Tuesday, October 30, 2007

So you're saying 80's music sucks........

Being that I still like a lot of the 80's music, particularly heavy metal, I find that I often have to defend some of my favorite music against onslaughts from people who try to make their own preferences look good by jumping on the "80's music sucks" bandwagon that's been a'rollin ever since Kurt Cobain decided to rip off "Wild Thing", mumble some incoherent lyrics over it and pass it off as his own work. Some people may call this plagiarism, but Kurt Cobain preferred to call it "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Even though I like plenty music from other genres and decades, the 80's music is what I get called out on.

Since the criticism revolves around minor variations on the same issues, I thought I'd list the beef here as well as my rebuttals. My arguments aren't based on the 80's music necessarily being perfect (every decade has good and bad music), but rather on it being very straightforward to point to similar flaws in music from other decades and genres. Here goes:

Singers of the 80's had ridiculous hairstyles
It's easy to find examples of over-the-top hair on bands like Flock Of Seagulls. Also, the fact that rock musicians of the 80's often had spent a lot of time on their hair is pretty evident from photos. But if you're implying that strange hairdos was an 80's phenomenon, I suggest you check out this phenomenon called "punk" that started in the mid 70's. Or maybe you don't think of mohawks as over-the-top? Also, I suppose Marily Manson and other proponents of shock rock and nu-metal don't spend a lot of time getting their hair done? Dreads maintain themselves, do they? And surely you're not implying that Beyonce and Britney use less hair spray than - say - Madonna? But at least the rockers of the 60's and 70's didn't have long hair? Oh, wait....

The clothes were ridiculous in the 80's
Considering that the bell-bottoms not only were ultrafashionable in the 70's, but also made a comeback, I'm not sure what the point is. Especially when also considering the disco suits of the 70's, balloon pants and all flannel + orange/earthy colors of the 90's + the very fact that capri pants have been ok for men to wear. You're telling me that Van Halen and Billy Joel looked stupid, in stark contrast to KISS, Donna Summer, Limp Bizkit and Korn?

Overly long "look at me" guitar solos
The guitar solos you heard on the radio in the 80's were typically 12-24 bar solos. 30 seconds or so. You've ever heard a guitar-based song from the 60's or 70's? The late 60's and early 70's were nothing but a tribute to 30-minute, impromptu drug-fuelled guitar jams. Next time you hear songs like "Free Bird", "Hotel California", "Stairway To Heaven" or "Don't fear The Reaper" - you know, radio hits of the 70's - then do me a favor and break out your li'l Matrix-themed wristwatch and time the solos. Do the same with 90's stuff like "Don't Look back In Anger" and "Killing In The Name". Compare that to 80's guitar solo hits like "Jump", "Wanted Dead Or Alive", "Round And Round", "We're Not Gonna Take It" or even "The Final Countdown". What was your point again?

The rock and pop stars of the 80's were so wasted on drugs and alcohol
I can't believe people actually use this argument. Amy Winehouse. Eminem. Britney Spears. Red Hot Chili Peppers. Hilary Duff. Robbie Williams. The Darkness. Oasis. That's a very short list of public drug breakdowns from after the 80's. You think a list from the flower power era and the later 70's would look better?

Sexist lyrics and music videos
That's rich. There's this new thing now called rap music, and a newfangled music channel called MTV. Check it out, then tell me that the music of the 80's was more sexist.

High-pitched vocals on rock songs
'Cause the Bee Gees never used that in the 70's, and fortunately, neither do morons like Mika do that now, right?. Ditto for The Darkness, which by the way model their music after 70's rock, not 80's.

Overly macho rock stars
Again, I'd like to point you to that new thang called rap music, particularly gangsta rap. Check it out and get back to me.

Power ballads suck
That is your opinion, and many of them probably do. Name one other type of song construct where you don't have a mix of good and bad music and performances. Nothing? Thought so...

To round it off, here's some fantastic criticism of grunge I found somewhere. I liked it enough to copy the text, but I forgot to add the url. I didn't write this, but I wish I had:

Do you know why so many twenty- and thirty-somethings nowadays yearn for the era when grunge ruled America? It's because back then it was fashionable to be a loser. You could roll out of bed in yesterday's clothes, tell your dad to go fuck himself, and head to the coffee joint to peer at your stubbly reflection in some thrillingly disheveled girl's glasses. It was like being a hippie, except you didn't have to care about anything (except maybe AIDS or abortion, and even then, only when it was pragmatically necessary to care). It was like being a punk, but you didn't have to worry about being uncool, because everybody was a loser. The music was specially engineered to sound good when listened to from big green bong water-stained couches with ripped upholstery. You didn't have to worry too much when your hero died of a heroin overdose, because the Pacific Northwest was a bottomless reservoir of untapped indie talent, and somebody even more rugged would step up to fill your hero's army boots.


Pigeon said...

I totally agree with you, except that for each example that you give (hair, solos, drugs...), you compare to a specific kind of music (punk, rock from the 70's amy Winehouse...).

Don't forget that rock from the 80's cumulate all of them !!!

Anders said...

All music made after mid-30's sucks*...

Try to fit your "ridiclous hairstyles and clothes, long guitar solos" in the pre-war music scene... ;-)

Lyrics, I admit, wasn't any less sexist back then, like "Warm My Weiner", "Banana In My Fruitbasket" and "What's that smell like fish"... ;-)

*ZZ Top and Rainer excluded... ;-)

Wilhelm said...

Nope - that's my point. Unless the majority of all 80's bands displayed the combo of these traits, your argument is crap. What you want to do is pinpoint a specific genre or band, not make a blanket statement about a decade of music.

Anders: Don't forget the Motown classic "Pull Up To My Bumper"

Anders said...

Anders: Don't forget the Motown classic "Pull Up To My Bumper"

That's a car song, right? ;-)

Wilhelm said...

I'm sure you can play it in your car, yes.

Or is that not what you meant?


Anonymous said...

you forgot synthesizer piano... the NUMBER ONE reason 80's music sucked.

Mike said...

People from the future would probably says todays music and dress is weird also. It happens with every era.

80s Music