I Used To Think They Were All Songwriters

22 01 2010

I read an article recently about how in the last decade, all of the mega-hit songs have been written by producers.

Surely this is nothing new. Surely producers have always been writing songs, which is why we have the distinction “singer-songwriter.” It was news to me though. I used to think singer-songwriter was the default. All the musicians I listen to write their own songs. I always thought of non-songwriter-singers as a form of cover band. Not until American Idol did I realize that for many (most?) listeners, it doesn’t matter if the singer owns the words. Or rather, the singer takes ownership of the words by singing them. Okay, I can see that, but for me it’s infinitely more meaningful to listen to a performer fully engaged in his/her/their own self-expression.

I’ve never been what you would call “with it,” world-of-music speaking. I’m accustomed to living outside the sphere of hit songs and popular trends. But in the last several years I’ve felt more out to sea then ever. I used to at least know who the major players are, and even enjoy the occasional hit song. Now I’m sure I could listen to a pop station for hours without recognizing a single song or artist.

I’ve been attributing this to age. I’m 38 after all, pop music isn’t suppose to make sense to me. But then, by and large, pop music has never made sense to me, so why should it change now? Because producers are writing all the songs. Meaning that the songs are about nothing, just carefully crafted to be hits. It’s a small relief to know it’s not just me– the Oughts really was the decade of American Idol-style manufactured stars.

Happily, here in the age of splintering subcultures, there is still an abundance of singer-songwriters recording fabulous music. I’m as content to ignore the megahit machine as it is to ignore me.

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