By Raymond Brewer-Posey
News Staff Writer
Music as an art is ever changing, but what Billboard hits will you still be listening to in 20 years? Each decade in the 20th century had musical icons who defined their generations and forever put a stamp on the era in which they created music.
The Beatles topped the charts in the ‘60s and “Eleanor Rigby” can still make everyone come together. In the ‘70s, artists such as Sir Elton John and Led Zeppelin created music school children today know by heart.
The ‘80s featured the anointed King of Pop Michael Jackson. In the ‘90s Kurt Cobain had the world smelling teen spirit. Today, Justin Bieber, Future and Drake frequently top the charts.
Obviously, music taste is arbitrary and often whimsical, but that is why we love it. My favorite line of 2017 is definitely Future’s “I don’t know Spanish, I barely speak proper.” But it seems ridiculous to compare Led Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times” with Future’s “Xanny Family”. Few people would argue that today’s music is “timeless.”
The most exciting aspect of modern music is its endlessness. In the era of streaming sites like YouTube or Spotify, new music is more accessible than ever before. New genres can exist, change and die within months. As trends come and go, styles are remixed, reworked and forgotten. The issue with this promiscuous industry is music does not last. As a trend fades, it does not remain popular or even enjoyable after the expiration date.
Today, artist Cardi B’s song “Bodak Yellow” has been at the top of the Billboard charts for over a month. Coincidentally, the song is a remix of Kodak Black’s song “No Flockin.” The regurgitation of familiar themes in the lyrics coupled with a recognizable beat have made this song popular in the moment. However, this intentional lack of originality has set the expiration date.
Despite an industry that encourages “hot” but increasingly obsolete music, Jack White embodies the characteristics of a timeless artist. The qualities separating The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain and Jack White from musical mediocracy are originality, cultural relatability and, for some reason, a blues influence.
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine Jack White said, “A hundred years had passed since people could sort of determine the beginning of the blues, and there was an illusion in my head that a new blues was emerging in the scene that we were from.”
In refining his original sound Jack White is a contemporary link to rock ‘n’ roll roots — his lyrical content a mix of Led Zeppelin, Kurt Cobain and Buddy Guy infused with modern experiences.
Twenty-year-olds still listen to Led Zeppelin because, 50 years after it was made, it is still relatable. The content did and still does appeal to mainstream culture and the ideas represented in the music are lived experiences for most people. Jack White epitomizes this concept. He told the Los Angeles Times, “I think we’re all writing the same song, it’s the same song for 1,000 years, it’s just how you tell it. I have my own style because of my experiences.”
His original take on the blues along with the culture his music represents sets Jack White apart from his contemporary peers. Artists like Future, Drake and Justin Bieber are simply exciting in the moment, but the content of their music is generally inaccessible to the average person. It’s fun to imagine poppin’ bottles and throwing money but how many of us have actually done that?