I watched Saturday Night Live last evening waiting for it to be funny. After seeing Tina Fey as Prudence Palin, it was not generally funny. I stick my my notion that, with this cast, anyway, the caliber of the host sets the tone of the funny; if the host (Michael Phelps) is lame, then so will the entire program. So, it was not funny, but it did offer me yet another trip to introspection via music and mortality. There was this lad named “Little Wayne” as the musical guest there. And he was doing some performing of some kind. There were musicians doing things, I think, or at least, they were pretending to apply various percussive pressures to musical instruments. There were two gentlemen at center stage, both making utterances into microphones.
I shook m’lady, who was already half asleep. “Am I getting old? Or is this just plain horrible?” “A little of both, probably,” she replied. Then she glanced at the TV and focused on it a little. “No. It’s really horrible.”
I don’t think it’s just that I’m getting old. I have been a grumpy snob about music since I was 12 years old, at least. I have been an aficionado of orchestral music, of jazz, of ska, of rock, often of music performed off the beaten path. But I consider my tastes to be somewhat informed, having been raised playing a musical instrument, having performed in wind symphonies, in jazz bands, in marching bands, having studied the subject in college and being a failed music major, and, yes, having rocked a karaoke mic at one point in my life so well that they threw dollar bills and panties at the stage. Put it this way. I am not so trained in music that I could draw you a circle of fifths from scratch. But I am trained enough to know what one is.
And it just seems to me that the most successful popular artists of today no longer consider even the most basic tenets of musical composition. Works by Little Wayne and his contemporaries don’t sound right to me I think because these are artists who do not use a frame. Because, honestly, their purpose is not to create musical compositions. Little Wayne’s purpose is to create loud rhythmic noises to entertain drunken people in dark smokey clubs and to create a public personna that will allow him to sell records. Professional musicians, at least those in the most mainstream arenas, are more marketers than they are musicians. This has always been true, but I think&38212;and perhaps this is where the “getting old” comes in—that it seems more circularly vicious than ever. “Back in my day…”
Fortunately, there is Adele.
What is it with these English exports making the American music scene look like a bunch of a-holes? Amy Winehouse may be a complete screwup, but at least she’s recorded some music with some integrity (check out Winehouse’s The Ska EP for more evidence of this, baby ).
Anyway. I have just now heard of Adele on Nic Harcourt’s Sounds Eclectic. And, yes, it is available on eMusic. So, yes, it is now on the playlist at Radio B.O.N.K.