Where Is The Originality?

One question that always come to mind about today’s music is “where’s the originality?” I have mentioned before that the music industry is a copycat business. There are so many copycats nowadays that you can’t barely identify the artist and the music because it all sounds the same. Everybody likes what’s hot at the moment, so they work with the same producers and try to go for that same hot sound. Sometimes I ask myself are people just doing it because of what’s hot at the moment or because they just want to get paid? I know that everybody is influenced by everybody else and that your ideas become theirs. We always share and borrow from each other. Being original is about creating something from nothing. It’s what makes something unique and organic. It’s what makes you, you and your work, your work. But it all begins with you and what you do. It’s in fact that everybody is different and in reality, everybody is not going to be accepted because they are different. People not only struggle with accepting differences, but they struggle to accept the fact that they are different.

Artists are afraid to be different because they feel that they won’t be accepted by the masses. But the beauty of being an artist is being able to express yourself. Every artist has their own voice, their own taste, their own thoughts and their own feelings. In again, it’s what makes the artist unique. Take the 1960’s and 1970’s for instance, every singer, every group and every record label had their own distinct sound. Motown did their thing, Stax did their thing, Philly did their thing. James Brown wasn’t trying to be Jackie Wilson. The Rolling Stones weren’t trying to be the Beatles. Not everyone worked with the same producers and songwriters. They did what they did best and that was developing acts. Now going back to influences, Michael Jackson, of course, was influenced by James Brown but was not trying to be James Brown. He studied him and that’s what you’re supposed to do in order to be the best that you can be musically. James Brown really influenced a generation of up and coming Black musicians and entertainers. The issue with many new and upcoming artists is they are looking at what others are doing especially those who are big time trendsetters. You look at the Lady Gagas, the Justin Biebers, the Chris Browns, the Trey Songz’s, the Drakes, the Nicki Minajs and the Waka Flockas, they are making a huge impact in music right now that everyone is following them. The music industry as a whole has always been a cookie cutter factory or fast food franchise. They have created a formula based on the impact or success of someone. In other words, the culture becomes the commodity because of its impact and opportunity for record labels to make money. I personally think it’s good for every artist to be themselves. It’s always good for people to listen to something different every now and then. It’s a breath of fresh air. I do believe that every artist should be in their own lane and not have to worry about competition. I think the industry makes it very competitive for artists because they select those who have those big numbers. Music is worth it if people take the time to listen because you’re not only hearing great music, but great talent.

Defining ‘alternative’

The term ‘alternative’ has been used to define music that differentiates from most popular music genres. From an industry perspective, it has been used to categorize music that has no intentions of crossing over to the mainstream or has little to no airplay. To musicians, ‘alternative’ defines the meaning of being different from those who are popular and staying true to what they do musically.Terms like ‘underground’ or ‘indie (independent)’ have been used to define alternative. In some ways it’s true, it some ways it’s not. It just depends on the type of music.

I believe the term came about because the major record labels made Rock and Rap into billion dollar industries. Because of that, those two genres became what people called ‘Rock’ or ‘Rap’ when it’s really watered-down, progressive pop music. Calling it ‘alternative’ was a way to differentiate what everyone else was doing musically. If you didn’t follow the formula, you were categorized as ‘alternative.’ If your style or lyrical content differed from what was being heard or seen elsewhere, you were categorized as ‘alternative.’ Conscious rap has been put into the alternative category, though consciousness has always been a part of Hip Hop music from the beginning. It wasn’t until the music got into the hands of the music industry and took it out and made it more ignorant and degrading. If you weren’t a gangster or a thug, you were thrown into that alternative category. If you didn’t degrade women, then you were once again thrown in the alternative category.

I believe that certain music has maintained its integrity and quality because of the legacy and value it has. Like Rock music, Hip Hop has transitioned back to it roots. People are appreciating storytelling and wordplay once again. I believe that there are still lyrical rappers just like there are still rock bands. They are being well received and shouldn’t be labeled as alternative. Why would anybody want to categorize music when it’s still music. It may not be commercial appealing or it may be irrelevant to some people, but the music still shares a common thread that pop music has.