Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why Did Pop Music Start to Suck?

I inadvertantly got into a discussion with Art today about pop music. I know, it's not our usual topic, but I do think it came out of a discussion of 80's metal... so please give us a pass this once. The thing that we both agreed on was that pop music just plain stopped being any good after the 1980's. You can disagree with this statement if you want, but you would be wrong. The fact is, I'm as much a child of the 90's as I was of the 80's, so I don't think my opinion is a result of simple nostalgia. The question is... why did this happen? I have a theory of course.

Think about it... in the 1980's we had a significant number of exceptionally talented mainstream pop artists with their own identities. People like Madonna and Michael Jackson turned out hit album after hit album of consistantly high quality pop music. Artists like Prince, Peter Gabriel, and George Michael not only made great albums but could write songs as well or better than anyone on the record company's payroll. Hell, Prince produced and played all the instruments on most of his albums! Many of these 80's pop acts released great material into the 90's, and in the case of Prince and Madonna... into the 2000's.

But something terrible happened in the 90's. There were solid rock bands that came into prominence in the 90's and enjoyed the great success they deserved... no argument there. But there were little to no new solo pop acts with any longevity and legitimate artistic merit. To put it simply there were no new Princes, Michael Jacksons, Madonnas, or George Michaels in the 90's. My personal reasoning on why this happened has everything to do with image. This might seem strange, because people like Michael Jackson and Madonna were masters of image. Why couldn't similarly shrewd and creative pop artists have found the same success in the 90's? That's the thing... it doesn't have anything to do with these artists talent for creating an image... it has everything to do with the importance of image itself in the visual cable television and MTV era.

This is the way I see it. When music became a visual medium in the early to mid 1980's, the music companies didn't have the time or the forethought to start fresh and manufacture new artists and new images. They just had to pull from the available talent pool. People like George Michael and Prince managed to succeed because they had the ability to create great images... but they were already hard working motivated artists with a shitload of vision. Once the record companies realized the importance of image, they probably became less likely to let younger artists present their music and themselves in new creative ways. They had to stick to what was already working. Who was in charge of deciding what images "worked"? The record companies of course.

My guess would be that a lot of the people who wrote songs on the level of Prince and George Michael found jobs as staff songwriters for the major labels, but were not allowed to step into the spotlight. I'm also willing to bet that a lot of pretty people who could sing and dance got record contracts even when they had no real artistic vision of their own. Creating an image was the job of the producers and all knowing assholes at the major labels. As a result, all we got as far as new artists in the 90's and 2000's were a bunch of pretty people with pre-fabricated studio defined gimmicks.

Now we get soulless shit like The Spice Girls, Mariah Carey, Celene Dion, The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and Beyonce. I hope I'm wrong, and this is my point as well as my biggest fear, but I suspect that we are very unlikely to see a mainstream solo pop act write and perform a song nearly as good as "Doves Cry" "Like a Prayer", or "Father Figure" in this decade or the next.

Like I said, I hope I'm wrong on this. Would somebody please poke holes in my argument. That would make my day. I want to see the second coming of Prince!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Man Names, Not Baby Names!

Winston ChurchillAs most of my readers probably know Arthur recently posted an article on the main page of Arthur's Hall ( entitled "You People are Stupid: The Ills of our Society Begin at Birth" in which he brilliantly brought to light the modern plague of ridiculous and trendy baby names. In this article Arthur delved into many of the weak-ass social trends that we've collectively been complaining about for years. Naming your child is a very serious thing. They will be living with that name for the rest of their lives, so one should not fuck around in this matter or be swayed by modern trends when making this sort of decision. What I want to do here is add a bit of a supplement to Arthur's article by going more in-depth into the strategies one should employ in actually picking a proper name for your boy.

The first thing you need to get through your head is that you are not selecting a "baby name". You are selecting a man's name. If you get too caught up in the idea that you are naming a baby, you might well lose sight of the fact that this baby will one day grow into a man. With that mindset I suspect anyone is more likely to give their son some sort of trendy cute abomination for a name. You are not naming a baby, you are naming a future man. The name you pick should be serious, traditional, and above anything else the name should make a statement. Naming your child after a respectable deceased family member or great historical figure will give your child the message that something is expected of him in life. It will give them something to live up to.

I've created a list of general rules for picking a name for your son. Follow these rules, and your child won't have to deal with sharing the name Brayden with 6 other godless pussies in his 3rd grade class. Follow these rules, and you will be giving your son a leg up on life. I would even venture to say that if a name you are considering doesn't fall into one of these categories, it should be discarded immediately.

1) Traditional Names and Family Names
Naming your boy after a respected patriarch in the family is a no-brainer. As I said before, this will set up some expectations for the boy... and that's always a good thing. For instance, my grandfather was a calm, kind, manly, strong, hardworking oil man named Doyle. Now there is a great manly name! It isn't trendy, it isn't common, and it can't double as a girls name. Thankfully, my cousin named his son after my grandfather. Great work! I'm actually sorry he beat me to it.

You also can't go wrong with names that come from cultural traditions. If you are a devout Christian, names like Paul, Moses, Noah, Solomon, Joseph, and David are fine names... even if some are far too common. If you have northern European ancestry, try going with a name like Magnus or Axel. German? Albrecht, Frederick, and Ludvig are fantastic. As a general rule, any name that you've ever heard followed by a "Ver" or a "Von" is manly gold. If you are English, you simply cannot beat Winston.

2) The Presidents Rule
Here is a simple rule... you cannot go wrong naming your child after a US President who served previous to 1932. Why 1932? You don't want to name your child after god-damned communists like FDR or LBJ, do you? Lord knows naming your son Barack isn't an option. The one exception to this rule is of course naming your child after Ronald Reagan. Ronald is one of the manliest and proudest names there is.

A lot of presidential names are fairly common, but they are all good. Naming your kids George, Thomas, James, Benjamin, or William may not set them apart in life, but they are solid respectable names. I personally like the idea of naming my son after Jefferson for the message it sends. Washington and Jefferson will always be our two greatest Presidents, and one should never shy away from using their names... even if they are somewhat common. Among these presidential names there are some real manly classics however. Uncommon names like Millard, Chester, Rutherford, Ulysses, Woodrow, Calvin, and Abraham are among the most serious and manly names you could possibly name your future man.

3) Greek and Roman Names
Another simple rule: virtually every traditional Roman or Greek name is a classic of masculinity. There is the added bonus that many of these names were shared by the men who did more to shape western culture than any modern man. Some come off a bit odd now, and I suppose that is something to consider. I fully support people naming their boys Pericles, but I can see how many would balk at such a name.

If you want to go Greek, try names like Themistocles, Lysander, Brasidius, Pericles, Homer, Cimon, Thucydides, Epaminondas, and Aeschylus. All of these were great men, who had great manly names. Do try to stay away from Leonidas however. I figure the film "300" ruined that name for at least a decade. Roman names are also brilliant. Julius, Titus, Gaius, Virgil, Augustus, Maximus, Octavius, and Rufus are manly as all hell.

4) Famous Kings, Generals, and Conquerors
Another good rule to follow is naming your boy after someone who actually accomplished something. Nobody did more to form the world we know today than ancient kings, generals, and conquerors. Alexander of Macedon is probably the most accomplished man in human history, and he died at the age of 32! Say what you will about his tactics, but Alexander is a fantastic name, and Alexander of Macedon excelled at every human endeavor. Alexander changed the world.

Other great names also fit nicely into this category. Here are a few: Napoleon, Phillip, Hannibal, Lysander, Ulysses, George, Edward, Charles, and Pyrrhus. Just try to stay away from Adolf. That name isn't popular for a reason.

As I said before, you can't fail in you task of naming your future man if you are following one or more of these simple rules. Following these four rules will assure that there are fewer Jaydens, Aidens, Masons, Landons, Braydens, Austins, Hunters, and Brodys in this world. That would be a great thing indeed.