Monday, 12 September 2011

Living In Harmony

I confess, most of my music collection was recorded before 1990.  My usual complaints for music recorded in the last 20 years are too much distortion and way too much anger.

And yes, I know that your musical taste is formed by age 16 and eventually everyone gives up on "new stuff" because they grow old.

But there's something else:  not enough harmony.  One singer only.  No backing vocals.  No counterpoint to the melody.  No harmony. 

How come?  Is it too cute?  Is the harmony in the distortion?

A random sample of my iPod, of music that has been recorded in the last 10-20 years:
Jet, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nickelback, Our Lady Peace, The Tea Party, John Mayer - no harmony;  The Donnas, Finger Eleven, Stone Temple Pilots, Oasis (sort of), Third Eye Blind, Collective Soul, Tragcially Hip (a little) - harmony.

That's 50-50, so what am I whinging about?  Well, taking a look at a chart from 1967, I see 9 out of the top 10 - 18 of the top 20 - songs feature harmony.  And not sort of or a little either.  The Beatles, The Turtles, The Association, The Mamas and The Papas. 
We're talking thick, rich harmonizing here. 

Yes, many of these are "pop" songs (the Monkees are on the list twice) that are just too cute for today's jaded world.  But scanning the complete list, I see acts that still get Classic Rock station airplay:  The Who, The Stones, Buffalo Springfield, The Beatles  ...  so you don't have to listen to Four Seasons to hear great harmonies.

We need more harmony.  Think of the elevating buzz from a great Eagles or CSNY song.  Think of the John-was-singing-lead-and-Paul-was-singing-harmony-now-Paul-is-singing-lead-and-John-is-singing-harmony joy of those early Beatles tunes.

We need way more of that.  We'd be happier people.

Hmmm ...   Bob Dylan didn't do to much harmony, did he?  Of course, he didn't/doesn't really sing either.  So maybe that's why we don't have more harmony these days.

Maybe it's just too hard.

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