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Thoughts On: "The Death Of Pop Music"

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By Andy from The Charlotte Capitalist ™,cross-posted by MetaBlog

Harry Binswanger of HBL noted that pop music died sometime in the 1980s.

Here are my thoughts. There is a follow-up tomorrow and another on Monday.

***

I agree totally with HB. Pop music with respect to rock music died in the late 80's and early 90's with the advent of alternative rock-- Nirvana with the brooding, morose, and ultimately suicidal Kurt Cobain was the beginning of what HB is referring.

At the exact same time, country music became the source of pop music. Remember the explosive success of Garth Brooks? Garth was the "King of Pop" in the 90s. His heroes were the pop stars of his youth--not so much country, but melody makers such as Billy Joel. He recorded and performed live a couple of Joel songs.

The "hopeless sound that is more frequently heard from soft, adenoidal, female singers" identified by HB is exactly why I barely listen to new music. It is all over the place--even in remakes of older melodic pop tunes.

Dr. Peikoff used to have a "connections" portion on his radio show. Question: What is the philosophical connection between the rise and complete pervasiveness of environmentalism and the rise and complete pervasiveness of the music described by HB as "monotonal, emotionally speaking. And that emotion is one long

whine."

http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/002022.html

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Whereas it may be true that the lyrical content of current popular music has sunk, and even that I would not call dead, nor even still sinking, the musical composition is not lacking. There is more variety now than what was available in the 1980s. Much of that music sounds exactly the same to me. Also, I can't comment on Harry Binswanger's remarks since I have not read them, but there is a difference between a whining soft tone and a soft tone.

Some whiners: Damien Rice, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Avril Lavigne, Radiohead, Coldplay, the Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, Beck, Sheryl Crow, the All-American Rejects...

But even within that short list there are some amazing musicians, whose music outside of the lyrics and maybe some tone is otherwise worthwhile. If I have the choice between artists who "whine" and metal-heads from the 80s, or some ballad-pop such as Whitney Houston, or annoying sugar-dance-pop as in early Madonna, I am going to choose the newer "whiners." There is a lot of good music out there, and I think it keeps getting better.

Edited by JASKN
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This puts me to mind of the episode of the Simpson in which Homer tours with "Hullabalooza". There is a line in there to the effect:

"Everyone knows that rock & roll reached perfection in 1975, it's a scientific fact."

I think when one starts wondering "what happened to popular music?", one should wonder if perhaps they haven't started taking steps into geezer-dom.

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[Mod's note: This was a "Part-2" sequel thread, which I have merged into this one. - sN]

By Andy from The Charlotte Capitalist ™,cross-posted by MetaBlog

Follow-up to yesterday's post. Originally posted on HBL.

***

Perhaps it is bad form for one to ask a question of others and then answer the question one's self. Oh, well. In my post on the death of pop music I asked what the philosophical connection is between the rise of whining music of today and the rise of environmentalism. I should have also included the rise of the religious right.

One word came to mind the next day--"passive." The singing reflects no effort of thought or action. As HB mentioned, even a melancholy song is acceptable. Perhaps you lose a lover and you are sad. That is a natural emotion to a human being who is truly alive and who needs values in order to live.

The tone of today's pop songs is different. The tone is passive--as in "Life is happening to me. I am going to drone on about it for the next 3:05."

The passivity is a symptom of the intrinsicism expressed through both environmentalism and the New Right. The passive "monotonal" sound reflects a complete disinterest in *human* goal-directed action on planet Earth.

Here are just a few quotes from OPAR. CD-ROM owners should search OPAR for "passive".

"The mind of such an individual is not active or goal-directed. It is passive, drifting, dazed, oblivious to considerations like truth, clarity, context, or methodology; it merely experiences random stimuli, outer or inner, without self-awareness, continuity, or purpose." [OPAR 57]

"Man cannot, therefore, adopt a passive policy, one of waiting for truth to enter his mind. In the use of a concept, as in its formation, he must choose and act." [OPAR 116]

"Intrinsicism leads to the view that knowledge is the grasp of an object through the passive absorption of revelations." [OPAR 145]

"Capitalism is incompatible with any version of intrinsicism. It is a system of and for mentally active, this-worldly valuers, not of passive self-abnegators." [OPAR 396]

http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/002025.html

Edited by softwareNerd
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Harry Binswanger of HBL noted that pop music died sometime in the 1980s.

I would very much like to read the article in which he says this. Does anyone have it, or at least a reference to where/when it appears?

Not knowing the specific context in which he made this comment, I always thought pop music--as a flourishing "genre" had died some time in the early 60's. But I certainly agree that pop, inasmuch as it did exist in the 80's, was at least several thousand times better than it has been since then.

Whereas it may be true that the lyrical content of current popular music has sunk, and even that I would not call dead, nor even still sinking, the musical composition is not lacking.

I disagree that music had less variety then. The 80's music that they play now on top 40 "best of the 80's" collections is a different story--that doesn't represent even a fraction of what was out there. And if you compare to similar best of the 90's collections, I think you will see that there was just as much if not more unoriginality and lack of diversity in that decade. And none of the groups you mentioned, besides maybe the Smashing Pumpkins would be on it. And if a similar compilation were made for the 2000's so far, I don't think anyone you mentioned but maybe Avril Lavigne would be on it. I like Smashing Pumpkins and all, but do you really think their compositions are better than, say, Madonna (in the 80s)? If anything, they might have employed some more interesting recording techniques sometimes, but that's studio not composition (and is debatable)--plus, technology has been advancing even though art has been declining, so new artists do have a slight advantage over old ones in that regard.

Edited by Bold Standard
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Oh, I misread Jaksn's post, I thought he said "Some winners," and was trying to give an example of diverse and good music since the 80's. But, anyway, it's a decent sample of a certain kind of music since the 80's that's had popularity with some of "the masses." So I'll leave what I wrote. : )

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I will add that at times I hear otherwise good music from decades ago and wish that someone would update it with the technology available now, because the production quality is so poor I won't listen to it.

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I would very much like to read the article in which he says this.
I assume it was posted to HBL.

(There was a part-2 post on this topic, from the Charlotte Capitalist Blog, which I have merged into this thread.)

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I will add that at times I hear otherwise good music from decades ago and wish that someone would update it with the technology available now, because the production quality is so poor I won't listen to it.

Me too! There are a lot of songs that I want to redo, and a lot of songs I wish other people would redo. There is also a lot of old music that could at least use a really good re-mastering, to take out the hiss and fix the EQ. [edit: but I mean, as in, early 20th century stuff. I don't think of the '80s as "decades ago" because, that makes me feel old. And they did have some really good recording equipment and techniques even then--see Cocteau Twins' "Victorialands" album, for instance.. or, even earlier than '80s, Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" in the '70s.. awesome recording, even by todays standards, which are only slightly higher--mostly *cheaper* so that one could record "Dark Side of the Moon" on a budget now, if one had the talent, which most do not.]

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Bold Standard:

And if a similar compilation were made for the 2000's so far, I don't think anyone you mentioned but maybe Avril Lavigne would be on it. I like Smashing Pumpkins and all, but do you really think their compositions are better than, say, Madonna (in the 80s)? If anything, they might have employed some more interesting recording techniques sometimes, but that's studio not composition (and is debatable)--plus, technology has been advancing even though art has been declining, so new artists do have a slight advantage over old ones in that regar

HOLY SMOKES. I saw that and about swallowed my teeth. I know this wasn't even targeted at me, but I feel driven to respond. My answer? Hell yes their compositions are way better than Madonna. I would stack ANYTHING off of Adore against anything Madonna could put forth.Have you ever heard To Sheila?If you haven't...please watch this home made music video (video is good) set to the song:

That is just one example. Adore is an absolutely amazing album. Even if you look past that and go to their grungier stuff (which I don't like nearly so much as I do from Adore onwards), you have a phenomenal catalog to draw on. Let me give you an example from each album:

From Gish = Rhinocerus

From Siamese Dream = Luna

From Mellon Collie =

1979

From Adore =

and one of my favorite love songs (from an Objectivist standpoint, lyrically it reminds me a lot of Francisco and Dagny) = Daphne Descends

(unfortunately the Daphne Descends video is not a real music video as there never was an actual music video made for this song. Instead the video is a crappy Anime Music Video, so if you want, just click on the link and let it play in the background or something.)

From Machina =

Another one of my favorite love songs of all time (look up the lyrics if you want). I went with another AMV because the real video was done really poorly. Just listen to the song and look up some lyrics. Ignore the CG video unless you really want to watch it.

(other great songs off of Machina = I Of The Mourning, Raindrops + Sunshowers,

For Machina 2 I would have used "Let Me give The world to You" as an example, but I couldn't find it anywhere.

Instead I'm going to use The Smashing Pumpkins' cover of Stevie Nicks' "Landslide" which in my opinion is better than the original version and that stupid Dixie Chick's version.

Landslide

I know that is a lot of music to digest, but my point is that as far as a composer, Billy Corgan kicks the crap out of Madonna. Besides, it isn't even like she can even take credit for the actual music. She was a dancer who teamed up with people who did music for her (starting with dance music and progressing into more serious pop as she matured). I'm not saying she isn't immensely talented, but she had better people than her writing beats and music (like PRINCE for example). Madonna has been way more about image as well. She was the pop equivalent of a waaaaaaaay toned down Alice Cooper or Marilyn Manson with her videos and in-your face- sexuality as well whether it was in provocative videos like, "Justify My Love" or releasing her racy pornoesque book "Sex." A lot of Madonna operates completely outside of music and is involved in performance aspects (dancing), movies, controversy, etc. If you are just looking at Madonna musicially for what SHE personally composed versus Billy Corgan...well...that is kind of laughable.

Even take Billy's remarkable flop "The Future Embrace" (his solo CD released in '05) and the songs on THAT are singularly better composed and more interesting. Take the song A100 for example which you can listen to here:

http://www.myspace.com/thefuturembrace

As such, it might (and I'm willing to concede this) not even be fair to really try to compare Madonna and The Smashing Pumpkins because one is pop and one is rock. There is definitely a difference...even when the rock in question is popular rock like the Smashing Pumpkins (despite being in the "Alternative" category, TSP sold quite a few albums obviously). How could you ever really fairly compare someone like Brittney Spears or Christina Aguilera with a group like The Smashing Pumpkins or The Cure (to use an analogy). Those two (like Madonna) are peformers who happen to have vocal and dance talent. They are vocalists and sometimes lyricists at best, not musicians in the sense that they play instruments and actually compose music. The only real reason why I bothered providing examples at all was because if you seriously do compare Madonna and The Smashing Pumpkins it seems glaringly obvious who the actual musicians are and who the better compositions come from on a musical, lyrical, and overall level. At least it seemed obvious to me. Since it wasn't to you (Bold Standard), I figured I would provide some examples in case you weren't familar with The Smashing Pumpkins' work or were only familiar with stuff like, "Zero" or "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" or "Today." The Smashing Pumpkins are so much more than those songs and for anyone looking to pick up a phenomenal album, I highly recommend checking out Adore. Check out those songs first though from Adore so you aren't just taking me on faith.

-Evan

btw...speaking of The Cure, if you want some 80's pop-rock that really pummels Madonna in the face in terms of quality...that would do it.

If you guys haven't ever heard "Just Like Heaven" for example, check it out :

Edited by look.sharp.industries
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Thanks for the post, look.sharp; I really enjoy the Smashing Pumpkins. Another good song you didn't mention is "To Sheila," from Adore.

I will disagree that Christina Aguilera is not a musician, albeit as a performer and not a composer. Aguilera's vocals are good/complex enough to launch her into the realm of musician, as she is certainly "playing" her voice and not just humming through a melody, like (barely) Britney Spears.

I personally do not have a problem with simplistic music, as even the most primitive compositions can still have enormous impact on the listener. As an example, Coldplay's "Yellow," an amazing song.

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I actuall did mention To Sheila at the top of my post with a link too. Thanks, though. I also agree with your assesment of Christina Aguilera. I was a bit hasty in making it clear how I was saying she (and hers like her) were not musicians. Even in rock bands there are lots of vocalists that don't play instruments. There is a ton that goes into really good singing including sight reading/singing, music theory, etc if you really want to be good. So I should have made it clear where I was going. Thanks for gettin' me square on that one.

I also agree with your assessment of more simplistic music. If it sounds good and is memorable (and is a brilliant work of art) and fits your personal sense of life...who cares if it isn't Andres Segovia on guitar or Itzak Pearlmen (or however you spell his name) on violin? Musicians of those calibers have way more tools in their tool box to create with, but it doesn't mean that they will create a better work.

-E

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I found that with the death of the "Beautiful Music" format in 1982, there just hasn't been anything worth listening to on radio since then. I went to off-shore sources to find new music that intriqued me. I had a long affair with music from Japan since 1987, to the near present day, as it had offered an innovative, fresh new angle on melody, chordal progression and particularly in vocals. The freedom from those women that would scream as if someone were poking a cattle prod into their private parts was always a constant source of irritation for me to hear. I found it vulgar, at best. When I got translations of the lyrics, I found songs that were somewhat etherial in that they left the nitty gritty to the imagination, while floating loftily in some higher altitude with the poetry of the words used.

When Japan started to fall to the same maladies of culture that the US did decades ago, I chanced to stumble across some new music from Korea. Now I had heard Korean music in 1989, but at the time, it seemed still too full of struggle in the tone of the melodies. Today that has changed. Korea's music today is where Japan was at the peak of it's greatness, 20 years ago. But the genres are much more multplicitous, ranging from rock to pop to smooth jamz, and all done very creatively and with originality.

But lately, I have been returning to American standards from the 1940s-1960s, and realizing that these artists were where it's at, still, today.

I was listening to some vintage Shirley Bassey recordings recently and one word kept flashing in my mind: "dramatic". The lady can sing, she has training and she can deliver the goods, but more than that, her style is unique and dramatic, almost startling at times, and with her incredible range, she works these attributes together to produce a result that is uniquely her own.

Then in the catergory of rock, there are a few good bands from the late fifties, early sixties. The Crickets, Tommy James & the Shondells, The Youngbloods, Johnny Rivers, Three Dog Night, Renaissance, to name a few. Toward more jazz-oriented Rock, Steely Dan, Lee Ritenour, Kool & The Gang (their early funk/jazz from before they became a vocal group in the mid 70s).

In Blues category, B.B. King, Booker T. & the MGs.

Pop and crooners: Barry White (believe it or not, his sense of life in most of the songs is quite possitive), Dione Warwick (quite a prolific singer from the 60s to early 70s), Roberta Flack, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder (I used to think he was so awful in the early years, but seeing the full spectrum of his work revealed he did some uplifting songs that are worth a mention)

Nostalgic stuff: Aretha Franklin, The 5th Dimension, Burt Bacharach, Connie Francis, Debbie Reynolds, Della Reese, Ella Fitzgerald, Hugh Masakela (South African jazz trumpetist, famous for his 1968 hit, "Grazin in the Grass"), Jackie De Shannon, Jimmie Dorsey, Liz Damon's Orient Express (1900 Yesterday), Louis Armstrong, Nat ''King'' Cole, Petula Clark, Ray Charles, Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, The Stylistics, to name some of the more prominent ones.

I'm in a 'return to my roots' era, where I'm rediscovering all this very listenable music, remastered digitally, so it's like hearing much of it for the very first time.

There hasn't been much of interest that I've heard out in public or incidentally of late. If I were to really reach, I'd say that Nora Jones is the least abrasive on my ears, although her lyrics fit the description of being 'passive' and give the impression of a person who is drifting, unable to attain values, or to even judge values. But the music is mellow and non-irritating, as is her voice, if you don't pay attention to the lyrics.

Being who I am, music is a very important part of my life. My interests are constantly changing with my philosophical premises. Back during my early Objectivism years in the mid 1960s, the first time I heard Three Dog Night, I thought this stuff was a drug induced product. Today I listen to it with a totally different attitude. I look for music that has musicianship in it. If it comes off a sequencer, I quickly tune out. It it's innovative, I selectively appreciate the parts that are congruent with my premises and try to ignore the rest.

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Bold Standard:

HOLY SMOKES. I saw that and about swallowed my teeth. I know this wasn't even targeted at me, but I feel driven to respond.

lol.. Thanks for the response. I actually am well acquainted with the Smashing Pumpkins--and I'm a fan. But it's not necessarily always their songwriting that I like about them (sometimes it's good).

My answer? Hell yes their compositions are way better than Madonna. I would stack ANYTHING off of Adore against anything Madonna could put forth.
I disagree. In fact, I think some of their most boring compositions are on Adore (not counting Machina, which I'm not as much familiar with as the other ones, so I can't say for sure). But, somewhat case in point, I think some of their best recording techniques are on Adore, which makes it one of their best overall records.

Have you ever heard To Sheila?

Yes, I have. I agree that it is a beautiful song. But, it is primarily so (IMO), because of the great sound effects and tones on it. If you took all of that away, it would be a boring folk song. The songwriting, qua composition, on that song is pathetic next to a Madonna song such as "Oh Father"-- if you haven't heard that one, I suggest that you look it up. I couldn't find a video for it on Youtube, but that might be because of copywright issues or something.

Instead I'm going to use The Smashing Pumpkins' cover of Stevie Nicks' "Landslide" which in my opinion is better than the original version and that stupid Dixie Chick's version.
This comment especially makes me think that you might actually like Smashing Pumkins because of their recording techniques, tones, and sound effects, and not even realize it. Landslide says nothing about Billy Corgan's composing/songwriting ability. He didn't write this song!

I know that is a lot of music to digest, but my point is that as far as a composer, Billy Corgan kicks the crap out of Madonna.

But I've already digested it, before I made the comment, and I disagree. It's not that I don't like Billy Corgan, it's just I don't think he ever wrote something approaching "Oh Father" or even "Material Girl" for that matter. His songs aren't usually very interesting melodically. They just have gimmick guitar tones and arrangements (which he achieved usually from trying to copy My Bloody Valentine and/or early 20th century music--as in "Tonight, Tonight" and others) that make them interesting.

Besides, it isn't even like she can even take credit for the actual music. She was a dancer who teamed up with people who did music for her (starting with dance music and progressing into more serious pop as she matured). I'm not saying she isn't immensely talented, but she had better people than her writing beats and music (like PRINCE for example).
I didn't necessarily mean "Madonna," the individual woman, but Madonna as the entity who created the songs that Madonna performed. Prince would have probably been just as good an example, though.
Madonna has been way more about image as well.

Pumpkins are absolutely no different in this respect whatsoever. In fact, it's only their Grunge "image" that would ever make someone say something like this.

She was the pop equivalent of a waaaaaaaay toned down Alice Cooper or Marilyn Manson with her videos and in-your face- sexuality as well whether it was in provocative videos like, "Justify My Love" or releasing her racy pornoesque book "Sex."
Corgan is actually friends with Marilyn Manson.. They're at least as much the same as Manson is to Madonna.

A lot of Madonna operates completely outside of music and is involved in performance aspects (dancing), movies, controversy, etc. If you are just looking at Madonna musicially for what SHE personally composed versus Billy Corgan...well...that is kind of laughable.

I have no idea which songs Madonna actually composed--I meant the songs that were composed specifically for her.

Even take Billy's remarkable flop "The Future Embrace" (his solo CD released in '05) and the songs on THAT are singularly better composed and more interesting.
I've only heard a few songs off this album, but I think they're amazing. I hadn't heard that it "flopped." Sorry to hear that. : ( But it only came out a year ago, maybe sales will pick up.

As such, it might (and I'm willing to concede this) not even be fair to really try to compare Madonna and The Smashing Pumpkins because one is pop and one is rock.

I think this is hairsplitting. Rock is a form of pop!

How could you ever really fairly compare someone like Brittney Spears or Christina Aguilera with a group like The Smashing Pumpkins or The Cure (to use an analogy).
Easy. Just compare their song writing. What's unfair about that? They're all using the same 12 notes.

The only real reason why I bothered providing examples at all was because if you seriously do compare Madonna and The Smashing Pumpkins it seems glaringly obvious who the actual musicians are and who the better compositions come from on a musical, lyrical, and overall level. At least it seemed obvious to me. Since it wasn't to you (Bold Standard), I figured I would provide some examples in case you weren't familar with The Smashing Pumpkins' work or were only familiar with stuff like, "Zero" or "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" or "Today."

Nope, I'm familiar with the whole catalog (except Machina). It's not obvious to me--I think whoever wrote Madonna's songs is a better song writer. Her songs are in general catchier, more melodic, and I might even argue that they cover a broader spectrum of emotional content than SP. SP is a great band, and they're all fantastic musicians IMO (at least, when D'arcy was on bass). And Billy Corgan is a really good songwriter. But I think there are tons of bands in the 80's and even more frequently in earlier decades who were much better.

speaking of The Cure, if you want some 80's pop-rock that really pummels Madonna in the face in terms of quality...that would do it.

If you guys haven't ever heard "Just Like Heaven" for example, check it out :

Yeah, I love The Cure too, and "Just Like Heaven" is one of my favorites. I think they wrote much better songs than Smashing Pumpkins, just like Madonna. I'm not sure about who was better between Madonna and The Cure. But it seems clear to me if you take Madonna and The Cure vs Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana, then the 80's win. : )

I went to off-shore sources to find new music that intriqued me. I had a long affair with music from Japan since 1987, to the near present day, as it had offered an innovative, fresh new angle on melody, chordal progression and particularly in vocals.

I like Japanese pop, too! Do you have any favorite recommendations?

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Bold Standard,

Thanks for the reply. Since you went more or less line by line, I will try to reply as such.

I disagree. In fact, I think some of their most boring compositions are on Adore (not counting Machina, which I'm not as much familiar with as the other ones, so I can't say for sure). But, somewhat case in point, I think some of their best recording techniques are on Adore, which makes it one of their best overall records.
I guess that depends primarily on what you consider to be a boring or not-boring composition. As I said in response to the other gentleman on here, simply utilizing a lot of tools musically is not going to guarantee that your work is good (or even having a lot of tools at your disposal). There are a lot of musical compositions that are really interesting on a musical level that require immense talent and musical training just to play, let alone actually write. However, that doesn't mean the music is necessarily enjoyable or interesting just because it is complex. Take The Mars Volta for example. I realize that a song like "For Martha" off of Adore isn't super complex. The piano could be played by a 9 year old with a year of piano lessons most likely. The rest of the stuff is effects and extraneous stuff. However, the whole tone of that song to me is absolutely amazing. Putting in into context, the song was about Billy's mom Martha who died during the making of Adore. That song is sort of a tribute to her and boy you can tell. It isn't complex, but it is really heartfelt and lyrically solid. If what is required for a song to be interesting composition wise is pure complexity, than I agree. With that being the standard, Adore would not be The Pumpkin's most interest record compositionally speaking. I guess what it comes down to from there is whether or not you are using boring as a descriptive or normative statement.

Besides, a good chunk of Madonna's catalog is equally if not more boring. I mean...if a 9 year old could play the piano on "For martha" a monkey could play the keyboard part on "Borderline."

:D

Yes, I have. I agree that it is a beautiful song. But, it is primarily so (IMO), because of the great sound effects and tones on it. If you took all of that away, it would be a boring folk song. The songwriting, qua composition, on that song is pathetic next to a Madonna song such as "Oh Father"-- if you haven't heard that one, I suggest that you look it up. I couldn't find a video for it on Youtube, but that might be because of copywright issues or something.

For anyone else interested in hearing the song, here is a YouTube Link:

O' Father

I would say that some of To Sheila definitely studio effects like the cricket-sounding noise in the intro. However, the tones are a direct product of the instruments used (obviously). That isn't completely "studio tricks" or Flood's "black magic voodoo production" (I'm joking here, btw...:) ). If you really wanted to, you could easily pull out a Piano, a mandolin, and two guitars (an acoustic and electric) and replicate this song completely with little loss in terms of quality (assuming all of the band members were there and Billy was singing, obviously).

That song is NOT synth heavy or effects heavy unless you want to count the cricket sounds or perhaps Billy's overdubbed vocals singing harmony with his main vocal line. In which case, you could still preserve the beauty of the song by simply getting a backup singer (like Madonna does). I don't think simply taking away an actual recording of the song would just make it a "boring" folk song. Once again, I think some clarity is in order on the "boring" issue. Whether or not you are doing a simple 3 chord progression using a syn th or doing it on an acoustic guitar changes little about whether or not the actual composition is boring or not. On one hand you do say it is a beautiful song, but studio effects or not, you are saying the actual composition is boring...which leads me to believe you are using the term in a more descriptive sense. As such, I think some explanation of what your own personal musical evaluations come down to. A song in your eyes might be boring, but still beautiful (and in my eyes as well). So when judging whether a Madonna song versus a Smashing Pumpkins song, there might be another element thrown into the mix to determine what you personally think is a better song. I personally think that element isn't simply the recording itself. I can definitely say that there are songs that were done with WAAAAAY less technology available in the 60's or 70's that rival a lot of modern songs (in both composition and in quality) even though the recordings don't sound as hot as the latest Pro-Tools heavy album on the top 40.

If you want to boil it down to recording techniques, technology, and studio evolution...I don't think you have much ground to stand on. After all, synthesizers have been around for quite some time. Frank Zappa for example was a music pioneer when it came to recording techniques as far as technology went and he was a bit before even Madonna's time.

Even Pro-Tools has even been around since 1987 (though it was originally called "Sound Tools"). I don't think the gap in recording techniques etc is as great as you are making it sound here.

As far as "Oh Father" goes musically/composition wise, it is ok I guess. I like the music, but it certainly isn't complex. The bass line is extremely basic (you are looking at like 5 notes repeated over and over). The synthesizer is pretty basic too. The drumming isn't really complex either for that matter. This song has boat loads of whole notes. If you can't keep the rhythm to this song by tapping your leg, well...you are probably a stereotypical white guy (also joking). Seriously though, the song is good and I like it. The subject is interesting (child abuse), the music is very pretty, and Madonna's vocals are great (Madonna as a vocalist is amazing as she has boatloads of vocal talent). However compositionally this song isn't really interesting on a purely musical level either (at least based on the way I'm reading your use of the term "interesting.").

This comment especially makes me think that you might actually like Smashing Pumkins because of their recording techniques, tones, and sound effects, and not even realize it. Landslide says nothing about Billy Corgan's composing/songwriting ability. He didn't write this song!
Yes, I acknowledged that Landslide was a cover. The point of even putting it up there was to show how Billy as a musician has a significant ability to even improve on a non-original work.

Compare to the original Steve Nick's version Here

As far as recording techniques? Some clarity here would definitely be in order. What sort of differences or gaps do you think are really important between the 80's and mid 90's?

Keep in mind Madonna released 7 original studio albums from 1992 up until the present versus 6 original works (I'm not counting "hits" collections on either end) prior to 1992.

The song "Oh Father" is from Like A Prayer which was released in 1989. The Smashing Pumpkin's first album came out in 1991. So for over HALF of Madonna's career she had access to the same technology and recording techniques (more so actually, since she was one of the biggest artists in the world in 1991).

I don't think he ever wrote something approaching "Oh Father" or even "Material Girl" for that matter. His songs aren't usually very interesting melodically. They just have gimmick guitar tones and arrangements (which he achieved usually from trying to copy My Bloody Valentine and/or early 20th century music--as in "Tonight, Tonight" and others) that make them interesting.

Well Madonna didn't write anything approaching "Oh Father" or "Material Girl" either (musically speaking). That is my point. Like A Prayer was co-written by Patrick Leonard and Steven Bray. Madonna had really nothing to do with the music there. Both actual musicians. Madonna is a vocalist who writes lyrics (I'm not even sure if her lyrics are always entirely written by her or not). She does not write music. Madonna poses as a solo artist when really that isn't a remotely accurate picture. When she goes on tour, she has her "touring band" to play the music that other people wrote. Compositionally, Madonna is capable of putting out stuff like Borderline. Material Girl wasn't even composed by Madonna! It was written by Peter Brown and Robert Rans. Once again, the terms "interesting" and "boring" seem remarkably arbitrary the way you are using them.The sort of bopping music of Material Girl is NOT musically complex whatsoever. I'm not saying Billy Corgan or The Smashing Pumpkins are like Beethoven, but neither is early Madonna. Material Girl certainly isn't complex or or interesting melodically (if you are using interesting to mean complex, difficult, or even all that unique).

If you want to pick 80's musicians, why oh why did you have to go with Madonna?

:lol:

Why not Pat Bennetar or Blondie...or...ANYONE other than someone who doesn't actually compose (Madonna *cough cough*).

Btw, I actually really love 80's music. I think most of it beats the hell out of 90's stuff, to be honest. I just don't think Madonna is really all that impressive musically or even lyrically. Perhaps I just find The Smashing Pumpkins to be a lot more meaningful lyrically and aesthetically precisely because they do write their own lyrics and music. It seems a bit less contrived really. I guess that does come down to personal preference and I admit that freely.

I didn't necessarily mean "Madonna," the individual woman, but Madonna as the entity who created the songs that Madonna performed. Prince would have probably been just as good an example, though.
So you mean like half of the producers, writers, etc of the 80's and 90's versus The Smashing Pumpkins then? Gotcha. My main issue with your post was your choice of Madonna. I personally think that Prince (talent wise musically speaking) kicks the crap out of Madonna (not entity-Madonna but individual Madonna...:) ) as do most of the people she worked with. My issue was more with your example as it relates to The Smashing Pumpkins because Madonna is just such a horrible example in my opinion. I'm a huge Pumpkins fan, but I definitely can concede that there were definitely superior musicians (pop and otherwise) in the 80's and 90's. Madonna though or songs in her catalog? Not in my book, Mr. :D

As far as the image thing goes, grunge was definitely an important aspect of The Pumpkin's success. I'm not disputing that. However, Madonna as an individual (not entity-Madonna) sold records nearly exclusively off of the talent of other people and by peddling sex and controversy. I'm also aware of Billy and Marilyn's relationship. He advised Manson on Manson's "Mechanical Animals" album and both have worked together on various projects (like the Lost Highway soundtrack for example).

However, take the shock rock aspect out of Marilyn Manson and you have an interesting, yet mediocre rock band. Same with Madonna. Take the grunge image out of The Smashing Pumpkins and put them into normal clothes and you still have a great band. Whether or not Billy Corgan was wearing a "Zero" T-shirt with Darcy 's blue hair all over the place in the Bullet With Butterfly Wings video is largely irrelevant to the music or the fact that grunge was a *sound* separate from the image. Take away Madonna humping the floor of Radio City Music Hall during the first ever MTV Video Music Awards...and you have a mediocre pop act based on the talent of other people. That is why I don't really like your choice of Madonna nor do I think the image thing between Madonna and Marilyn versus The Smashing Pumpkins is really accurate. You still have a fairly decent group of talent individual musicians/composers even if you have them in suits and ties.

I've only heard a few songs off this album, but I think they're amazing. I hadn't heard that it "flopped." Sorry to hear that. : ( But it only came out a year ago, maybe sales will pick up.

*sighs.* It only sold like 70,000 copies. It didn't even remotely approach a gold record last I heard. I highly doubt sales will pick up as most of the sales were probably off of the hype generated about a Billy Corgan project. Reviews of the album were pretty mixed as well. People either loved it or had a generally lukewarm opinion of it as well. At this point I don't think there is much interest in the album. Poor initial sellers seem to rarely re-pick up steam after the original promotional hype surrounding the release unless another project is released to vast commercial success. If Billy made another solo album and it became the most critically acclaimed album of 2006 or 2007, then people would probably go back and start buying the album just because the would see it as being "worth their time" to hear the earlier work themselves. Gish for example wasn't a hot initial seller. It originally only peaked at #195 on the billboard chart. However, due to the success of Siamese Dream and subsequent Pumpkins albums, sales ended up totaling just over platinum because people became interested and wanted to go back and check out the album. Unless something drastic happens to boost Corgan's popularity or visibility, I doubt The Future Embrace will ever remain more than a flop. Personally it is one of my favorite albums of 2005. I highly recommend it. In fact...the Corgan cover of the seminal Bee Gee's song "To Love Somebody" features (guess who?!!!) ROBERT SMITH on backing vocals! Woo! How frickin' cool is that?

btw...on a separate note, I can't wait for the new Smashing Pumpkins album out in '07. I hope it is decent and I hope Corgan actually brought James Iha back on board. Darcy wasn't that hot of a bassist (Melissa Auf Der Maur could fill in just fine) but it would be cool if she was back. To be it just seems hasty and a commercial move to claim that The Pumpkins are reunited if James Iha isn't at least involved. I guess we will see, right?

I think this is hairsplitting. Rock is a form of pop!
Fair enough.

Easy. Just compare their song writing. What's unfair about that? They're all using the same 12 notes.

GAHHHHH. :dough: Except for the fact that they don't write their own frickin' songs half of the time. Lol.

Comparing The Smashing Pumpkins to Christina Aguilera is comparing 4 core musicians and song writers to a whole host of individual writers for any given Christina Aguilera song. Like...one of Christina's most critically acclaimed songs was written by Linda Perry.

So when you say, "compare Christina Aguilera's songwriting to The Smashing Pumpkins" you are saying

Compare like 10 different musicians and people with one band all under the banner of Christina Aguilera. To me that seems a bit unfair.

It's not obvious to me--I think whoever wrote Madonna's songs is a better song writer. Her songs are in general catchier, more melodic, and I might even argue that they cover a broader spectrum of emotional content than SP. SP is a great band, and they're all fantastic musicians IMO (at least, when D'arcy was on bass). And Billy Corgan is a really good songwriter. But I think there are tons of bands in the 80's and even more frequently in earlier decades who were much better.
Well...catchy doesn't necessarily equal good. Just having a song stuck in your head doesn't necessarily mean quality. I don't mean to sound presumptuous here, but I'm willing to lay odds that most of us in life that listen to music with any frequency or depth have had a crappy song stuck in one's head that one doesn't really "like" per-se. A hooky chorus or repetitive phrase that gets stuck in one's head might be completely inane and uninteresting. That alone doesn't say much.

As far as being more melodic? I think that is debatable. If you are using melodic in the sense that the music is happy, up-tempo, and relatively upbeat in most cases, sure. Madonna is the major key queen and you can even say that The Smashing Pumpkins sure do love their minor key melodies. Comparing who is "more" melodic is certainly tricky business. I certainly wouldn't say that The Smashing Pumpkins lack melodic lines in their music at all.

Let's look at the definition of melody from Wiki:

In music, a melody (sometimes referred to as a tune or voice) is a series of linear events or a succession, not a simultaneity as in a chord (see harmony). However, this succession must contain change of some kind and be perceived as a single entity (possibly Gestalt) to be called a melody. Most specifically this includes patterns of changing pitches and durations, while most generally it includes any interacting patterns of changing events or quality. "Melody may be said to result where there are interacting patterns of changing events occurring in time." (DeLone et. al. (Eds.) 1975, p.270-1) Rock music, melodic music, and other forms of popular music and folk music tend to pick one or two melodies (verse and chorus) and stick with them; much variety may occur in the phrasing and lyrics. "Gino Stefani makes appropriation the chief criterion for his 'popular' definition of melody (Stefani 1987a). Melody, he argues, is music 'at hand'; it is that dimension which the common musical competence extracts (often with little respect for the integrity of the source), appropriates and uses for a variety of purposes: singing, whistling, dancing, and so on." (Middleton, p.96)

I think if you want to argue that Madonna is more melodic, I think you have a bit of work to do on fleshing that out. Most of her songs don't have more than 2 independent melodic lines. You have a main theme that is concurrent with most of the instruments at hand. You don't have a violin doing one thing in the background and some crazy Jethro Tull-esque flute doing something totally different in the foreground followed by vocals (another melodic line). Even if you DID though, more melody doesn't necessarily automatically equal better music. You are using melodic in a more normative and not descriptive sense which is where I think our conflict is being generated here.

As far as the spectrum issue? Simply covering a lot of emotional ground isn't a good measure in my book for quality. You can cover a lot of ground emotionally (happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, being in love, etc) and do it in a mediocre fashion for example. I'm sure if you look at Brittney Spears, you can find different emotions she sings about, but that doesn't make the compositions quality compositions or her a quality artist even if she covers that ground (even assuming she writes her own stuff). I like an artist that has breadth and depth. Some of Madonna's happier songs or more upbeat stuff just seem sort of fluffy to me. When Billy does a happy song (the whole Zwan album is a pretty decent example), he does it pretty well. Like the lead single off of Mary Star of the Sea, "Honestly" which you can listen to here if you haven't heard it before.

That being said, I don't like bands that only sing about the same stuff or in the same emotional mood the whole time. That gets pretty boring. That is why I'm not a huge fan of Billy's grungier stuff. It has its place in my collection and I even really like some of those songs. However, had TSP not evolved into Mellon Collie's more mellow territory followed by Adore and Machina, I probably wouldn't like them as much as a band.

When Billy branched out musically, he stuff sounds more different song to song even on a given album. Like "Pug" sounds really different than "For Martha". Versus Cherub Rock, Quiet, Siva, and those sorts of songs sounding really similar musically. Take Madonna's song "Boderline." That song seems to be (lyrically) about romantic frusteration...yet it is poppy, upbeat, and leaves one with the feeling of being happy. I mean...I have been romantically unhappy before and I don't feel like going out and busting a fresh dance move in a club (ha ha). That sort of "fitting the mood with the music" thing seems a bit more intuitive to people who write their music themselves and generate lyrics in a more organic process versus fitting words to music (mo matter what that might be). I'm not saying one has to be uber-cliché and scream loudly in a song if you are angry. However, it seems a bit superficial to have lyrics that speak of deep pain or anger and sing that song with a slow tempo but pop songs just seem to often lack that depth.

Like..."Oh Father" is about child abuse and it seems sort of wistful and melancholy in a sort of fleeting and ethereal way. Take "Spaceboy" off of Siamese Dream and you are looking at a song about Billy's brother who was physically handicapped (and both were actually abused by their crappy parents). Billy ended up taking care of his brother and trying to watch out for him and that song covers some of that territory. If you didn't know the background, would you necessarily think that? However, you can totally feel that really emotionally tormented vibe that just a bit more real. Perhaps that is just me though.

If you are going to compare two bands and say one is better because of X,Y, and Z reasons...you need some justification for using those as criteria. I'm open and totally receptive to arguments on behalf of more melody being an intrinsicly good thing. Maybe it is. I want to hear your arguments on that though or at least get a better picture on what it is you personally use (and why) to make musical aesthetic judgments. To be that is far more elucidating, productive, and interesting than simply just stating criteria. I want to make it clear that I'm *not* playing devil's advocate here or trying to just be a contentious jerk. You have some really interesting things to say which is why I'm asking for more clarity. If I didn't think you had anything worthwhile to say, I wouldn't have gone into the depth that I am going into and I certainly wouldn't be asking the question I am. I hope you understand that.

Yeah, I love The Cure too, and "Just Like Heaven" is one of my favorites. I think they wrote much better songs than Smashing Pumpkins, just like Madonna. I'm not sure about who was better between Madonna and The Cure. But it seems clear to me if you take Madonna and The Cure vs Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana, then the 80's win. : )

I'm with you on The Cure versus The Smashing Pumpkins in most areas...though I think TSP could write some amazing stuff that rivals The Cure on a match up basis. Overall, though...I agree. As far as Madonna V. The Cure? I don't think that even the people that wrote for Madonna can't match the intensity of stuff like "If Only Tonight We could Sleep" or "Friday I'm in Love" in my book. The Cure is dark, no doubt. They are prototypically Romantic in every way and I mean romantic in the literal art-history sense, not the Objectivist re-definition. Even so, you end up with stark images and lyrics that pain t some very dark pictures, but with depth versus the fluffiness of a lot of Madonna's catalog. Also keep in mind that I don't think that she is bad. I guess I should have made that clear a long time ago. Much in the same way that you are a Smashing Pumpkins fan, I like Madonna as well and respect her much in the same way you respect TSP. I think she has boat loads of talent and pulls off some amazing songs. Like "Ray of Light" for example (I know it is a techno dance song, but it is pulled off brilliantly). Anyway...

dear lord this post is huge and it is 7:00 AM. My apologies.

lol.

-Evan

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I decided to post my full response, but if you want to continue this discussion, but don't have anything specifically related to the thread to add, please PM me!

I guess that depends primarily on what you consider to be a boring or not-boring composition.

Well, since there is as of yet no objective way to qualitatively evaluate music, I'm afraid I have to rely on the only definition that's possible to me now: a "boring" composition is one that makes me bored or is painful to listen to in some way, and a "not-boring" one is one that interests me or makes me feel pleasure of some kind. It's personal; and I think there are some objective principles underlying this that will allow me to relate to other people (but not necessarily all people in all contexts), but nobody knows what these are exactly, so any criteria I give would be largely speculation for what I think is involved.

A good example of what I consider to be "boring folk music" is: "Vincent" by Don McLean--YAWN!!

As I said in response to the other gentleman on here, simply utilizing a lot of tools musically is not going to guarantee that your work is good (or even having a lot of tools at your disposal). There are a lot of musical compositions that are really interesting on a musical level that require immense talent and musical training just to play, let alone actually write. However, that doesn't mean the music is necessarily enjoyable or interesting just because it is complex. Take The Mars Volta for example.
Never heard Mars Volta, but I think I agree with your point.

I realize that a song like "For Martha" off of Adore isn't super complex. The piano could be played by a 9 year old with a year of piano lessons most likely. [...]

Besides, a good chunk of Madonna's catalog is equally if not more boring. I mean...if a 9 year old could play the piano on "For martha" a monkey could play the keyboard part on "Borderline."

:D

Even if that were true, the ability to play a part is not the same as the ability to create that part.

I would say that some of To Sheila definitely studio effects like the cricket-sounding noise in the intro. However, the tones are a direct product of the instruments used (obviously). That isn't completely "studio tricks" or Flood's "black magic voodoo production" (I'm joking here, btw...:) ). If you really wanted to, you could easily pull out a Piano, a mandolin, and two guitars (an acoustic and electric) and replicate this song completely with little loss in terms of quality (assuming all of the band members were there and Billy was singing, obviously).
It's a shame you wrote such an epic tome, apparently on the premise that I thought To Sheila was only "studio tricks." But that's not what I said or what I meant. I said tones and sound effects.

The difference between the sound of a vintage piano vs a toy Casio keyboard, or a Fender Jaguar vs a Squire guitar, or a saxaphone vs a kazoo are examples of "tone" (or "timbre" if you prefer). The difference between a guitar signal being recorded "direct," vs the sound being processed through a Mutron Biphase, a Lexicon reverb, a Marshal Stack and then a microphone is an example of "sound effects."

The fact that you could replicate To Sheila live (and maybe even do it better!) is 100% irrelevant to what I'm saying.

That song is NOT synth heavy or effects heavy unless you want to count the cricket sounds or perhaps Billy's overdubbed vocals singing harmony with his main vocal line.

But it is effects heavy. In fact, I think that's one of its primary virtues. For starters, there is a ton of reverb on Corgan's (main) vocals. Then, when the chorus starts, the guitar that strums on every downbeat has a quick delay, distortion, strange EQ, and is drenched in feedback. Then the drum machines come in, heavily filtered. There is some kind of effect on the piano, that comes in on the next part (probably Lexicon reverb, I'm guessing--probably run through a filter, too). Then in the next chorus, all the instruments with effects are blending together for the first time.

Then in the next verse it goes crazy with the effects. While he's saying "Laayytly" the guitar does a cool little harmonic bend with all the delay and reverb, then the mandolin comes in with lots of reverb, such that it sounds like it's being played on some Eastern mountain top.. and this is the most interesting part so far, because there is still all the reverb on the vocals, so it gets a really strange vibe-- on the next verse it sounds like the reverb on the vocals gets cranked up even more, not to mention all the compression, which makes it sound very distant and at the same time very close. Then at the last part there are some little runs on the piano while the guitar comes in with so much effects it doesn't even sound like a guitar anymore, but almost like a violin.

Now, on the other hand.. Before Adore came out there was a little bootleg tape that was in circulation, of Billy Corgan playing a lot of the Adore songs with an acoustic guitar, at a place called the Viper Room. It sounded like "Vincent," and it was a little hard for me to get into the album after hearing that tape. But now I like it, because it does have some good sounds.

Not all of Billy Corgan's songs were like that though.. Mayonaise, for example, sounded awesome acoustic, as it appears on the Viewphoria video (hm, okay, maybe that one is better than Madonna! ; D).

In which case, you could still preserve the beauty of the song by simply getting a backup singer (like Madonna does). I don't think simply taking away an actual recording of the song would just make it a "boring" folk song.
Me neither.

Once again, I think some clarity is in order on the "boring" issue. Whether or not you are doing a simple 3 chord progression using a syn th or doing it on an acoustic guitar changes little about whether or not the actual composition is boring or not. On one hand you do say it is a beautiful song, but studio effects or not, you are saying the actual composition is boring...which leads me to believe you are using the term in a more descriptive sense. As such, I think some explanation of what your own personal musical evaluations come down to. A song in your eyes might be boring, but still beautiful (and in my eyes as well). So when judging whether a Madonna song versus a Smashing Pumpkins song, there might be another element thrown into the mix to determine what you personally think is a better song. I personally think that element isn't simply the recording itself.

No, you're right. It isn't.

I can definitely say that there are songs that were done with WAAAAAY less technology available in the 60's or 70's that rival a lot of modern songs (in both composition and in quality) even though the recordings don't sound as hot as the latest Pro-Tools heavy album on the top 40.
.....Did you think I was trying to argue that the improved technology in the 90's was responsible for the music being a poorer quality?? No, I meant that it is a poorer quality in spite of the better technology. And, even though there was great technology in the 60's and 70's too, the same technology was much cheaper as the years went on (and is quickly becoming cheaper still). So that makes it easier for the average musician to have access to it, and so more people should be learning how to use it and how to apply it in ever more interesting ways. If that isn't happening, it's because of aesthetic philosophy and its descent, and because of the culture; the technology is there for anyone who wants it and knows how to use it (even for my [email protected]$$. :P )

If you want to boil it down to recording techniques, technology, and studio evolution...I don't think you have much ground to stand on. After all, synthesizers have been around for quite some time. Frank Zappa for example was a music pioneer when it came to recording techniques as far as technology went and he was a bit before even Madonna's time.

I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're trying to say here or what point you're arguing against. What are we boiling down? Synthesizers have been around since the 1920's if you count the theremin.

Even Pro-Tools has even been around since 1987 (though it was originally called "Sound Tools"). I don't think the gap in recording techniques etc is as great as you are making it sound here.
That's interesting (and I didn't know that), but I still don't see the point.

As far as "Oh Father" goes musically/composition wise, it is ok I guess. I like the music, but it certainly isn't complex. The bass line is extremely basic (you are looking at like 5 notes repeated over and over).

If I were to discuss "complexity" (which I haven't yet), I would mean it in terms of the relationships of the intervals, not the number of notes. It's an interesting progression.. I like that type of chord progression (actually, it's kind of similar to "Soma" by SP, now that I think of it).

The synthesizer is pretty basic too. The drumming isn't really complex either for that matter. This song has boat loads of whole notes. If you can't keep the rhythm to this song by tapping your leg, well...you are probably a stereotypical white guy (also joking).
Are you using "complex" to mean: "difficult to play"? If so, why?

Seriously though, the song is good and I like it. The subject is interesting (child abuse), the music is very pretty, and Madonna's vocals are great (Madonna as a vocalist is amazing as she has boatloads of vocal talent).

Yeah, the music is pretty. But why is it? To be honest, I don't have an answer for that. Maybe it has something to do with complexity, or maybe something else! Actually, I like the arrangement-- the tones and sound effects! That slide guitar sounds awesome. But it's also very catchy. A memorable melody is very important to me. A song that doesn't have a memorable melody is what I would consider a "filler" song. There are several filler songs on Adore, but they usually have other virtues besides the melodies.

However compositionally this song isn't really interesting on a purely musical level either (at least based on the way I'm reading your use of the term "interesting.").

Interesting means I like it! : D Interesting is whatever it is that makes you say, "the music is very pretty," because I want to figure out why, and to me that is an interesting problem that wants a solution--therefore, it is interesting.

Yes, I acknowledged that Landslide was a cover. The point of even putting it up there was to show how Billy as a musician has a significant ability to even improve on a non-original work.

Oh. I like the Fleetwood Mac version better. I love Stevie Nicks--she brings me to tears often. I don't think she sounds like a goat at all.

>>As far as recording techniques? Some clarity here would definitely be in order. What sort of differences or gaps do you think are really important between the 80's and mid 90's?>>

Differences? I'm totally at a loss to why you think that's so important to my argument. I think effects were cheaper in the 90's, and some interesting new ones were invented. I think more bands should have made good use of them, but I don't really think it's that big of a deal.

>>Keep in mind Madonna released 7 original studio albums from 1992 up until the present versus 6 original works (I'm not counting "hits" collections on either end) prior to 1992.>>

I don't want to keep that in mind, because it's mainly just her 80's stuff that's good.

>>The song "Oh Father" is from Like A Prayer which was released in 1989. The Smashing Pumpkin's first album came out in 1991. So for over HALF of Madonna's career she had access to the same technology and recording techniques (more so actually, since she was one of the biggest artists in the world in 1991).>>

A technique isn't the kind of thing you have "access" to. It's an idea--you either have it or you don't. Just because you have a certain kind of equipment doesn't necessarily mean you're going to use a specific technique with it.

>>Well Madonna didn't write anything approaching "Oh Father" or "Material Girl" either (musically speaking). That is my point. Like A Prayer was co-written by Patrick Leonard and Steven Bray. Madonna had really nothing to do with the music there. Both actual musicians. Madonna is a vocalist who writes lyrics (I'm not even sure if her lyrics are always entirely written by her or not). She does not write music. Madonna poses as a solo artist when really that isn't a remotely accurate picture. When she goes on tour, she has her "touring band" to play the music that other people wrote. Compositionally, Madonna is capable of putting out stuff like Borderline. Material Girl wasn't even composed by Madonna! It was written by Peter Brown and Robert Rans.>>

Who cares? They were written for her weren't they?

>>Once again, the terms "interesting" and "boring" seem remarkably arbitrary the way you are using them.The sort of bopping music of Material Girl is NOT musically complex whatsoever. I'm not saying Billy Corgan or The Smashing Pumpkins are like Beethoven, but neither is early Madonna. Material Girl certainly isn't complex or or interesting melodically (if you are using interesting to mean complex, difficult, or even all that unique).>>

In the sense that you seem to be using the terms, I'm definitely not using the term "interesting" to mean "complex".. And I don't see why anyone in any context would equate the term with "difficult." And I do think Material Girl has a unique melody. And it's catchy. It's got a good vibe.. It puts me in a good mood. I enjoy listening to it, and those are a few reasons I think it's interesting.

>>If you want to pick 80's musicians, why oh why did you have to go with Madonna?>>

Because, I wanted to compare the most generic, but representative pop star from the 80s with the most creative and original, but representative pop stars of the 90s, to prove that the 80s were unequivocally better. Remember the topic of the thread? : )

>>Why not Pat Bennetar or Blondie...or...ANYONE other than someone who doesn't actually compose (Madonna *cough cough*).>>

For one thing, because I think that's totally irrelevant. In fact, I would hypothesize that the prevalent mentality which concludes that an artist who doesn't compose his own music is somehow thereby inferior to the ones who do is one of the *primary causes* of the death of pop music. In the 1960's, songwriters as such went largely out of style. A band who sucked but wrote their own stuff was admired more than even a band who expertly performed songs that were specifically composed for that band by professional songwriters. To me, that's completely absurd. That's like saying the company who installs the plumbing in a building is no good unless they were also the architects who designed the building. There's no reason that an artist shouldn't write his own songs, but there's no reason he shouldn't play other people's songs too--especially if that would be an improvement in the situation.

>>Btw, I actually really love 80's music. I think most of it beats the hell out of 90's stuff, to be honest. I just don't think Madonna is really all that impressive musically or even lyrically.>>

I think she's underrated! (I mean, her 80's stuff). I actually think people were envious of her because she was so successful, and that negatively influenced their opinions of her, and then she just got a bad image and a lot of people got tired of her (I'm not accusing you of that; it's just something I've noticed before with people in general).

>>Perhaps I just find The Smashing Pumpkins to be a lot more meaningful lyrically and aesthetically precisely because they do write their own lyrics and music.>>

I've heard many people voice this type of opinion, but never once heard an intelligible explanation as to how it makes any sense. Were the lyrics and aesthetics meaningful up until the moment Madonna started singing them?

>>So you mean like half of the producers, writers, etc of the 80's and 90's versus The Smashing Pumpkins then?>>

No, only the 80's.

>>My main issue with your post was your choice of Madonna. I personally think that Prince (talent wise musically speaking) kicks the crap out of Madonna (not entity-Madonna but individual Madonna...;) ) as do most of the people she worked with.>>

Don't you see.. the fact that there was better music in the 80's than Madonna was my whole point in choosing her as an example; that and the fact that she's representative of a lot of pop music in the 80's. Because, the same can't as easily be said for Smashing Pumpkins. I can think of a couple of groups in the 90's that were better, but they were not representative of the 90's, and they were almost completely ignored in the United States, and are to this day. If you can think of a dozen artists from the 80's that are better than Madonna, then that just proves my point even more (assuming you agreed with me that Madonna's songwriters were better than SP, which I guess you don't).

>>My issue was more with your example as it relates to The Smashing Pumpkins because Madonna is just such a horrible example in my opinion. I'm a huge Pumpkins fan, but I definitely can concede that there were definitely superior musicians (pop and otherwise) in the 80's and 90's. Madonna though or songs in her catalog? Not in my book, Mr. :D>>

Oh well, close enough. The point of the thread is that 80's were better--so wouldn't it have been enough to say, "Well, I don't think Madonna was better than SP, but there were plenty of other 80's groups that were so I see your point"? : /

>>As far as the image thing goes, grunge was definitely an important aspect of The Pumpkin's success. I'm not disputing that. However, Madonna as an individual (not entity-Madonna) sold records nearly exclusively off of the talent of other people and by peddling sex and controversy.>>

No way. She sold records because she was a great dancer and a great singer, and she had great songs--and nobody in the 80's cared that she didn't write them herself (that only became a sin when grunge got popular; the rules were you had to write your own songs, never do a guitar solo [one reason SP was less popular than Nirvana, I think, too many badass guitar solos], and always write about mopey or disturbing topics).

>>However, take the shock rock aspect out of Marilyn Manson and you have an interesting, yet mediocre rock band. Same with Madonna.>>

No way. Manson is 100% boring and lame even with the shock value. He's not as good of a singer or dancer as Madonna. His band is not just mediocre but lousy (IMO), even for the kind of music they play, which is already pretty bad, even if it's good!.. OTOH Madonna's band was always really awesome musicians. Omar Hakim, who played drums for David Bowie's band for a long time, played drums on a lot of her albums and tours. Lots of cool people played with her. She had lots more substance than Manson, Brittany Spears, and etc.

>>Take away Madonna humping the floor of Radio City Music Hall during the first ever MTV Video Music Awards...and you have a mediocre pop act based on the talent of other people. That is why I don't really like your choice of Madonna nor do I think the image thing between Madonna and Marilyn versus The Smashing Pumpkins is really accurate.>>

I never saw her hump the floor, but I still like her. : ) And I said Madonna and the Cure vs Manson and SP.

>>*sighs.* It only sold like 70,000 copies. It didn't even remotely approach a gold record last I heard.>>

Is it expected for an album to reach gold in the first month, these days? Geeze.

>>Reviews of the album were pretty mixed as well. People either loved it or had a generally lukewarm opinion of it as well.>>

They loved it or liked it? That's bad? Hm, I guess the industry does have high standards these days! : / Almost every album review I've read about a band I liked, that wasn't taken from that band's website or something, has been negative, not just lukewarm. But I thought that's just because culture is crap right now. Still, I didn't think most of those bands were hurting for money or anything--sometimes their labels would drop them but not usually.

>>Darcy wasn't that hot of a bassist (Melissa Auf Der Maur could fill in just fine) but it would be cool if she was back.>>

Everything you've said so far is forgivable besides this. LOL. Darcy was the best bassist out of all the American bands of the 90's, hands down. And she was the most talented person in the band besides Billy Corgan. Yes, this is coming from an ex-drummer! I learned every drum beat from Siamese Dream start to finish from memory, but I still think Darcy is better than JC.. Also, I'm probably the only person in America who bought James Iha's solo album, liked it, and still listens to it today! But Darcy's tone.. her timing.. everything, was completely awesome. Also, her image and stage presence was one of the best things about the band. Everyone they got to try to replace her was horrible. They would do better to just used synthesized bass lines than have that L7 chick with her wonky tone and no sense of rhythm.

>>To be it just seems hasty and a commercial move to claim that The Pumpkins are reunited if James Iha isn't at least involved. I guess we will see, right?>>

Well, as long as they don't get those idiots from Zwan to play in it again, I'll go see it!

>>Compare like 10 different musicians and people with one band all under the banner of Christina Aguilera. To me that seems a bit unfair.>>

Why?

>>Well...catchy doesn't necessarily equal good. Just having a song stuck in your head doesn't necessarily mean quality. I don't mean to sound presumptuous here, but I'm willing to lay odds that most of us in life that listen to music with any frequency or depth have had a crappy song stuck in one's head that one doesn't really "like" per-se. A hooky chorus or repetitive phrase that gets stuck in one's head might be completely inane and uninteresting. That alone doesn't say much.>>

A catchy melody isn't the only component necessary in a really good, well crafted song. But it is a necessary element (for me).

>>You are using melodic in a more normative and not descriptive sense which is where I think our conflict is being generated here.>>

Yes, I think you're right.

>>I'm sure if you look at Brittney Spears, you can find different emotions she sings about, but that doesn't make the compositions quality compositions or her a quality artist even if she covers that ground (even assuming she writes her own stuff).>>

Sings about is not the same as conveys. Mediocrity cannot convey a broad spectrum of emotions.

>>Take Madonna's song "Boderline." That song seems to be (lyrically) about romantic frusteration...yet it is poppy, upbeat, and leaves one with the feeling of being happy. I mean...I have been romantically unhappy before and I don't feel like going out and busting a fresh dance move in a club (ha ha). That sort of "fitting the mood with the music" thing seems a bit more intuitive to people who write their music themselves and generate lyrics in a more organic process versus fitting words to music (mo matter what that might be).>>

Maybe you haven't busted many fresh dance moves in clubs. But if you ever try it, it can be a great place to vent romantic frustration.. and express your emotions and basically allow yourself to experience yourself fully. And you can overcome a lot of frustrating emotions that way, which is encouraging and does make you feel happier, so songs like that can be perfect for that sort of thing. Similar with certain songs by the Smiths.

>>I'm not saying one has to be uber-cliché and scream loudly in a song if you are angry. However, it seems a bit superficial to have lyrics that speak of deep pain or anger and sing that song with a slow tempo but pop songs just seem to often lack that depth.>>

I disagree.. in fact, that kind of contrast is one of my favorite things about the Smiths and Morrissey.. And the Cure, for that matter. Dark depressing songs with broody mopey music is draining and boring and pointless, the way I see it. If you want music to also be poetry, it should be a discussion and an interpretation, and a resolution to the lyrics, not just a naturalistic approximation of the mood of the lyrics.

>>Take "Spaceboy" off of Siamese Dream and you are looking at a song about Billy's brother who was physically handicapped (and both were actually abused by their crappy parents). Billy ended up taking care of his brother and trying to watch out for him and that song covers some of that territory. If you didn't know the background, would you necessarily think that? However, you can totally feel that really emotionally tormented vibe that just a bit more real. Perhaps that is just me though.>>

Personally, I think it's lame when people sing about their real life experiences. I want to tell them-- can't you be a little more creative? I don't care what kind of accidental or unfortunate crap happened to you when you were a kid. What difference does that make to me and my life? I don't even care about the accidental or unfortunate crap that happened to me when I was a kid--deal with it; move on!

>>If you are going to compare two bands and say one is better because of X,Y, and Z reasons...you need some justification for using those as criteria. I'm open and totally receptive to arguments on behalf of more melody being an intrinsicly good thing. Maybe it is. I want to hear your arguments on that though or at least get a better picture on what it is you personally use (and why) to make musical aesthetic judgments.>>

Not necessarily more melody.. Just better and more memorable melodies.

>>To me that is far more elucidating, productive, and interesting than simply just stating criteria.>>

Hmm--maybe, maybe not! :)

>>I'm with you on The Cure versus The Smashing Pumpkins in most areas...though I think TSP could write some amazing stuff that rivals The Cure on a match up basis. Overall, though...I agree. As far as Madonna V. The Cure? I don't think that even the people that wrote for Madonna can't match the intensity of stuff like "If Only Tonight We could Sleep" or "Friday I'm in Love" in my book.>>

Yeah, I never said Madonna vs the Cure, but I agree.

>>The Cure is dark, no doubt. They are prototypically Romantic in every way and I mean romantic in the literal art-history sense, not the Objectivist re-definition.>>

I don't believe Ayn Rand re-defined romantic. She just offered a new variation on it-- "romantic realism."

>>Even so, you end up with stark images and lyrics that pain t some very dark pictures, but with depth versus the fluffiness of a lot of Madonna's catalog.>>

Yeah, I get annoyed with the Cure's dark gothy stuff. I like their sweet, happy stuff, like Lovecats, or their punky stuff like Fire in Cairo the best. But they had lots of great material. And a bass player who was even better than Darcy!

>>Also keep in mind that I don't think that she is bad. I guess I should have made that clear a long time ago. Much in the same way that you are a Smashing Pumpkins fan, I like Madonna as well and respect her much in the same way you respect TSP. I think she has boat loads of talent and pulls off some amazing songs. Like "Ray of Light" for example (I know it is a techno dance song, but it is pulled off brilliantly). Anyway...>>

Well, I wasn't trying to be un-controversial in making the comparison. I think it was a provocative comparison for the right reasons that I wanted to emphasize.

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Or, we could start a new thread on Billy Corgan vs Madonna.

I will have a response for you soon-ish. This is midterms week for me...so my priorities are elsewhere. However, I really liked your post (you provided a lot of clarity) and I find that I'm way more in agreement with you than I originally thought. My reply won't be gigantic like it was last time (there just isn't a need for it this time around) and I don't want to hijack this thread...though I doubt it is probably headed anywhere at this point :).

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I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're trying to say here or what point you're arguing against. What are we boiling down? Synthesizers have been around since the 1920's if you count the theremin.

By the way, an excellent early performer of theremin music whom I've recently discovered is Clara Rockmore. She is interesting on many levels!

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