Everybody does it. It’s convenient, warm and easy. Harkening back to a time that was simpler, be it in our lives or a period in history that has been propped up by the crutch of days, months and years passing. The past cannot hurt us if we remember it fondly. The debate is found in politics, sports, music and just about every aspect of life and it repeats itself in perpetuity. So voices emerge every time a new generation begins to take power and as a society we bemoan the newcomers for not having the same core values as its priors. Not only the moral fiber of a generation is questioned but also the complaint that the newest generation somehow has it easier than any of its predecessors. Whenever those points are brought up I can’t help but think of a grandparent sitting in a wicker chair, reminding you that back in their day, they used to walk up hill both ways to school…in the snow. Every generation has its own challenges that make it unique and difficult for that particular group. The truth of the matter is that everything that happens now is substantially better because we have the advantage of appreciating what has happened before and learning from the successes and failures of our prior generations. What will come after will only be stronger than what is current.
Within the world of music specifically the cries for a golden age of yesteryear are the loudest. Listening to music is a visceral experience, one that lends itself to the youth. The music we listen to in our childhood sticks with us so strongly because before you take on a challenging job, a troubled relationship or six, debt and the general unpleasantries of life, you are a raw unguarded tadpole who has no idea how to mentally defend his or herself against these feelings. We develop a hard exterior that allows us to carry on through the dredges as we go through adulthood but with that Darwinian survival mechanism we lose the ability to experience those moments unadulterated. Before that shell covers us we’re left scarily exposed to the good and the bad so we often use music to deal with these complexities. Music is a universal tool in communicating our feelings to our thoughts so it makes sense that it becomes paramount to the consumption of those strange new experiences as you awkwardly experience the world for the first time.
Every time a new form of music has come into popular culture, the establishment decides that it is harmful to the morality of our youth. Rock and Roll was supposed to degrade our brains and turn us into sex addicts, the folk singing of the 60’s merely a fever dream that fed into pacifism and weakness. Disco was labeled mindless and frivolous because heaven forbid people want to dance and connect. Rap music offered a disenfranchised people an opportunity to express themselves and the response was that it was too aggressive, too violent, and too black. Hair Bands too vapid, Grunge Rock too depressed and so on. The point is that we’ll always do this unless we decide to accept that music is often an indicator of how our young people feel and rallying against it is an exercise in ineptitude.
The most common criticism of music today is usually some version of it being terrible and/or that simply too much of it exists. The sheer volume of artists and bands that produce music in today’s age is certainly overwhelming. But that isn’t a bad thing; it just takes a little more effort to go seek out the things that you really enjoy. The process of creating film, music and really any form of art that has basic barriers to entry (money, mostly) has been expedited and lowered so that so many more people can do it. Think about it, a substantially larger segment of the population is able to create high quality content now because the red tape has been lowered. By allowing significantly more people of lesser means and opportunities the chance to create, we increase the probability that music you really enjoy is being made right now.
It might seem like things are worse than ever but that is just a trick our minds play on us because its much easier to be critical than positive. We’ve gotten tremendously more progressive as a society, better athletes populate our courts and fields, modern medicine cures more disease than ever and technology allows us the opportunity to do business across the world and to connect to family members and friends that we would otherwise never be able to. It’s the obligation of the older generations to bridge these worlds by sharing all of the wonderful songs, films and art from the past so that it can continue to influence the work of the tomorrow. With streaming online catalogs of everything you can imagine, sharing and communicating through art has never been easier. This isn’t a lecture on not loving what happened before us, quite the opposite in fact. Celebrate and cherish the things that made you feel alive when you were first experiencing it. This is simply a challenge to embrace the current and not to default to the idea that just because this generation isn’t your generation that it lacks in substance and character. We’ll continue to grow and ascend because we have what has happened before us, not in spite of it.