How Mormons saved Music for Me

Lets be honest. I am getting older and the music tastes of the times have changed. Each aging generation tells the new one how horrible and untalented the new artists sound. Those who grew up in the 60s lamented the overuse of electronics, those in the 80s wondered where upbeat lyrics and dancing tunes went, and the 90s generation seemed to scream until in the end they went silent. Almost everyone was glad the 70s was a flash in the pan. Without giving my age, almost all of this was experienced for myself. I would like to think I am a good judge of good music from any generation.

That isn’t to say I am a musical person. Piano lessons were a chore that lasted long enough to have learned chopsticks. One year of band with a musical instrument that didn’t inspire came and went. My voice has been described as more than passable, but singing in church makes me bored. No one has offered me a lead vocal in a band that would be the only way to change my tune. I have always daydreamed of joining one and writing the lyrics to some rockin’ jams. So far there hasn’t been any offers.

With all of the above in mind, the turn of the century had me in a musical slump. For the first time in my life I felt popular music had gone down the drain. Never before had I *not* found something to like on the radio. Even the 70s had heart and talent if rather shallow and forgettable. My only hope was nostalgia bands that carried over from the previous decade.

When all was lost and Britney Spears or Kid Rock represented the future, a band with an unlikely singer came out of nowhere. That isn’t completely true. They came out of the UK. Well, that isn’t completely true either. What is true for me is the internet talk filled with stories of this Mormon singer leading a famous band. Curiosity peaked my interest, but listening to a few songs made me a fan.

The Killers, with Brandon Flowers, had me hooked to some new music again. Part of it is my taste starts with those who can prove they actually know how to play instruments and sing with a natural voice. I thought this band and lead was the one and only discovery I would have to enjoy.

How thankfully wrong I was and it took another Mormon to break the wall of blindness. Judge her books and movies any way you like, but the Stephenie Meyer “Twilight” series of movies opened my ears to bands partly ignored. Some of the bands and songs she picked herself. With them I learned about “Paramour” that happens to be one of my favorites of the past decade. I can’t say that I care for Muse or Vampire Weekend, but at least a few songs are more than tolerable.

Another movie based on a Stephanie Meyer book helped with my most recent discovery. The Host hasn’t come out yet, but it does have a Mormon led band in the trailer. The music of Imagine Dragons has been compared to the Killers, but actually has a more pop beat sound to it while the former sounds more new wave. Of course, there is also Neon Trees, Fictionists, and even The Piano Guys.

Full disclosure, I liked one of my favorites of the decade Evanescence (and no they are not Mormon at all) before discovering the Killers. Other than that, its ironic that a bunch of Mormons are saving pop-rock from complete destruction. Without them there would be nothing for me besides gangnam, Beiber, Gaga, Niki Manaj and Katy Perry. A bunch of talentless over-hyped dirty freaks. Then again, as I was told, “You clearly need better radio where you live. Or to download Spotify.”

7 thoughts on “How Mormons saved Music for Me

  1. Well, from the persepective of a millenial, those awful artists you list at the bottom have their place. They sing music you can dance to. You can bounce around to an obvious, predictable beat. But we get bored of the same song, so they have to come up with new ones like the old ones that are just a little different. But make no mistake, even people my age who enjoy this music realize the lyrics lack substance. I’m intentionally not addressing the vulgar and sensual aspects of the music. Sure it’s there, but that isn’t all that contemporary hip-hop is about. After all even good Mormon youth seek out the clean songs or radio edits and hit the repeat button.

    Truth be told, I get sick of hip-hop’s and pop’s predictability. The new songs sound like the old ones. It’s actually a little bit like disco in that respect (which, we all can agree, is not good). Some of the slower music is a little more thought out and melodious. Lana Del Ray is a good example.

    In any case, you sound like your prefer bands that have some kind of recognizable geneology linking them to classic rock. What do you think about The Black Keys or Mumford and Sons?

  2. I take exception to your dismissal of the 70s. There was far more to it than gaudy Bee Gees and Abba and disco. Some of the greatest progressive rock ever created was done during the 70s. Shoot, some of the greatest rock period was from the 70s. Nothin’ shallow ’bout that.

    I agree with much of what you said about contemporary music, however.

  3. The 70′s were the greatest decade for radio rock. And people know it. Just look at how many high school and college students today are fans of Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rush–music that’s 40 years old and still listened to. I think Rush is as big now as they’ve ever been. They’re still selling out huge venues, and many of the people attending are young.

    Video killed the radio star. Or, as Jack Black says, “The Man ruined that too with a little thing called MTV.” The focus, from the 80′s to today, became how pretty the musician was (and yes, that includes Boy Bands) or how well they could dance, and not on the quality of the music.

    Great music still exists. Use Pandora to find it and Spotify to listen to it. Heck, even some great new progressive rock exists, especially if you’re willing to venture into music that’s a little harder than Rush. You may, however, have trouble finding any of this good music on the radio.

  4. I actually agree about the 70s music between the both of you. However, those bands didn’t become big radio play until the 80s, while the 70s were over run by “Bee Gees and Abba and disco.” For the most part Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rush, ACDC, and Black Sabbath were underground much like the Seattle grunge that made it big in the first half of the 90s. They existed. People liked them. They just weren’t well known until later.

    Remember, my first paragraph was about popular *perceptions* from generations that grew up in different music eras. That doesn’t mean I fully agree with the characterizations. I do find it interesting that Tim agrees with the perception of the 80s music from that same paragraph. I happen to disagree because it was the 80s that had more choices of musical styles popular at one time than any others; New Wave, Punk, Pop-rock, Bubblegum, Hairbands, Heavy Metal, Rap, Synth, and the list goes on that played together on the same radio stations.

    “What do you think about The Black Keys or Mumford and Sons?”
    I will have to research them more. One of the problems I have with this generation is a seeming lack of wanting to expand their musical tastes or experiences. They lock on to one or two artists and then don’t want to let go unless some other artist is thrust on them like an American Idol competition where there is only one winner. Sadly, that winner often sounds like the other competition and former winners.

    All that aside, the main point of this post is discussing the question of why Mormons have been successful at breaking out and keeping “recognizable geneology” of music alive? I did put in “for me” in case my experience is only personal. Really, the “Twilight” movies have done more for Muse and Paramore as examples than what they did on their own outside of the fan base that already existed. Since Stephanie Meyer had a hand in picking at least the bands I am going to giver her partial credit. The Killers and Imagine Dragons are the few that have busted into the top spots along with Beiber/Gaga inc. Reading too much into it or is there something underneath?

  5. It does seem like most of today’s pop music is performed by interchangeable “stars” singing vapid lyrics to indistinguishable music. Although the 70′s were stained by the Disco Era, there actually were some of the best variety of artists and styles to be found in modern music (in my opinion). Consider this list: Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Who, Pink Floyd, Electric Light Orchestra, Judas Priest, Jethro Tull, Heart, AC/DC, Steely Dan, Boston, Creedance Clearwater Revival, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Yes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Supertramp, The Cars, Aerosmith, The Doobie Brothers — along with individual artists such as David Bowie, Elton John, Neil Young, Cat Stevens, Stevie Wonder. Back in the 70′s there were some actual artists and groups that had their own original style and original sound. These were not interchangeable artists backed by recycled beat tracks.

  6. I was also born in the 1970s. Is there a connection between that fact and the incredible underground music being created at that time? I leave that for you to decide.

  7. I began my teenage years in the 70′s and graduated high school in the 70′s, so I’d like to think MY generation was a little more responsible for the incredible music, and DIVERSITY of music we had back in those days. A lot of it coincided with the radio formatting boom that began around the early 70′s.

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