Well, the title’s not entirely true. There is plenty of decent music going on, just not within the industry.
I never intended for this blog to be a thought/rant blog, just information about my career, but there’s a thought that’s been on my mind for a while, and recent musings by journalists on the Junos lately has brought this thought back.
A column in the Globe and Mail by Guy Dixon this Feb 15, 2006 talks about the voting process for Junos: record sales. Comments by others elsewhere pointed out who was slated to perform at the Junos: Michael Bublé, Nickelback, Coldplay. Coldplay? Canadian music awards?
I remember watching a few years back when Shaggy performed (during his Angel butchering of Steve Miller’s Space Cowboy riff), and the fans went apeshit because this fancy American (he may be Jamaican, so what) came to grace their stage. Who won best foreign artist that year? Shaggy. Do we really need to celebrate multimillion-record-selling Americans over here? Can you guess who will win this year?
Now, I’m not lamenting that good music is being ignored by big media–that’s always been the case. But at this point I’m talking about the utter failure of the Canadian music industry to recognise its successes. Take into account Matthew Good’s own opinion on the industry, the fact that ninety-five percent of Canadian music is released by independents (a number frequently bandied about–I haven’t confirmed it), and the Juno lineup seems to be just in line with big money interests and not real success.
If they really wanted to celebrate success, why aren’t they inviting the Canadian bands who have been on peoples’ iPods around the world in the past year: The Arcade Fire, Final Fantasy, Metric, Solvent, Hot Hot Heat, Broken Social Scene, the New Pornographers, and many other recent successes I can’t think of. (And if we want to talk about older successes, why have I never seen Richie Hawtin there?)
None of what I’m saying is new, it’s just recycling opinions already stated. It’s preamble to what I really wanted to mention, something quick. I had been listening to Solvent’s My Radio for a while (a few years, actually). And because the vocals were vocoded, I never really understood all of what he was saying. It was just a catchy dance track, with lyrics sort of about radio changing. And then one day I trolled the net and came across them:
when I loved you, my radio
you promised me so much but now
You always played my favourite songs
those robot-disco marathons
inspired me to buy my first machines
You’ve changed and I don’t know why
so strange – you never said goodbye
I felt betrayed and so I turned
to television, yet I’ve yearned
for you, my radio – you complete me
You used to play my favourite tracks
those basslines and synthetic claps
oh radio I miss those sounds the most
And what struck me about the lyrics was how sad they were–this is a lament hiding as a dance tune. I’m not sure if radio was so much better in the 80s. And you could think it’s just some dorky little synth kid upset that Depeche Mode and New Order aren’t quite what they used to be, but it’s about more than that. It’s about avenues for the discovery of good, pure music being co-opted by a bunch of bankers who view music as stocks worth investing in. And who are only investing in low-risk, high-yield stocks at that, diluting the talent pool.
In high school I was a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan. But I started drifting more and more towards electronic music because guitar music was just sounding so boring. I never really looked back. Once I got to university I made some friends from Kingston who were into this “post rock” thing, and introduced me to things like Godspeed You Black Emperor, Sigur Ros, Windy and Carl, Stars of the Lid, and others. (This touches on my views of suburban apathy vs. the creative incubation of towns, but that’s another discussion.)
One thing that surprised me when I started discovering this music was how angry I was. I was livid. Why hadn’t I heard this great music before? Who was keeping it from me? I felt that the industry had deliberately buried this music, hidden it from the public so they could push their own bland substitute for real music.
I’m not trying to make a point. I think I’m just trying to draw attention to something, and share a personal experience. But read those Solvent lyrics again, and wonder where the music went. And once you’ve done that, turn off your TV and go see some live music that costs less than $15–that’s where the real music is.
Of course, the day after I post this a Juno e-mail drops into my work inbox to inform me that Broken Social Scene and Bedouin Soundclash have been added to this list of performers… I still stand by my post.