Thursday, September 15, 2011

Today's Music: What's Hot And Why

By Miriam B. Medina

Music is timeless, ageless; it even transcends culture and language. Today, like any other time in history, is alive with vibrant, energetic music, much of which will stand the test of time. This article discusses what's out there today in modern American music, what's HOT and why. It's surprising to me how some music can meet different age levels, how many similarities there are between Broadway music, classical, pop, heavy metal, even hip-hop and salsa. There are many different things that go into making bands and various performers stars, but it all boils down to the music, the talent and the persona of the performers themselves.

Perhaps that's what makes American Idol Winners so unique they have an over-riding talent and charisma that even eclipse the music itself. It's extremely rare that stars like Kelly Clarkson or Daugherty emerge from American Idol to lead powerful careers, because so few of them have song writing skills or musical skills that outlast the talent of simply performing. So what is it that makes bands famous, what turns adults on, teenagers on, and people of all ages, so that a musician and their music become immortal? What is it that pushed a band or a performer to endure endless years of struggle and turmoil to find that pot of gold at the end of the musical stardom rainbow? What pushes these artists to work and create their own unique masterpieces that eventually stand the test of time, a work of art that will entertain people and influence people for years to come?

The fact is while there are millions of kids listening to Eminem there are hundred hip-hop artists passing out free CD's on the walkways of Venice Beach trying to get their acts noticed. For every Britney Spears or Madonna, pop stars that stand the test of time there are numerous flash in the pan heartthrobs like Justin Bieber and The Hansons. Remember the Hansons from about a decade ago? Their song 'MmmmBop' topped the charts in the summer of 1997, and they were teen heartthrobs for about 3 months, then they disappeared. Like Justin Bieber now, they packed out coliseums and arenas for a summer.
Now they are struggling to put 150 people in a small club as they endlessly tour across the country. That's the fate of most musicians that actually ever have a career in the music industry. They spend countless hours practicing, playing for nothing or next to nothing, and then struggling to play clubs or small gigs, perhaps latching onto a larger bill at a bigger venue now and then as they wait for their shot or they feed off of a short-lived reputation they received from a small period of time when they managed to 'hit it big.'
Take a look at a few rock bands right now. Seether and Nickleback are huge, and deservedly so. They are extremely talented, and they produce fantastic tunes, some that still get a large number of airplay after a decade, but what separates them from Billy Talent or a powerful college touring band like 99 Burning. Both Billy Talent and 99 Burning fared remarkably well on college radio charts for a number of years. They toured. They played the small clubs. They have large, rabid followings in certain areas. Billy Talent is huge in Canada, but they don't draw or get much hype in the United States. 99 Burning is prominent in the Mid-Atlantic but have struggled outside of that area.

Why? What is the difference between those 4 bands. Talent level, there might not be a huge difference, and obviously, in such a fickle business, luck makes a difference. But a lot of it comes down to drive, perseverance and determination. If Billy Talent and 99 Burning keep pushing as they have for the last 5 years, playing as many gigs as they can and expanding their audience, in another 5 years, they might reach the heights that Seether and Nickleback have reached, playing in arenas and topping the BillBoard charts like Seether and Nickleback do now on a routine basis. In fact, Billy Talent finally has a national distribution deal in the United States, and after tons of work, it appears as though their time might very well be arriving. Given the chance, in 100 years, maybe fans will still be enjoying their music, their hypnotic guitars and their haunting vocals and lyrics. They certainly have the talent, skill, and song writing ability to create some lasting classics, such as Pins and Needles and Falling Leaves, which were big hits abroad and have been acclaimed by reviews and media. The same with 99 Burning, whose songs Political Insanity/Wasted and She's My Nightmare still get airplay on college radio stations around the country, 3 years after their release.

.What we must remember is that what matters is the universal principles of music, and personality and creativity of the artists. Mozart and Beethoven were child prodigies, they had a buzz before they were mature, but they had the goods to back it up. Their music is, as pertinent and important today as it was 150 years ago. However, there were hundreds of composers in their day who are long forgotten, as is their body of work. For each Cats on Broadway or every A Chorus Line, there are thousands of Off-Broadway musicals that are forgotten before the show even closes.

What's important is what the music does to you. I can close my eyes on the subway, listening to a beautiful classic piece and picture a moody moon, hanging in the desolate horizon on a lonely moor. I can feel the loneliness and pain, and taste the desperation in the feelings invoked by the song. The guy sitting next to me might get the same feeling from a TuPac recording, and the girl across the aisle might get those feelings from Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway. That's what matters, does the music translate the feelings that the artist felt when they created that song. If they did, the song will likely stand the test of time, and what's hot today will still be pertinent and listened to in a hundred years, just as artists in today's world sample and reuse Mozart. Music is timeless when it is truly classic, and if the artist believes it and works hard enough, their creation becomes eternal, and we all benefit from the work.

With 13 years of research experience, History in all its manifestations is Miriam B. Medina's passion, and she loves nothing more than sharing what she learns with everyone. So be sure to check it out at, a one-stop resource center for writers, journalists, historians, teachers and students.


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