3 November 2002
Is there a song in here?
Michael of 2 Blowhards, having been exposed to Christina Aguilera's "Dirrty" (the extra R is for extra raunch, I suppose), wonders, quite reasonably:
When did singing become a matter of vocal gymnastics instead of carrying a tune? I may be wrong, but I'm guessing it was about the same time pop music stopped being about songs and started being about sonic-effects-set-to-beats.
Which, says Chris Willman of Entertainment Weekly in his print review of Faith Hill's Cry (a collection viewed favorably at this site), was the 1980s:
[T]he last pre-Mariah epoch, when white chicks could sing the blues (or some adult-contemporary variation thereof) without opening a can of whup-ass. You can imagine how a browbeater like Christina Aguilera might murder a ballad like "If This Is the End"; ditto American Idol's cast of scary melisma freaks.
But Willman is grumbling about the torturing of melody, not its complete and utter absence, so while the time-frame seems to fit, there's something else at work here, and I think it's that anyone with a hundred bucks' worth of electronic gizmos and a rhyming dictionary seems to be racing to cash in on hip-hop while it's still commercially viable and while our soi-disant culture mavens are still willing to pretend that it's the Authentic Voice of the African-American Street instead of a substitute for that old suburban mainstay, the garage band. Some great music has come from garages, and undoubtedly there will be some raps that stand the test of time, but music historians of future centuries, I suspect, will consider both these genres mere footnotes.