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The Day The Music Died

This post has nothing to do with driving a Chevy to the Levy or singing dirges in the dark.  Rather, the day the music died for me was just last Friday. I have a little bit of a connection with the reason why so hear me out.

American Idol is now in it’s 10th Season on Fox. A show that has been band-aided together for the past 4 seasons. Out of the past nine years only two winners clearly come to mind that can be considered “idols”: Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. Both have proven to have longevity in a business that chews up most and spits them out.

Sure, there’s been the Jennifer Hudson (who won an Academy Award) and the Chris Daughtry (who also didn’t win but continues to have success). But for the most part, everyone else has been a flash in the pan.

In 2004 the band I was in had the opportunity to open for Clay Aiken, the runner up in Season 2. There was literally Beatlemania with the dude. The show at Musikfest was the fastest sellout in the festival’s history. I remember people going absolutely ape-shit over this guy.

I’m not complaining though, I got to perform in front of 6,500 people that night and it was the ultimate night of my life as a musician. Great memories!

Back to present day. On Thursday night’s show contestant Pia Toscano got booted off by virtue of least amount of fan votes. A shock and surprise to most viewers, myself included.  But let’s not forget that both Hudson and Daughtry got booted off early too. And who went on to win those shows? Fantasia Barrino and some dude named Taylor Hicks. Names that will likely become answers to a future Trivial Pursuit question.

For some reason, Pia getting the boot was different. It just didn’t “feel” right for the judges, the voters or the media. So by Friday it was announced that Pia would be offered a major recording contract with Interscope Records. Excuse me, but isn’t the actual prize for winning American Idol a recording contract?

But it doesn’t end there. Executives at Interscope were ALREADY contacting dozens of their songwriters in an effort to throw together an album for her to release as quickly as possible.

It’s this kind of thinking that makes me realize that music really isn’t art anymore.  It’s all about the quick buck. Making as much as you can, as fast as you can now while you have the chance.

It used to be that artists would sit down and write songs about what they were going through. Putting their emotions into the lyric. Taking time in the studio to make sure what they wanted to say gets recorded exactly as they wanted.

Now, you need look no further than what’s popular on radio today to know that the opposite is true. Artists like Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga. All of them swimming in a sea of cash from making crazy videos,  hatching out of eggs,  getting drunk and showing cleavage. Or having “special guests” rap a line or two in the song to bring in some extra revenue. The question becomes “Just how many of these performers (because none of them are musicians in the sense of the word) will you still remember when their schitck has run it’s course?”

I have no doubt that the first Pia Toscana album will sell. My guess is it will be one of the biggest selling albums of the year. But where will she be in two or three years from now? Will she be dumped by her record company like former Idol alumni Taylor Hicks and David Archuleta? What if they put her out on tour and she bombs? After all she’s never really “paid her dues”.

If you’re one of the big shots at Interscope then you worry about that later.

Right now, there’s money to be made.

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About James Wood

Influenced by life, love and the pursuit of the perfect song is what best describes my passion. I’m a closeted classic rock/metal-head from the 80′s who loves to write.

Posted on April 12, 2011, in Thought and Opinion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Stumbled upon your blog and so glad I did. You are so right. A quick buck seems to fuel much of the mainstream music industry today and the disposable, forgettable “noise” heard on Top 40 radio today is the sad result.

    I’m encouraged that “real music” seems to be making a comeback though. Lately, I’ve been listening to bands like Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons, The Civil Wars and solo artists like Adele and, yes, David Archuleta (he actually dropped Jive from what I’ve heard because they wanted to force him into the teen idol mold and, when he wouldn’t comply, failed to promote his really solid album “The Other Side of Down”).

    I haven’t watched Idol at all the past couple of seasons but I heard about Pia getting a record deal already and thought the same thing as you mention in your post… they’ll try to chew her up & spit her out for a fast buck, and since there are no short cuts to being a true artist, she’ll end up having to pay her dues if not now, then later, when Interscope moves on to the next flavour-of-the-week.

    Look forward to reading your posts!

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