As I’ve found myself with an abundance of free time (while still somehow being too busy to focus on schoolwork) I’ve been able to give myself more chances to get through my never ending list of albums.
At the beginning of 2020, before the world started to end, I made a promise to myself to listen to a new album a day. My definition of “new,” was simply just an album I hadn’t heard yet. I compiled a list of 366 albums: from 60’s folk, to heavy synth, to recent albums I hadn’t had the chance to give a listen.
I entered this journey not knowing what to expect. I had my preconceived ideas of which genres or decades were best and stupidly didn’t not appreciate the likes of Depeche Mode or even Willie Nelson. I even did not regard the impact of current music and its blend of past genres with new sounds.
At first, finding time in my schedule to allocate to listening to an album was difficult with in-person classes. However, once the pandemic hit, I was quick to put one on to check out of reality.
The fleeting moments of listening to other people’s troubles for a moment somehow relieves all the anxieties I face in my daily life. Being a young person constantly bombarded by seemingly endless bad news has certainly left me feeling hopeless at times. Music has been my escape from those suffocating feelings.
To hear other artists express similar sentiments is therapeutic in a time when therapy is quite literally unaffordable. It’s hard to not get pulled into a dark place and having an outlet is a means of preventing that spiral.
People always mention that we passed the golden era for music and peaked around 1967-1973. I agree that there were timeless artists pre-2000 who will never be replicated. However, I think this perspective discredits the contributions of young people in music currently and the sounds and lyrics that have emerged from a generation shaped by trauma.
Not only can one hear influences of artists of the past reflected in current artists, but the stakes are higher in needing to produce emotional and cathartic music. There is a demand for needing new music that embodies the hopelessness and feelings of disillusionment that young people feel or for music that arises from social and political movements.
To imply that we’ve surpassed the best era of music discredits the contributions of hip hop, non-English music, the rise of female empowerment within the industry, and the ability to create musical content on a widespread basis through social media and the internet. All of these are a part of the reason why discrediting today’s music is a disservice to all that has been produced in the 21st century.
Listening to albums spanning all genres and decades has helped me draw the connections between artists. I’ve found my modern day Joni Mitchell (who’s immortalized on my leg in tattoo form) when I listen to Sharen Van Etten or Margo Price. I hear funk influences from the artists Funkadelic or Parliament when I listen to Childish Gambino or Thundercat and soul from the likes of Nina Simone or Etta James in Solange and FKA Twigs.
Hearing modern artists’ music infused their own sound with those of the past has given me the ability to more deeply understand how genres are limitless and intertwined. There is always room to redefine them as we know it.
Constantly immersing myself in music from various genres has allowed me to appreciate the connections that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. With all my downtime, I can not only listen to these albums, but try to understand the context in which they were written or the musical influences behind them. Rather than comparing who is better, which is impossible given all the factors that determine success in music, I find myself instead looking for new artists of similar sound to explore.
I think to discredit current music undermines the profoundness of it being able to embody the movements of Gen Z and the global impact of this generation. Despite all the turmoil that we are constantly confronted with, listening to an album a day has acted as a way to keep me grounded.