Friday, September 18, 2009

Skepticality #110

Review without Skepticism

Swoopy is alright in my book. I have been (appropriately, I think) critical of Swoopy in past posts. In this week's episode we learn that Swoopy is an ELO (the Electric Light Orchestra,) a hit making pop/disco band of the 1970's and early 80's. I think they are a terribly underrated act, and in some ways they have just faded away. It is good to know that other fans exist. Now are there any Roxy Music fans? Anyone?

Anyway, this week Derek and Swoopy interviewed James Deen who is promoting the Charlotte Pop Fest, September 24-26. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science & Reason.

Deen has an interesting story, which if I followed it correctly is about a year or so ago he was a rather pious soul and belong to a proper southern style mega-church, and he beat heathens on the head with the bible on the weekends. (Ok, he did not beat anyone with any books.) Now while not a crusader against religion, he is out to promote science. I think it's all fine. If I lived in the area I'd show up to watch the Smithereens bash out a few tunes too, and support science.

The topic that most peeked my interest is the discussion he and Swoopy engaged on whether pop music has hit a wall. Deem thought the last great movement in pop music was grunge, and since the early 90's there is nothing really all that new. Sure there are new bands, but no new sounds or types of music. (He seemed to discount, or least indicated that hip-hop has not altered much either. I have no real opinion in that regard. I am not hip to that jive.) There is the argument that grunge was nothing other than new wave glamoured down with a lot of indie college radio bubbling in the background. However, grunge was a pretty big genre that Nirvana and Pearl Jam shot to the top of the music world. I do take his point.

I think a lot of it has to do with that noise the kids call music today just sucks, and it all went to hell when Bill Berry left R.E.M. Not really. I do believe having music centered less on the radio play combined with a few big radio companies owning a lot of stations with the same generic playlists, the iPod, and satellite radio has made it harder for any one band or genre of music to have a big impact. As Deem pointed out in the show there is so much out there, that it is hard to get a grip on all of it. I am certain there is lots of great talent out there in music land. How to find them, and how to they get any national traction?

I do wonder once the mega-stadium rock bands from my youth finally retire or die off how popular music will look. In the old, old days The Beatles appeared on Sullivan and for a moment all was perfect and good (as well as the Kinks, Herman's Hermits, the Who, the Supremes, and the genius of Marvin Gaye.) Later, MTV focused what people were exposed to in the music world with Duran Duran, Go-Gos, and Van Halen. Now, it is really hard to funnel the kids to something new other than the likes of the Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus. While the democracy of the internet may give exposure to more acts, I find it difficult to fathom without radio airplay driving sales of 8 tracks or CDs how some artists with a new sound are ever going to hit it Nirvana let alone Beatle big.

Obviously, I enjoyed the discussion a great deal. It just does not have anything to really do with skepticism or science. I call it a nice change of pace.

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