The more we move forward chronologically, the more we regress musically. Popular music in 2008 proved this point loud and clear. So much for the hope of diversity and new thought promised by the Internet/information age. Whether it was the already-worn-out classic rock of previous decades, recycled to gullible new generations via Guitar Hero, etc., or the unoriginal, so-called "new music" artists churning out retro-sounding hits, this year’s pop has so completely eaten and re-eaten itself, it has regurgitated itself into a corner.
This year offered up some envelope-pushing and genuinely new-sounding music, especially within such genres as hip-hop, psyche/noise/experimental, and tech-house. Yet the majority of music fans opted, despite access to much new music via the Internet that they don’t even have to pay for, to blindly buy into the hype fed to them by their favorite TV shows, Blog tastemakers, or Facebook buddies. And I am not just singling out the American Idolwatching drones who made Jordin Sparks a star, or their tween siblings/offsprings who catapulted the Jonas Brothers to pop stardom.
The supposedly free-thinking hipsters are as bad, if not worse, when it comes to keeping unoriginal music alive and well. Examples of celebrated so-called new-music makers of 2008 that I am talking about include the Black Keys (’70s rock), Santogold (’80s pop/new wave), Hercules and Love Affair (’70s disco), TV on the Radio (’80s alt-rock), and boring buzz band of the year, Vampire Weekend (early-’80s band Orange Juice with a dash of Afropop). At least with the 2008 return of Portishead and My Bloody Valentine and the continuation of groups like REM and Radiohead, we got the music firsthand from its originators. Meanwhile mashup media darling Girl Talk’s Feed the Animals (Illegal Art) only further proved that his retro taste in music from crappy recent-year Dirty South anthems to cheesy ’80s synth-pop totally diminishes his genuine talent as a producer.
For the most part, 2008 proved that while you can give the masses access to all of the greatest sounds out there, most will simply buy into the trends fed to them. Oh, and speaking of tired trends and musical styles, would someone please get Kanye West and T-Pain to an AA (AutoTune Anonymous) meeting, pronto.
BILLY JAM’S 2008 TOP 10
1. Paris, Acid Reflex (Guerrilla Funk)
2. DJ Quest Questolous (Zebra Quest)
3. Nas, Untitled (Island Def Jam)
4. Mochipet, Microphonepet (Daly City)
5. Del tha Funkee Homosapien, The 11th Hour (Def Jux)
6. J-Live, Then What Happened? (BBE)
7. Azeem, Air Cartoons (Oaklyn)
8. Mike Relm, Spectacle (Radio Fried)
9. Raashan Ahmad The Push (Om)
10. Foreign Legion, The Secret Knock EP (Hungerstrike)