Saturday, May 29, 2021

Why the "Today's Music Sucks" Argument Is Rubbish

image from Love Music and Something Facebook page

This essay was prompted by a post on Love Music and Something which said, “I hope the next big trend in music is talent.”

I responded, “What’s with posts like this which play on the idea that today's music sucks and the music of yesteryear was awesome? Let's dispense with the idea that quality and talent only belong to certain eras.”

This evoked a lengthy discussion with agreement and disagreement. I ended up posting about it on my personal Facebook page. Here's what I said:

I've gotten myself entrenched in a lengthy battle/discussion on Facebook (I know many of you are stunned 😜) about music. At the heart of the issue is the initially proposed view that, in essence, today's music sucks and yesteryear's was awesome. I'm not fond of any overall characterizations subscribed to any generation, but particularly roll my eyes about music. Here's some of my most prominent arguments:

  1. Every generation has music that is "good" and "bad." (We won't even get into how subjective such a comment is).

  2. We tend to fondly remember the music of our youth and anything that comes after pales by comparison.

  3. As people grow older, they seem to forget that music has been marketed toward the youth since at least the rock era, so about 70 years. If you're 54 like me, you aren't likely to hear music targeted to you on the most prominent radio stations.

  4. Which leads to my next point (by this time, I'm sure many of you have moved right on past my rant, which is certainly understandable). Any way, if you are looking to discover new music and aren't in your teens or 20s, you need to expand your search beyond conventional radio.

  5. Last (finally) - luckily, we live in an era where we have more means of accessing and discovering music than ever before. You can find whatever fits your tastes. Soap box preaching over. Thoughts?

I was so encouraged by some of the responses I got on my personal FB post, that I decided to post it here on the DMDB blog.

Karin: I concur & at 54 years of age, also with 2 teen aged sons, I let them introduce me to what current music they like. I, however, usually go back to the music of the 60s, 70s & some 90’s alternative.... because that is what I like. Music touches the soul ... so if it makes you happy, or helps you through a funk, or motivates you to be a kind person ... then I’d say keep listening. Now, back to the issue at hand, we would miss out on great music if we chose to generalize the younger generation’s popular music as garbage. However, I am not actively wanting to expand my listening library - but I’m impressed that Spotify offers me suggestions.

Jennifer: What I like about music today if the wide variety available to everyone! Kids playlists are rarely confined to one genre. When we were kids, we listened to one or two stations and then albums of our favorite artists. Kids today have access to all genres, all cuts anytime they want them. Their musical tastes tend to be much more eclectic than most of us when we were kids.

Mike: Agreed! My daughters have both introduced me to new music. Do I like everything they have me listen to? Absolutely not!! I have, however, enjoyed the moments when I do. I have also discovered a lot of new music via Shazam (then finding it on Spotify). I've also rediscovered some older music, and have a greater appreciation to the nuances of different artists.

Steve: Even though I'm putting the finishing touches on a nearly 500-page book on great song recordings before 1930, I still find time to listen to many music channels on SiriusXM, including a lot of new and recent stuff. The pickings of good music from the current Billboard Hot 100 may be slimmer than before, but there's never a shortage of excellent new material to be found elsewhere.

Dar: Spotify and Pandora have changed everything. The variety is huge and you don’t need to be “discovered” to get airplay. I have found more talent but adventuring down the rabbit hole than I ever heard on the radio.

Forrest: There is a ton of great music coming out now. The Record Company, Lake Street Dive, Samantha Fish, Alabama Shakes (before they broke up), Father John Misty, Dawes, Anderson East, Madisen Ward and Mama Bear are just a few of the “newer” bands and artists putting out fantastic music. A person is doing themselves a giant disservice if they do not continue to try and discover new music.

Stephen: I'll settle this for you. Music I like. Awesome. Music I don't like. Sucks. Glad to be of help. For more answers, follow me on Facebook.

Paul: So here's a weird way to think about it…I’m 40 years old. I had a student this year that loved to talk to me about 90s music, the music that grew up with…I just realized that the 90s are as far away for him as the 60s we're for me (when I was his age). Nirvana for him is the equivalent of the Beatles for me…Fudge…I'm getting old.


  1. Hi, Dave! As a 17yo reader of this blog, I very much agree with this argument. There's definitely a wealth of great music being released today. Although, I have seen various videos on YouTube dealing with the declinism of various medias, and not in just in music. (i.e. "have [games, movies] gotten worse") I think this is mainly due to the advent of the internet, which can showcase great releases just as much as it can showcase bad releases.

    I do, however, think that although music has not necessarily gotten worse, there is an argument to say that right now is not the peak of it's popularity. Even your own database has shown that the decade for the 'peak' of songs were the 60s, 70s for albums, the 90s for movies, the 50s & 60s for books. And in other sites I've seen that the peak for games was the 00s. The only media where I've seen a peak in the 2010s would be TV Shows.

    Along with the "back in my day" argument, so other pet peeves of mine when it comes to critique of media would be

    - Overrated. I've never liked the term, because how can something really be overrated. Anyone's free to not like something, but saying it's overrated is like saying that other people are also wrong for liking it. I mean, how can someone overrate their own rating.

    - Not liking something JUST because it's popular. Usually the argument is that the only way to become popular is to appeal to a lot of people, and the only way to do that is to "dumb it down for the casual audience." That doesn't even make sense. There's no such thing as a 'casual audience' anyway.

    - Anything to do with time. "Outdated", "Hasn't aged well". It's basically the opposite of the argument in this article. If it's bad now, how was it not bad then? Or vice-versa? It's the same thing as when it came out. This is the farthest thing from judging music based on its own merits, it's judging it based around music that was made after it.

    1. Some great observations, James. The one which jumps out at me is how lists - including my own database - would suggest that music peaked in the '60s and '70s. While there probably are a lot who would agree with that, I'd say the biggest reason those decades stand out is because those who make the lists are most sentimental about that era - and may often be the same people who complain that today's music sucks!