My family likes classical music. It’s just the way we are. I grew up listening to all sorts of classical composers, from Strauss to Gershwin, and I got used to the musical style: complex themes, and variations on those themes, played with a symphony of different instrument types all carefully orchestrated to fit together perfectly.
Then I step outside of my house and I hear modern music. “Pop” music — i.e. what is on the top of the Billboard charts right now — is starkly different from classical. There’s vague background music, but that’s unimportant. The only important part of the song, it seems, is the singer. (Just listen to I Kissed A Girl, if you can stand it, for a good example of this.) The complexity of the music has dropped by many orders of magnitude.
I noticed this and thought “is this a real trend? Is music getting simpler?” So I looked back through some older music. Stuff like Hotel California, by The Eagles. Hotel California has anywhere between five and eight guitar parts alone, depending on which version you look at, plus percussion and a vocalist. The music is prominent, not just the vocals. If you look at other bands from “back in the day”, like The Beatles, they’re all similar: they have at least one or two guitar parts, bass, percussion, and some other stuff mixed in (The Beatles even used violins and cellos and stuff in some of their works). They’re more complex than modern pop music, but certainly not as complicated as a classical piece.
For most of the music I have heard, this trend holds true: music is decreasing in technical complexity as the vocals become the dominant part. Perhaps this is true only for the genres I have listened to or the bands I have chosen, but I think it’s rather compelling. What do you think? I’d be especially interested to see if there are any popular modern bands that buck the trend and go for musical complexity.