Photo courtesy of Swans’ Facebook Page.
Recently, the trend in some musical circles is to glorify artists only because the band themselves, their mothers and a handful of other people are aware of the artists’ presence, but then to stone other artists because they “sold out” by becoming more popular. The question that comes out of this fad: Is there any actual reason to shy away from mainstream music as opposed to whatever you consider underground?
Urban Dictionary’s first listed definition of “underground,” with regards to music, is music that isn’t found on MTV or your local radio station. This generally just indicates the piece of underground music in question will gain far fewer views than the piece of mainstream music that you hear on 101.1 every morning. Alternatively, “mainstream” music is defined by its presence on the radio, and it’s often thought to have less worth than that of the starving artist who’s “just in it for the music, man.”
There’s no questioning that we live in the age of information and technology. If I was so inclined, I could sit down and write and record songs about my coffee table and how much I love cashews and publish that album on a site like Bandcamp or Soundcloud completely free. This is equal parts amazing and problematic. It is amazing because it provides anyone who feels the need to create a venue to act on that desire. But at the same time, it provides that service to everyone. And not everyone needs to make music.
There are thousands of fantastic artists in both mainstream and underground media. In hip-hop, you can find underground rappers like Open Mike Eagle, whose music is filled with vivid images and social commentary. Open Mike Eagle is equally as worth a listen as the mainstream rapper ScHoolboy Q, (NSFW: Language) who has the ability to bring you with him into the different stories he tells in his songs.
In the indie genre, lesser-known band The Magnetic Fields make grand statements about single topics, specifically in their unending LP, “69 Love Songs,” which clocks in at roughly three hours. More recognizable are Vampire Weekend, who have the ability to produce a lighthearted and accessible version of their typically somber and depressing genre-mates.
Basically, the words “mainstream” and “underground” are completely worthless with regards to music. You can have an equally in-depth conversation about the new Lil Wayne record as you can about the most recent Swans LP. If you worry more about what other people think about the music you listen to than what the artist has actually produced, you’re doing it wrong.
Don’t use the words “mainstream” and “underground.” You don’t even really need to read the first part of this blog to get to that point. Anyway, thanks for reading this far. Here’s a funny video of Danny Brown’s weird laugh.
Have a fantastic Tuesday.