expressed opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of The Fourcast staff, its adviser or any member of the Hockaday community.


Ashlynn Long – Staff Writer

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Ashlynn Long

Ashlynn Long

Ashlynn is a Harry Potter supernerd, cookie dough expert, book enthusiast, and can usually be found binge-watching House of Cards or Stranger Things.

Blog Comments

Although I agree music has changed significantly throughout the past few decades, I think a lot of these recent innovations in sound and lyricism should be smiled upon and encouraged instead of being viewed as “much, much worse.” The great thing about music is that it provides each independent artist a different outlet by which to express their individual, unique style. We might never see another John Lennon or Paul McCartney again, but there are still plenty of musicians that provide their respective audiences with fiery lyricism, poetic storytelling and quality sounds. I encourage you to look beyond the top trending songs and at artists like Sturgill Simpson (A Sailor’s Guide to Earth), G Herbo (Strictly 4 My Fans), Gorillaz (Plastic Beach/Humanz) and even four spots down the billboard list at Kendrick Lamar (Humble) who co-wrote the religious-undertoned song with his producer. Music is about innovation and as long as artists such as these continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible I’m looking forward to seeing what our generation of musicians has to offer.

You’re kind of comparing apples to oranges here. While (for example) the work of the Beatles is “objectively good,” the single track which you refer to “The One” is a collab made by a bunch of popular artists that was likely created to pull in listeners using those famous names and make some money. It doesn’t claim to be filled with meaningful ideas or commentary, nor does it even claim to be “good” music (while it is under Khaled’s “We the Best Music” label, the label name does not reflect the ideas of the song itself).
You also note that “It’s hard for me to think of any successful album made in the last ten years that demonstrates as much songwriting talent, musical composition skill, and instrumental fluency as Fleetwood Mac’s dreamy “Rumours,” The Beatles industry-changing “Rubber Soul” or Nirvana’s unapologetic “Nevermind.” I personally suggest that you listen to work such as Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Tyler the Creator’s “Wolf,” or even Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” These albums are all well produced, cleverly written, meaningful works that have a lot to say. If you end up listening to any of these, feel free to reply and tell me what you think. I’m not here to put you on blast, but rather I’m here to say that there is a trove of beautiful, heavy, and “objectively good” music being released today, and I don’t want you or anyone else to miss out on it due to a few (maybe) repulsive popular songs.

I see the point behind your article, but I think it’s important to also point out that many “pop” songs similar to the modern example you have provided were also produced in the 60’s and forgotten to time. It’s easy to remember a nostalgic version of that one period, but it’s also important to focus on examples of modern music that features lyrics that will be remembered fifty years from now.

Every song on Kendrick Lamar’s latest album has locked up the top charts for the last month, and features topics such as the falseness and cheapness of the modern music industry– lyrics that certainly aren’t lacking in intelligent thought.

I think you’re right in that there are a multitude of “cheap” pop songs these days that seek to cash in on big names, but it’s easy to think that people fifty years from now will be looking on today’s albums and lamenting the old times.

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