As American Idol blares outside my bedroom, I can't help but think of the many ways music in my life has changed, and with it my perception of what constitutes good music. I admit this will sound really old and lame, but for some reason a lot of the newer stuff people like to listen to these days are beginning to sound really repetitive (so yeah, I'm not cool anymore..was I ever?). For instance take that new Sarah Connor (is that her name?) tune that's been getting a lot of airplay. In my head the background bass track sounds suspiciously like an earlier Mary J Blige song. Then when I started listening really hard, I realised a lot of newer artistes are sampling songs that are barely 5 years old and rehashing them into new tunes with somewhat newer rap/hiphop/what have you vocals. Me, I'm no music expert, but when samples are taken from a song you remember moving your shoulders to barely two years ago, you just know the well of originality's either dried up or no one can tell the difference anymore (and that is a scary thought, ladies and gentlemen). However, when you consider the alternative (which are songs by groups that name themselves after cutlery and revolve around A minor, E minor, F, C and G chords) you can't help but embrace whatever MTV decides is cool for you).
Thinking about this takes me back to the music I thought was cool when I was growing up. Back then (I really sound old now) the first tunes I sort of remember when I was really small was Abba, simply because my mum played a whole lot of it on the stereo. Then there was Olivia Newton-John and other post-70s singers who I don't really remember. The 80s, for me at least was characterised by Duran Duran, Billy Idol, David Bowie, Elton John, John Cougar Mellencamp (though I think he dropped the Cougar later), Michael Jackson and a whole lot of Solid Gold programs with groups like Modern Talking, Depeche Mode..the list goes on. Interspersed with these groups/singers were jingles/themes from TV shows like Matlock, McGyver and the lot. On the local side we had Sharifah Aini, DJ Dave (whoah), M Daud Kilau (he was weird), Sudirman and our own Dato' Shake. Man, those were colourful days.
As I went through primary school, I remember my seniors were all into groups like Search and Wings, and big hair plus really tight pants were in. I never really understood that though I thought Fantasia Bulan Madu was alright, and so were the other rock anthems of the day (too many to mention).
Then the 90s kicked in and things started to change. The Malaysian music scene was getting more and more rock bands with cracked vocals, Ramlah Ram was big and Muzik Muzik was on TV3. We started to see music videos on the telly, and all of a sudden, pop was really really cool. Then when I was in my second form I got introduced to a whole lot of really weird music (this is what private school does to you): the rebellious underground Thrash and Hardcore movements. This was when I delved into the darker side of the line, listening to groups like NWA and Public Enemy while on the other hand I was banging to the mixed sounds of Iron Maiden, Morbid Angel, Anthrax, Metallica, Guns N Roses and even freakier stuff like Morgoth, Dark Throne, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Infectious Maggots, SilKhannaz and other death/thrash metal bands that sounded like they came out of Lovecraft's nether regions after a really bad serving of haggis and grunted things like what they'd do to your God if they found Him. There were days when reality fizzled out and we just absorbed the drums and the guitars...
Then on tamer days I'd listen to Dr Alban, PM Dawn and Snow (anyone remember Informer?). Due to my somewhat sharper ears, the seniors would task me with writing down the lyrics to various songs, so I guess I pretty much trained my hearing back then. Before I knew it, the age of grunge and sub-pop came about, and I was listening to Bleach ages before the kids went wild with Nevermind and Cobain became a cult hero. There was the everpresent Nirvana, STP, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and all the other bands eager to jump on the wagon. So we waded through Alice in Chains, Cinderella, countless local attempts like the Pilgrims and so many more it all just blurred together into one monstrous pogo-ridden mass.
But boy, was it good. Then I aged somewhat, and in my later secondary years still entertained mostly rock music while the pop scene continued to shift into its many permutations. I discovered the Counting Crows, Bush, Soul Asylum, Silverchair, Urge Overkill, Sonic Youth, NOFX, Rancid, The Ramones, Sex Pistols..if there was one good thing to come out of my boarding school education it was that my musical tastes ran the gamut from nasyid to chants about God-killing and angsty grunge idols.
In uni I pretty much stuck with the same kind of music, and it's been relatively unchanged. In fact for the past several years I've not really paid attention to the so-called music scene. These days I just listen to anything that sounds good, and thanks to the internet (and P2P) I find that I tend to dig up a lot of the older stuff. Hell, I've even discovered a liking for big band music, and that's really cool.
Remembering all the different influences in my life shows me just how much importance I attach to each genre. It's like they each have a tie-in to a particular period of my life (like all I have to do is listen to Charles and Eddie's Would I Lie To You and I'd remember stuff back when I was 14) So whatever kind of beat rocks your casbah (even if it is Sarah Connor or one of those other hiphop maestros) I hope they help you find your happy place (or places) since we all could use them these days.