I spent last night listening to the Spotify Top 100.
Well, most of it anyway.
You learn some amazing things, like most rap lyrics are so aspirational and so dumb that unless you buy in, cast all critical faculties aside, you listen and you laugh.
I woke up in a new Bugatti
Do you even know what a Bugatti is?
I’ll tell you. It’s a high profile marque owned by VW that costs $2.5 million. Maybe Ace Hood is hoping they’ll send him one, after he raps about it. Or maybe they’re paying him to spread the word on their halo product, so his audience will end up buying Jettas and Golfs, who knows!
Then there are tracks about bitches and ho’s and making it from the bottom to the top and you have to ask yourself who listens to this stuff.
I’ll tell you. Kids who want to belong.
That’s what’s been left out of the discussion of the Internet revolution, the human element.
We have wankers like Chris Anderson spreading the fiction of the long tail.
We’ve got hucksters like Tim Westergren providing tuneouts all the while saying he’s helping indie artists make money as he lobbies to pay them less.
We’ve even got MOG/Daisy curating playlists.
But what I want is to feel a member of the group, to belong, to know I don’t live in a Tower of Babel where nobody speaks my language.
That’s why the ratings of live events, especially awards shows, have skyrocketed. It’s not that they’re any better than ever, it’s not like we like them, but we do enjoy watching them and commenting about them on social media. It makes us feel…connected.
That’s the ace in the hole of terrestrial radio. It’s got the most ears. And everybody challenging terrestrial radio has got it wrong, they believe it’s about niches, when truly it’s about mass.
In other words, kids listen to terrestrial radio because other kids do.
But terrestrial radio is not beholden to the kids, but its advertisers. Therefore, few risks are taken. It’s not about breaking new music, it’s about keeping people listening, and that’s not the same thing.
Which is why you can tune into terrestrial and not get it. Everything sounds like it used to. It’s not only Top Forty, with drum machines from the eighties, but Active Rock. It’s an endless recycling of what was.
And the techies are no better. Because they’re all about the data. And to quote the aphorism, research will tell you where you’ve been, but it won’t tell you where you’re going.
In other words, the Spotify Top 100 will tell me what people are listening to, but not what’s good, what could gain mass if only exposed.
But no one is pursuing this paradigm.
The techies believe in algorithms. And if you think an algorithm works in creative areas, you buy everything you purchase via Amazon recommendations. Huh? I ignore them!
As for the musos, they don’t understand the game of music recommendation.
To curate today, you need all winners.
And these winners must not only appeal to you, but a vast audience.
Used to be different. With limited distribution, if you got on radio, you had a chance. Today, with everything available, the public is flummoxed, and the young people listen to Top Forty, the old people listen to classic rock and the acts keep complaining they can’t make it.
I get it.
But in order to change the game, one must first focus on mass.
And mass doesn’t always equate with hip.
Oh, so you know all the hip acts, you even know their good tracks.
But I’m gonna put it to you straight, the Dirty Projectors are never going mainstream, never gonna happen. That doesn’t mean you can’t like them, just that most people never will.
But most people will like much more than the Spotify Top 100.
But the problem is…there’s not enough money in human music curation. That’s the dirty little secret, economics. That’s what’s screwing up our whole damn country. Not only can you not get rich pursuing your creative dream, you can’t pay your rent.
So we’ve got no development.
Then again, breakthroughs always begin with dreams, money is secondary, if you’re willing to work forever for peanuts, your time sometimes comes.
So what we need is new gatekeepers, new curators, not dozens, but fewer than five, who gain mass introducing the public to new music. Expanding their horizons, breaking acts.
But I see no effort in sight.
I see millions of playlists by people who want to be hip.
I see no rhyme or reason in the reviews on Pitchfork.
There’s nowhere I can go and listen to ten tracks and like eight or nine.
And I’m not the only one.
P.S. The best thing I heard in the Spotify Top 100, other than Daft Punk, is Bruno Mars’s “When I Was Your Man.” It’s got the haunting feel of Elton John’s American debut and a good change but…mediocre lyrics. It’s good, but not quite good enough. If only he were pushed a bit further, he’d be closer to Adele, who’s the biggest seller of the past couple of years, whose music sold itself.
P.P.S. Chris Brown… You may hate him, but listen to his music and you’ll see it’s better than most of his contemporaries’. That doesn’t mean you’re gonna want to listen to it in the future, but that’s why despite all the Rihanna b.s., he still has a career.
P.P.P.S. Fall Out Boy may have come back, but unless you’re a fan, you’ll click to skip “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up).” That’s the problem in a nutshell, we can click to skip, you’ve got to make music that keeps us stuck.
P.P.P.P.S. Ellie Goulding’s “Anything Can Happen” is a trifle that doesn’t quite clear the bar, but if you continue to listen to it you get into it. But if you read the hype and checked her out you’d say to yourself…huh?
P.P.P.P.P.S. Fun. is like Bruno Mars, only not as good. You’re relieved when they come on your iPhone, but then you continue to listen and say…this is good, but not great, and we’ve only got time today for great.
P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Check out Calvin Harris’s “Sweet Nothing,” featuring Florence Welch. If you say you hate EDM, after listening to this you’ll say you don’t. It sounds a bit like an NBA anthem, but it’s refreshing compared to the dated hip-hop.
P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. This is how bad things are… Ke$ha’s positively stupid “Die Young” sounds good. There’s nothing new here, which is exactly how radio likes it.
P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. You’ll understand why Vampire Weekend’s album debuted at number one when you listen to “Unbelievers” and “Step,” the tracks radiate intelligence and creativity. Forget everything you knew about the band previously, they’ve grown, they almost deserve your attention.
P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. “Clarity”, featuring Foxes, is close…you listen to at least half wanting it to get better, but it’s still not bad.
P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. And another good track is Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” It’s a Prince rip-off, it sounds positively eighties, and the purple one does this so much better, but if you don’t find yourself nodding your head and moving your body while listening to this…you’re dead. Proving that just because it’s mainstream, that doesn’t mean it’s bad.