Popular Music In 2018? I Didn’t Care Much!
It would be useless for me to write a best of 2018, because I barely listen to new music and I realize that, if I am aware of what is popular right now, I am most of the time indifferent to the material. Furthermore, 398 albums were released this year, and I am only talking about the official, label-released albums because there are tons of independent artists who release their music on Bandcamp or Soundcloud, something which often interests me much more.
Among all these label releases, I have barely touched the surface of the surface, as I have only more or less seriously listened to the new ones from Paul Mc Cartney, The Voidz, Jack White, David Byrne, Interpol, Lykke Li, Death Grips, Anderson .Paak, Janelle Monae, either because I knew and appreciated these artists or because I saw them in concert.
But I have a busy life, as everyone else, and with this impressive quantity of music available on all these different outlets, who can seriously keep up with the material beside Iman? In comparison, there were 135 albums released in 1963, but no Bandcamp, no Soundcloud, and no Youtube of course. In 2018, the possibilities are almost endless and so overwhelming that most people end up with a very restricted view of what’s really happening. I don’t blame them, I am one of these people.
2018 was the year when Post Malone broke the Beatles’ record for most top 20 hits at once, and I can’t listen to the guy! I saw him at Rolling Loud last year, and the only thing that impressed me was the crowd’s fervor and adoration. But can you really compare both artists when Post Malone’s hits are almost exclusively generated by streaming platforms like Spotify? It certainly takes more commitment and investment to buy an album or even a single than to simply stream it. Meaning that being a music fan in 2018 is very different than being a fan in the ’60s.
The new generation of stars is very young and even more diverse (a good thing) auto-tuned ad nauseam (a bad thing for me), face-tattooed (I let you be the judge), and certainly, hip-hop oriented: Guess who had the six biggest debut album-sales weeks of 2018? Drake, Travis Scott, Lil Wayne, Post Malone, Eminem, and J. Cole…. All rappers
But I don’t listen to Cardi B, Kodak Black, XXXTentacion and the success of Drake or Ariana Grande bores me, R&B has never been more redundant and ubiquitous and if you want to interest me in hip-hop, give me the creative genre-bending Anderson .Paak, the abrasive Death Grips, or the terrifying Ho99o9… However, I mostly thrive in the indie world and underground scenes, I navigate among punk, post-punk and other psychedelic rock or experimental electronica. I like weird and raw, and I despise with a passion gimmicks like auto-tuned vocals, which seem to be the craze these days, hasn’t 99% of popular music been contaminated by this ear-plague?
Authenticity in music doesn’t mean much, there are many ways to define authenticity, and, in the end, even the most indie act can be regarded as an act, but authenticity in music is deeply correlated with its independence from profit motives. I like this definition, and popular music in 2018, with its compulsive focus on streaming numbers and its necessary social media obsession, has lost a large part of authenticity.