We’ve Passed Peak Pop Star


In recent Decline of the West news, record sales have fallen off a cliff.

Record sales are being touted these days as on a comeback. All you hear is: streaming will save us.

But things are pretty dire. For example, Justin Timberlake’s “Man of the Woods,” touted so highly on the Super Bowl and a hit in its first week, has been a total sales stiff. As of this week, “MoW” has sold just 285,000 copies.

Contrast this with Timberlake’s “20/20 Experience,” which was the best selling album of 2013 with 2.5 million copies. (Luckily, Justin had a smash single last year with “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”)

Even worse: U2’s “Songs of Experience” has taught us nothing. It had great songs, like Timberlake, but they didn’t save the situation. “Songs” has sold just 250,000 copies total. Remember U2? Their sales used to be huge.

 As a matter of fact, I remember U2 quite well. Regular readers of this blog are aware that I was quite the fan of the Larry Mullen Band in my day.

Friedman’s article connects a number of dots scattered among multiple posts on this blog. Take this one, for example, which explains why there will never be another Biggest Band in the World. U2 themselves held that title for decades after inheriting it from The Who with a brief interregnum presided over by The Police. It’s fitting that Friedman used them as an example. 250k copies does not a megastar make.

A major red flag that should have alerted everyone to the current pop music decline was that one band dominated the market for so long. There were plenty of contenders for the title over the years. Record label PR, MTV airheads, and sensationalistic trade magazines all assured us that acts like Jesus Jones, Smashing Pumpkins, Live, etc. would be the new face of rock & roll.

To be sure, all of the bands I listed, and many others, achieved some success. But none became the new colossus standing astride the pop landscape. The Red Hot Chili Peppers came within a hair’s breadth of the mountaintop, but the whole scene fractured and contracted under their feet. If they’d come along just five years earlier, the outcome may well have been different.

What exactly happened to shatter the former pop music monolith? The Z Man proposes an explanation.

A 15-year old can go on YouTube or Spotify and find fifty versions of the current pop hits, gong back before their parents were born. They can also find stuff from previous eras that was remarkably well done and performed by people with real talent. Justin Timberlake may be very talented as a singer, but no one is confusing him with Frank Sinatra. It’s simply a lot easier for young people to see that pop music is just manufactured pap from Acme Global Corp.

That’s another thing that may be plaguing pop culture in general and pop music in particular. When I was a teen, your music said something about you because you felt a connection to the band. In the sterile transactional world of today, no one feels an attachment to anything, much less the latest pop group. There’s no sense of obligation to buy or  listen to their latest release. Supporting a type of music or a specific act is no longer a part of kid’s identity. The relationship is now as sterile as society.

The Z Man has hit upon something here. But how did it come to this? Read on.

That is the funny thing about pop culture in our Progressive paradise. It is a lot like the pop music of totalitarian paradises of the past. The Soviets manufactured their version of Western pop, but it was never popular. Just as we see at the Super Bowl, comrades can be forced marched to an arena and made to cheer, but no one really liked it. There’s a lot of that today, as every pop star has the exact same Progressive politics and uses their act to proselytize on behalf of the faith. That’s not a coincidence. It is by design.

The specter of message fic looms large over yet another dying industry.

The lesson, as always, is that Progressives can’t create. They can only subvert, deconstruct, and mock what came before. And they always do so in the service of their totalitarian ideology. Our current cultural wasteland is the result.

The great philosopher Homer Simpson said, “Why do you need new bands? Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact.”  There’s a lot of truth to that as per capita music sales peaked in the 70’s and began a decline until CD’s forced everyone to repurchase their music. But that peaked in the late 90’s and there has been a precipitous decline ever since.

Here, Z Man brings us full circle to an epiphany I recently chronicled here: 1997 was the year the music–and Western pop culture in general–died.

Pop music is not art, but like art it does hold a mirror up to society. In the heyday of pop music, the society it reflected was one that was optimistic and happy. Today, the society it reflects is the gray, featureless slurry of multiculturalism and the vinegar drinking scolds who impose it on us. It’s not that it is low quality or offensive. It’s that the music is a lot like the modern parking lot. It is row after row of dreary sameness. Like everything in this age, popular music has the soul of the machine that made it.

The converged manufacturers of Western culture have destroyed the rich patrimony bequeathed to them by past generations. Happily, a new generation of creators are turning back to the great works of the past and finding inspiration to build the pop culture of the future. We can’t make it happen without your support!

Move over Dark Tower. There’s a new level of fiction in town.

Souldancer - Brian Niemeier

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