Popular music, or otherwise known as pop music, refuses to stay in the same place.
In the ‘50s Elvis Presley was topping the charts; in the ’60s and ‘70s bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were creating chaos; then the ‘90’s hit and Nirvana and grunge music took over. Now, it’s all about music you can dance and lose all your worries to—musicians like Rihanna and Justin Bieber.
However, if you observe culture even in the slightest, then you can see that pop music does this amazing thing where it shifts according to the vibes of the public.
Given how current situations are unfolding—having a president with the lowest approval ratings, international tensions and hate crimes rising, and the death of so many celebrity heroes, it’s inevitable that the sound of music is going to change—but how?
It’s hasn’t even been a full month into 2017 and we already have musicians who have been in the shadows for years, coming out with fiery, passionate songs that must’ve been incubated by current events–songs like “Hallelujah Money” by the Gorillaz, who haven’t released anything since 2011. The song features Benjamin Clementine, a European poet, singing a heavily political song from the Trump Tower. There’s also, “I Give You Power” by Arcade Fire, whose last release was in 2013. The song features pioneer blues musician Mavis Staples and the group has stated that all proceeds from the song will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union.
These are two award-winning groups who have been silent for years now, and who haven’t really had heavily, politically-influenced songs, at least not for a while now. It’s no coincidence that now these musicians are releasing songs that preach about abuse of power and fighting for your rights—the shift in what’s become important to people has changed, and it is inspiring.
This is important to know, because this shift in political mayhem isn’t anything new. Musicians like Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, and even Prince had songs that were inspired by what was happening in their society. Cohen wrote songs like “Joan Of Arc,” which, during that time in the early ‘70s, was supportive of the women’s movement. Bowie had the “Diamond Dogs” album, which was entirely inspired by George Orwell’s novel, “1984” about a dystopian society. Prince, known for his sultry pop songs, also penned songs like “Party Up,” which still represented his sexy uplifting dance music, but also brought a message of peace with lyrics like “you’re gonna have to fight your own damn war… cause we don’t wanna fight no more!”
“So now that these musicians that were so huge and influenced the music industry are gone, what’s going to happen to the popular sound the people are going to want to hear?”
For the fans, it’s important to see these idols in music caring about more than just dancing. Sure their music is also always catchy and a pleasure to listen to, but they’re also providing knowledge and spreading ideas for change.
These recently deceased musical heroes inspired many of today’s chart-topping pop stars.
Rihanna put on a tribute for Prince during a performance in Canada, saying, “a lot of us have started making music and listening to music because of Prince, so right now I just wanna honor him, me and my crew, and you guys—let’s shine some light to heaven for Prince right now.” Also, let’s not forget Lady Gaga’s tribute to the late David Bowie, who obviously had a huge influence on Gaga’s style and music.
So now that these musicians that were so huge and influenced the music industry are gone, what’s going to happen to the popular sound the people are going to want to hear?
Sacha Lecca has been the deputy photo editor at Rolling Stone magazine for about 10 years now. He’s been able to see the certain wave of celebrities that come in and out of the spotlight and how what’s important to the public shifts.
He tells BTRtoday that he hardly gets a chance to even react to a well-known musician’s death—his first reaction has to be calling photographers, gathering the best images, and getting ready for changes in the magazine. However, he did confess that Bowie’s death hit him especially hard, saying that there is no part of his life untouched by Bowie’s music.
The week after Bowie’s death, Lecca explains, the U.S. had a 5000 percent increase in album sales; after Prince died he had five albums in the top 10 Billboard 200 chart.
“These increased sales puts their music in the hands of people who perhaps hadn’t been exposed to much of their work before, and would surely have converted many,” Lecca expresses about how the listeners were affected by these deaths.
He also strongly believes that we haven’t seen the last of impactful musicians like Bowie, Prince, and Cohen—he has high hopes that more pop stars will raise awareness the way they did.
Lecca, who can be spotted in the underground NYC music scene at shows, says that though the passing of Bowie, Prince, and Cohen were universally mourned, the passing of Lemmy, the front man of Motörhead, and Andrew Loomis, an American author and illustrator, were more so mourned by the underground scene rather than the pop scene.
It’s no doubt that creatives will inspire creatives, especially if those creatives ignited a passion inside your heart like the passing of these idols did for many—not just for other musicians, but to their fans as well, and they’re the ones who really decide what’s popular (all conspiracy theories aside…)
One thing is for sure—with the passing of musical idols, and the shift in political power, we can expect a lot more new music with a different tone. I think you can guess what kind of tone; you’re the ones listening to it.