Did you ever notice how much better popular music was, 30 or 40 years ago? Maybe it’s my age. Maybe I can’t appreciate most of the more modern music because I’m 50 years old. Then again, today’s biggest concert draws, such as the Rolling Stones and Elton John, are acts that hit their prime in the 1960s and 1970s. So it’s not just me and people my age. It seems much of the younger generation prefers the older stuff as well.
Music created decades ago is generally better, I think, because it was a product of a more spiritually alive culture. Art, whether in the form of music, literature, painting, sculpture or whatever, is an expression of the heart. Ideally, art conveys truth and beauty. To some extent, the best art is an expression of the divine; it inspires because its creator was inspired. I believe that today’s composers aren’t producing very much inspired music because they themselves aren’t inspired. You can’t give what you don’t have.
But it’s not just the songwriters. Would a record company today sign a band like Abba or the Carpenters? I have a feeling that bands like these would be told that they sound too nice and sweet. The culture has changed from what it was even 30 years ago. Record companies are businesses, and they do not want to try to sell to a market which they believe no longer exists.
Songs that glorify evil can also be inspired and really well done. But, it seems today’s artists can’t even create good songs with a bad message. Why is this so? Many of the “bad” songs of the 1960s and 1970s, songs about doing drugs and fornicating, were inspired and instant classics largely because they were revolutionary. They were created at a time when the culture was much healthier from a moral standpoint. So these songs were shocking to most people.
For example, back in the mid-sixties, the Rolling Stones song, “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” was considered too indecent to perform on TV in its original form. Lead singer Mick Jagger was forced sing “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” instead. And the lyrics to Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, “… making love in the green grass …” were changed to, “…laughin’ and a runnin’, hey hey …” for radio play. Today, we might laugh at such innocence -- which only shows how much the culture truly has changed!
Creating songs about evil seems to work best when it is done within a culture that hasn’t totally lost its innocence. However, the moral sensitivities of most people today have been almost completely numbed.
You’ll notice that most songs, even today, are about love, or what passes for love, nowadays. Real love is about caring, commitment, forgiveness and self-sacrifice. These are values that today’s more callous, sexually exploitive culture cannot adequately appreciate nor properly express. So how can we expect song writers to create inspired love songs? God is love. Our popular music will improve only when the majority of our society turns back to God.