“It wasn’t called ‘heavy metal’ when I invented it.” - Dave Davies
Ah, synthpop. Now there’s a word that rolls off the tongue like “soft-serve,” or any other sweet confection of days gone by. A guilty pleasure, a bit of cotton-candy for the ears, and a musical genre many thought—or sometimes hoped—was relegated to the dustbin of history.
Though they may not grab the same headlines that SCOTUS, the 2018 midterms and #MeToo so rightly do, there have been massive and historic changes in the music business this year. Three separate but related pieces of legislation—the Music Modernization Act here in the United States plus significant copyright reforms both in the US and the EU—are poised to alter the financial landscape for the better for artists, songwriters and publishers. After many long, lean and frustrating years for many in the music business, a sensible and up-to-date framework for managing the complicated business of music rights is finally coming into view.
Many genres of popular music boast to have “changed the landscape.” Some of them even make a strong case for the claim. But of all the musical styles to have arisen in the past few decades, it’s arguable that none has had as deep an impact as hip hop. And though it’s unquestionably an expression of the African-American experience, it’s found resonance in every corner of the globe and on every continent. (Yes, including Antarctica.)
Of all the musical styles jostling for their place in the spotlight, perhaps none is as all-encompassing as electronica. In many regards the first truly global genre, electronica isn’t bound by any specific language, cultural boundary or geographic limitation.
Imagine, if you will, the musical landscape of 1976. Disco and soft rock rule the airwaves; in November of that year, Captain & Tennille’s “Muskrat Love,” strangely, will go to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Mainstream music remains placid, pleasant, and unchallenging, save the occasional sprinklings of prog and harder-edged stuff. “Harder” meaning, in this case, Boston and Ted Nugent.
Now, picture a sonic hand grenade thrown into the center of this safe and serene environment: A deafening wave of crashing guitars and furious, bile-spewing singers set on destroying everything that’s come before it. We’re talking, of course, about punk rock.
Despite its deep roots in musical tradition, covering and sampling other artists’ work is a sticky topic. Some songwriters have no issue with drawing inspiration from existing songs and sounds, while others insist it’s “cheating” and prefer a more traditional approach to songwriting.