Two Handfuls of Music Artists

If one pays attention to the narrow bandwidth of mainstream media, one would think only two handfuls of music artists are on the scene today. The constant churning of these same music artists in our auditory and visual presence creates the impression that only a few names really matter in contemporary music. Further, if your musical tastes do not sync with the tracks and images we are subliminally told we are supposed to like, then what does that say about our ability to fit in with the societal largess? Is something wrong with us if we tire of the same tracks on the radio, in television adverts, in retail stores, restaurants, and movies?

Most of us have probably turned against a track at some point. For example, a track that becomes a summer music blockbuster played everywhere. When you first hear the track, you fall under its spell, but by the end of summer you hate it. After hearing a song for the millionth time, you might begin to question your own sanity for liking the song in the first place. Few songs can escape the wrath of overexposure.

Few music artists successfully survive overexposure in the long run. The two handfuls of artists that take center stage must squirm sometimes about how their music is thrust upon us. Unfortunately, the nature of all encompassing capitalism requires squeezing every ounce from those who can make the most money for others.

Thank the Universe for the Internet. There is no need to search far to find fresh music artists, new sounds, and experimental concepts on the Interwebs. The multiple online music platforms provide a global, music array the mainstream media for the most part ignores. Unless an artist breaks through the mainstream membrane and can longer be ignored, we become suffocated by a few when there are so many who deserve recognition.

Fortunately, we can use the Internet to listen to an Italian band play Reggae, or a French DJ put new sample flavor into classic hits, or watch a video of an unknown R & B songstress or balladeer whose silky vocals put one at ease. Sites like Taliferro Music save a music lover’s soul from the bruises of bumping into mainstream blahs.

Bradford Nims

Bread and Circuses- Music as a Reflection of the Times

Bread and Circuses: Music as a Reflection of the Times

Music is definitely a reflection of the time in which it is produced. I will examine and primarily focus on America’s most influential genres; Blues, Jazz, R&B, Rock, and Hip-Hop. Blues is a direct descendant of old work songs that slaves often sung in the cotton and sugar cane fields, has influenced just about every genre of modern music, from the somber and sometimes grim lyrics filled with self-pity, or the actual musical structure of the Blues. Looking back, the lyrics of these songs often were about being cheated on, missing home, being penniless, or generally feeling worthless and low. Their songs attempted to identify with other people who may listen and find themselves in similar circumstances. Time progressed and Jazz started as New Orleans street music, which quickly gained in popularity across the country.

When Jazz became more than street music and attracted reputable and renown performers, the identity of these performers became not unlike the mythical lone cowboy, reveling in his uniqueness and self-reliance, his utter coolness standing above everyone else. Along comes R&B and this cult of personality we saw in the Jazz era is still applied heavily to individual performers, but the formula and content of the songs are almost identical to Blues. Rock hits America like a sack of delightful bricks in the late 50’s, and a mythical individual archetype really takes off and influences all these genres.

Rock and Roll artists dressed to impress, had impeccable hair, and all the ladies wanted to be with them. Songs became more about the artists’ overwhelming awesomeness, and how great they were at playing their instruments, or singing their songs. Fast forward to the late 70’s and 80’s, and you’ll find the foundations of Hip-Hop are all about wearing the right clothing, accessories, jewelry, and bragging about one’s capabilities, possessions and most important, money.

Today, you’ll notice people seem to be much more interested in the wacky hijinks of Pop stars instead of their ability to sing, dance, or whatever their talent requires them to do. The appearance and behavior of these Pop stars on stage and in the newspapers is now what is of most importance to push sales. The content of the songs is often braggadocios and aims to establish the artist as a lone rebel amongst a sea of conformists.

My perspective, this period of music we have been trapped in for over a decade is the worst this country has ever endured. I’m not sure if we can pull ourselves out of this funk, but I have a feeling that the poor quality of the music is inextricably tied to the horrible economy. In the 70’s, when the economy wasn’t doing so great, Disco was quite popular and was viewed with the same scorn as Pop is today.

Alas, maybe there is still hope for the future of music.

Bradford Nims

Smart Gun Technology

Smart Gun Technology

 

Armatix announced they would be marketing their smart guns towards law enforcement due to the overwhelmingly negative reaction by the gun buying public. I don’t think they’ll find much success in this market, either. Most people not “in the know” about firearms think our opposition to this technology is unwarranted. There are a litany of reasons to oppose smart guns. I think they should be offered freely and given a chance to fail just like any other product. However, I don’t think there should be legislation that makes it illegal to own anything other than a smart gun, which is what a law in New Jersey proposes for its residents. According to a law passed in 2002, once smart guns go on sale anywhere in the country, the only firearms one may purchase or own in the state, must be smart guns.

This law aside, I’m going to elaborate on why smart gun technology should not be seriously considered for anything outside of plinking or sports shooting. In order to activate the firearm, you must be in possession of a watch that is paired to the gun. Once the watch is within an acceptable proximity of the gun, it will activate and become usable. If the gun is wrestled away from the user’s hands, it will deactivate. Sounds great on the surface, right? Nevertheless, once you delve deeper into the serious concerns the gun becomes entirely undesirable.

These smart guns have delicate electronics inside which is why they’re only offered in .22 models. That’s hardly a self-defense round. No civilian or law enforcement officer would even consider carrying a .22 into a potentially dangerous situation. People would only start taking these guns seriously if they were chambered in serious self-defense calibers such as the 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.

Service handguns go through vigorous testing over a period of decades. I personally don’t carry any firearm that hasn’t been in use for extended periods of time by either law enforcement or military organizations. Pistols offered by Glock and Beretta are hardy weapons that have been put through the most hellish test conditions and still flawlessly operated. Glocks in particular can be buried in the sand, submerged in muddy water and even thrown out of airplanes and still fire.

If smart guns can’t meet these standards, nobody will consider them a serious self-defense tool. The 1911 pistol is a prime example. It was put into service in the US Army in the year 1911 and lasted until the mid to late 1980’s until it was replaced by the Beretta M9. Some special forces and SWAT teams still prefer this pistol as their sidearm despite the design being over a century old. It’s what I prefer to carry.

There are some concerns about the signal between the watch and the gun being jammed by criminals smart enough to bring a hacking device of some sort or by the government. Imagine another situation similar to the Bostom Bombing incident. If there were a fugitive on the loose, the government could fly a drone over a neighborhood and disable all the guns, leaving the occupants defenseless while they send in SWAT teams.

Further, what if the owner of the handgun finds themselves disabled and may need to rely on family or friends to fire the weapon? That scenario would prove to be catastrophic in a life and death situation. Some other designs for smart guns are floating around that remove the watch from the equation and rely on biometrics such as fingerprint recognition. There is a problem with this functionality, too. Dirty hands or bloody hands could prevent the gun from unlocking. Moreover, could one authorize multiple users in case of the example I provided earlier of the primary user being rendered disabled?

Gun owners don’t oppose smart gun technology just because we don’t like it. We have valid reasons and we have more insight than those looking in from the outside.

Bradford Nims

Tyler The Creator

Tyler the Creator

I admit I don’t keep up with new artists and releases as I find the current generation of mainstream “stars” to be lacking in their craft. I heard of Tyler, The Creator but never investigated his career enough to become familiar with his work. ¬†On November 3rd, YouTube held a music award show wherein Tyler, The Creator performed. While on the red carpet, Tyler was approached by a reporter and was asked his opinion of the show.
He responded with: “Youtube, you guys had a beautiful platform to allow actual talented people who take videos or whatever and think on a creative level and to actually give them exposure and award them for their creative work, but you fucking idiots decided to do the same shit with the same weak-ass Katy Perry and Justin Bieber and all these weak-ass things that everybody else knows instead of giving people who actually do things a fucking chance to shine, so Youtube suck my dick.”
I think this is not only perfectly stated for the award show, but it sums up the current state of the mainstream music industry, as well. Artists promoted are talentless and hollow, empty shells with no originality or personality so that teeny boppers can envision and extrapolate their own interpretations of the artists’ “messages.” I’m not sure I will enjoy Tyler’s work as I attempt to explore his catalogue, but I do admire him for stating the obvious that so many others won’t say. He was obviously present for the paycheck as his presence contributes to the very thing he was criticizing, so let’s hope that his content matches his mouth.
Sounds of 66

Sounds of 66

I recently completed a cross-country driving trip from Seattle to Miami. Not as challenging as one would believe, thanks to the good old Route 66. Although the route has a new designation, it is still in operation. The terrain changes when traveling from state to state affect one’s mood and taste in music. The lush, green, mountainous areas of the Pacific Northwest and Northern California made me pine for classical, and opera to reflect the openness of the country. The dry, remote and barren deserts of the southwest are enough to strike a sense of awe and wonder, forcing my listening habits towards classic Hard Rock. The hot and swampy climate of the southeast made me crave The Blues.

When traveling through these different places, it is easy to understand how the locations inspire artists to create their own sounds based on their surroundings. When I stopped by Vegas, I clearly heard the voices of The Rat Pack and Wayne Newton. For the video game fans out there, yes the Fallout: New Vegas soundtrack did accompany me on this trip and perfectly fit the scenery!

Driving on “The Mother Road” is a trip that every American should take. You can feel the history, view the wildlife and other natural phenomenon as you speed by the open country. Next time you feel like buying a plane ticket to get to a destination across the continent, try driving to the beat of your playlist and hit the 66 for a great experience.

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