September 10th, 2007 08:35 EST
The VMAs are much like the State of the Music Industry: Generic
The MTV Video Music Awards are a great reflection on the present state of the music industry. Just watching last night's performances validated the reason why music sales are down in the pop, rock and rap genres. The primary reason CD sales are flat and have fallen for the past few years is because much of the music and the artists are too generic.
There is no Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Eminem or Cold Play. The music industry had become a clone machine, pumping out newer and younger versions of what is popular at the time. In other words, they keep putting out the next big novelty act. It’s doubtful many of today’s popular artists will have the longevity of a career, like say, Bruce Springsteen or Patti LaBelle. One cannot imagine wanting to pay good money ten years from now to see someone sing ‘Crank that soulja boy’ or ‘Get me bodied’. Or my favorite, ‘I’m in love with a stripper’.
Missing this year is the one vital component to all award shows: the breakout artist. The breakout artist is someone who brought something different and refreshing to the music industry.
This viewers' disappointment with VMAs does not end or begin with Britney Spears’ half-hearted, lack-luster opening performance. Spears is just another example of the mediocrity that surrounds much of the popular artists of today. With the exception of Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys, many of today’s acts are not true musicians. They are businessmen and women using music to launch more lucrative enterprises. Most have clothing lines, perfumes and acting roles they are too busy promoting to devote the time needed to create real music.
But is not MTV to blame for this phenomenon? They did create the music video star. The music video forced musicians and singers to spend less the in the recording studio and on stage, and more time to hit the treadmill. No longer did a young singer have to waste time learning the craft and honing their stage presence by performing in small clubs. These days, all they have to do is hire a good stylist and a hot music video director to become a glorified music star. Or just try out for American Idol.
Apparently, knowing how to sing live is a minor requirement; just check out the lip sync performances of the top acts like Rihanna and Chris Brown. To think Michael Jackson and James Brown dance and sang at the same time for years on the road, doing it all without the help of technology.
Much of the blame regarding the state of the music industry has to be put in the lap of today’s most popular producers and record executives who seem to be in search of the next pretty face, rather than truly talented singers/performers. Most of today’s performers are interchangeable. Instead of trusting their own creative juices, singers are running to the same group of top producers for a guaranteed hit. Close your eyes and listen carefully, you can almost guess who produced the track. Not to knock these men’s talents, but we could use someone new with an original and innovative sound.
Rihanna, Ashanti, Cassie, Beyonce, Gwen Stefani and Fergie all sound pretty much the same. They are all beautiful young women becoming a carbon copy of one another. Nothing artistically unique separates them. All need to study the music videos of the 80s and 90s. Having something new and different made entertainers such as Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna legendary stars.
Next year, MTV should put less emphasis on the location of the VMAs, and more on presenting and promoting good music. The lack of quality all too prevalent in much of today’s popular music is painfully obvious. There are not enough magicians in Las Vegas to make that fact disappear.