Why modern pop music rapes your ears
(I still do like BON JOVI, just for the record- their older stuff, up to and including Crush. Bounce was merely okay, nothing great. Have a Nice Day was shite. And that's when I stopped paying attention to them.)
Even the ancient warhorses of the genre, like IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST, have found ways to keep themselves sounding fresh and relevant in the modern age. Producers have to vie for the talent and time of real artists with tremendous skill; you cannot simply take any old guitarist and drop him into DEEP PURPLE to do what Steve Morse does, for instance, and you cannot just take any old producer and have him record, master, and mix an AMON AMARTH album.
This phenomenon was actually quite well elucidated in Fenris Wulf's completely batshit insane book, Loki's Child. (One of my favourite fiction books of the year, by the way.) The author is a veteran of the music business and he knows what he is talking about; as he states multiple times in the book through his characters, analog recording is getting harder to do every year because the equipment isn't really there anymore to do it, but records produced through analog processes simply sound so much better than the overproduced, overdigitised, overcompressed nonsense that hits the shelves and airwaves these days.
That is exactly what it feels like to listen to most modern pop music. The closest equivalent I can think of among the music that I listen to is, probably, having to listen all the way through an IMMOLATION album.
Some bands, by the way, can actually make the "wall of sound" thing work well. BRAINSTORM's album, Liquid Monster, is a good example of one that combines intricate melodies, dynamic ranges, and an almost overpowering wall of sound bearing down on the listener like a tsunami, and somehow makes it work.
But most bands cannot do this.
The remastered version of this album is a thing of beauty. You can actually hear all of the dynamics and you get a real sense for the tremendous musicianship of each of the three members of the world's greatest ever rock trio.
But the original album was absolutely impossible to listen to. It was like listening to the band playing in a garbage can.
And never mind listening to the original master after, say, Moving Pictures or Power Windows. You would have simply smashed your stereo system in disgust.
(Speculation abounds that the reason he messed up so badly with that album is because Steve Harris, who every MAIDEN fan knows is the actual driving force behind the production of their albums, has become increasingly deaf over the years from standing next to those giant amps on stage. As a result, he insists on albums being mixed and mastered according to his hearing range- so the murky, dense, compressed sound of all MAIDEN albums from like 2003 to 2010 is due entirely to his hearing loss.)
This causes a serious problem when listening to "modern" MAIDEN albums compared to older ones. Listening to the older Martin Birch-produced albums, like Powerslave, you get a real sense of how good the band truly is, their dynamic range, their instrumental skill. Listening to Dance of Death can give you a headache if you're not careful.
These days, though, (((pop)))
These people are not talented enough to make records that sell on artistic merit, and their audiences tend to be too stupid to buy based on the same. So they are left with two options: make everything sound like everything else, i.e. be as bland as possible, or be as offensive and edgy as possible.
The problem is that if everyone starts being offensive and edgy, nobody is. And that is precisely what has happened in pop music.
A few years ago, Miley Cyrus's onstage antics were outrageous. These days, it's considered normal for female mainstream musicians to release videos that make them look just this side of streetwalkers.
Actually, that's an insult to streetwalkers. At least prostitutes are honest about what they are doing, and don't try to sell you some ridiculous spiel about how "empowered" and "amazing" they are for, basically, selling their bodies for public consumption.
So, does the music industry in the West have any hope? Well, not from where I stand. The good news is that, the worse pop music gets, the better everything else seems to get.
Underground genres like real hard rock and heavy metal are flourishing. The artistry and creativity of my favourite bands is increasing with every year- IRON MAIDEN, the greatest band of all time, who have absolutely nothing left to prove to ANYBODY, released last year their best album in twenty-five years. And younger bands keep entering the scene with energy, enthusiasm, skill, and creativity.
As always, the harder and faster that the social justice types try to converge anything, the more easily the rest of us can get on with setting up alternate outlets and platforms. Music is no exception.