The Red Sea

Written by Rikard.

 

And one day I found myself reaching for the answer as to how a band becomes immortal.

'It's easy', you will say. 'Just buy corpse paint and, well, suck.'

Ha ha. Of course I don't mean the band. I mean the bands.
Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Deep Purple, U2. (Not a band, but) Michael Jackson. Maybe even Death. Bands that crop up on lips belonging to both 40-years-of-experience-studio wolves and Evelina by the chark dish. Bands that landed enormous sales and enormous critical praise. Band that even made the history books.

The revelation is strong and shockingly saddening;  
They're all old.

Bands and artists of the 'golden' 70's-80's era, the very same that makes the aforementioned wolves' voices awfully thick. I know that one does not really achieve this kind of status until after one's split-up, but still; in the future, will we see Meshuggah and Dillinger stock that very same warmth in people's voices? Of course we will. But they will be the voices of said wolves. Evelina would just scourge me off if I tried talking some Mesh with her. (Or maybe she wouldn't  - she's fairly nice)

Or let's turn it around, and bring me the day when Justin Bieber (Always Justin, my list of huge mainstream artist is embarrassingly shrewd of imagination) scores 10/10 in every single non-prepaid publication worth it's name - WHILE selling the crazy amounts of concert tickets he is.

 

And now we are at the core of this column;
The rift between hardcore and mainstream has been growing alarmingly fast over the last 10-15 years, and shows no signs at all to cease said growing.

Let's compare to the video game industry. (Always the video game industry, my list of comparable industries is embarrassingly shrewd of imagination) Back in the late 90's, there was Final Fantasy VII and Ocarina of Time. They were the best. No, no point to argue. They WERE the best - the 10/10's were more than rabbits on one of those infamous rabbit-fuckfest fields, and the sales - possibly even more.
They were the games bridging hardcore and mainstream together, blessing the lives of wolves and Evelina alike.

Time-travel again; 28th of December 2012. The GOTY's have been crowned; Journey, Hotline Miami, The Walking Dead, Dear Esther are all favorable at many major game site's lists.

But sales?

Oh god no. Not there. Sales is a stolen crown now, a stolen crown belonging to Temple Run, Angry Birds Star Wars and that year's incarnation of Call of Duty. Hardcore and mainstream is adrift, at separate sides on Wtpbssanani (Whatever that place between southern Spain and northern Africa's name is), glaring at each other.

And if you were to argue forth Botanicula for a GOTY pedestal? There's no approving nod here. Only an army of NeoGAF trolls, blocking your path, thirsting for your soul.

The music industry is not identical, but fairly similar, with the biggest companies looking for a talent to exploit, rather than said talent looking for a big company for exploitation. And on the other side of Wtpbssanani, not all but many bands rather enjoy digging themselves further down the earth, cashing underground cred as dirt stocks away beneath their nails.

Of course this has positive aspects. Another game industry comparison switch is quite enlightening; video games is what we always wanted it to be 10 years ago - up there. Half of my middle school bullies owns an Xbox 360. As for music, it was 'up there' already during the 1700's, but there's no denying in that MTV, internet and

Spotify have all been healthy towards music's growth and spread among kids. 

But too soon, you'll start to look at Wtpbssanani with dim eyes. Sad, dim eyes. What's so saddening with this inane segregation is simply money. With an industry growing so fast - even an art form like music becoming an 'industry' in the first place - the big companies will start to see dollar signs. Soon enough, we, in turn, will start to see products. Not albums or songs. Merely entertainment and consumer items that just happens to consist of harmony and rhythm. Again - I do (want to) believe that Justin does most of his stuff with heart and will, despite being forced so hard by the mighty dollar sign. But I'd like to bring some perspective to the 9gag-spoof that 'Baby' had so many writers, whilst.. was it Frank Sinatra?.. had only one. It takes multiple minds and an enormous, collective batch of brilliance to conclude exactly what chords, what words and what melody, sells. Much more so than REALLY loving someone and picking up a guitar.

I might be wrong here. But as far as I can know, revisiting that golden era, why DID bands like Queen rally such a large portion of people's hearts into their bony hands? Surely they had money - but not necessarily all of Hannah Montana's marketing budget? No, I'm fairly sure that people just got drawn towards Queen because they were bloody great.

So why doesn't people - wolf people - get equally drawn to Justin - he's 'bloody great'. No? He's boring and mainstream, you say? So why then does he sell like bloody bread on the sabbath? Ah...

See, that's the fun twist in all of this - even though we have such a segregated hardcore/mainstream Wtpbssanani, there's no real reason as to why it couldn't be the other way around.

I'm sure a lot of you can agree on me that a simple, catchy tune like dredg's 'Bug Eyes', Porcupine Tree's 'Lazarus', fuck, even old Lindingö Rock-longtimer Screwhead's song.,.. the one that goes 'I'll be your head' (?) or something... could be a major hit, to that degree that the next time I'm out of cucumber, Evelina will follow me down, to the valley below.

Or.

Why doesn't Justin ever hit the sweet spot of the wolves/veterans/people like you and me/unpaid critic stab's hearts more often? Is he THAT bad? He can't be.* Are we so prejudiced towards mainstream music? 
Damn wolves.

But - more importantly - why doesn't this HAPPEN? Clearly, the dinero$ can't be understated here. In Lidingö, there's few, if any, ears belonging to someone willing to bring Screwhead to some big-ass screens in Atlanta. A desire to 'stay underground' is perhaps key too. But there's a funny episode how music as a medium today is so vast, so gnarly and so filled with loopholes that bands can avoid the mainstream for entire careers. So many of my friends just NEVER heard of Meshuggah - even those who frequent that band with the same first and last letters.

Heck, maybe 'mainstream' is just a fictional, non-existent medium, forever deluding fans and artists alike. Maybe there are several million streams, all coexisting - just that the one containing half of today's youths, a handful of them a little more good-looking, is a tad bigger than the others. If THAT'S the case, I've spent more than enough time on this column already.


----

So, this has been a pretty long run so far. I'm glad you got all the way here, so I'm gonna go through some sum-up here:Compared to 20-30 years ago, the rift between hardcore and mainstream is quite big today. That is mostly sad, because it means that music is more a dollar-shaped industry today than ever before. And the funny part is that it doesn't even have to be that way.

And finally, I often play with the good old 'future' thought. Really - could it be 'worse'? Music so watered down and mainstreamified that it's productory is full-blown 100% - marketed towards single moms with a desire for something in the background whilst dishing? Lonely guy in Norway revolutionizing salsa music with his index finger?

There's one hopeful thing I can see though - because ending a column in a hopeful tone is SO. DAMN: RIGHT. - and it's how underground music like us i

Deathember is getting a more stable ground to stand on. I'm talking about platforms like Bandcamp and the video game (sort of) counterpart - kickstarter.

Maybe in the future, the amount of dedicated hardcore fans will start to spread - maybe the fact that Dream Theater sells out major venues here in Sweden could act as some sort of hint - spread, nourish and grow to the point where that once so desired entry to the mainstream is no longer needed.

* = I always found Max Martin to be hugely overrated. That's very interesting - to analyze the artists WE heard growing up, our own equivalents to Justin and Hannah Montana. Some people would say that yes, Britney and Backstreet Boys STILL kick ass! That today's mainstream music is crap, and Britney is, er, REAL music. I disagree. I think it's the nostalgia talking there.

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