Segarini: The Majority Rules – Mainstream Mediocrity

You hear and see it everywhere. People constantly complaining about today’s music, radio, television, and movies. And it doesn’t stop there. They complain about their politicians, their Governments, the lack of decent service, and the dearth of knowledgeable salespeople in most of the big box stores that have replaced locally owned shops and retail outlets. They rail against all these things, but nothing seems to change. Some people even start asking questions, but the questions that need to be asked never are. Why are so many people disgruntled? What happened to creativity and quality? Why don’t things get better? Well, the first thing we need to understand is this; as vocal as we are about the terrible state we perceive things to be in, we are not the Majority. Apparently, the Majority are perfectly happy…at least, they think they are…and the Majority rules.

My father tried to impart a lot of wisdom to me when I was growing up. Most of the time, what he said didn’t make sense to me the first time I heard it. For example, I didn’t realize what “Get your appetite up on the street, but eat at home” meant until I got married. My dad was a very wise man.

Lately, one of his bon mots pops into my head frequently. I hear his voice, and sometimes it is so clear, I look around to see if he’s standing there holding a crate of asparagus, dressed in a Pendleton shirt, brown slacks, a pair of scuffed brown wingtips, and a yellow apron with the green lettering stitched on it in cursive that said “Segarini’s Supermarkets” across the front. He is never there, of course, but his words hang in the air smelling of Bay Rum and Old Spice, and ring truer and truer as time goes by.

“The more people you put in a room, the lower the I.Q goes.”

And THAT, my dear disgruntled friends, is a BIG part of our problem.

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We suffer ‘Majority Rules’ on both sides of the fence. Let’s take, for example, contemporary popular music. On the creative side, the Artist with vision surrounded by people who share that vision and strive to present it to the world unencumbered and with its brilliance intact, have been replaced by committees of ‘experts’, reams of statistics, and financial projections, and using the resources and information generated by those people and that research, use it to create an ‘Artist’ who is photogenic, youthful, and desirous of both fame and fortune and who will be the delivery system for their carefully constructed product. Okay. That sounds a little cynical and tin-foil-hat-y for even me, so let’s say this instead; Neil Young has been replaced by Nicki Minaj.

Why, you ask?

Because that’s what contemporary popular music radio stations demand.

Why, you ask?

Because they have used their format to create demand for this type of product.

Why, you ask?

Because this kind of product is what the MAJORITY of their listeners want to hear.

So, clearly…we are not the majority.

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We all have friends who pooh-pooh the idea that a lot of this current music is not good. They look at us with a world-weary squint and in a reverse of the Father Knows Best dinner table speech to Bud, Kitten, and Princess about how they’ll ‘understand when they get older,’ say knowledgeably, “You’re too old to get it. This is today’s music, not yours. You had your turn and now it’s theirs. You are too old to understand it.”

Bullshit.

A lot of it is crap, and just to be fair, a lot of  ‘our’ stuff was crap too…but at least our crap was human, not Cylon. This generation has its share of Minajs and Ga Gas, and Pitbulls and Drakes, but older generations had Liberaces and Village Peoples and Tony Orlando and Dawns…but they made music, and played and sang songs, even as bad as some of them were. The big difference was we could change the channel and find something different, something new, something we liked.

There are just as many young kids that can’t stand contemporary popular ‘music’ that’s played on the radio any more than us decrepit old farts. I talk to them all the time, see them at the clubs, and run into them in the used record stores.

They aren’t in the majority either…but some Spanish scientists (of undetermined age) have come up with some interesting information.

LONDON | Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:24pm EDT

(Reuters) – Comforting news for anyone over the age of 35, scientists have worked out that modern pop music really is louder and does all sound the same.

Researchers in Spain used a huge archive known as the Million Song Dataset, which breaks down audio and lyrical content into data that can be crunched, to study pop songs from 1955 to 2010.

A team led by artificial intelligence specialist Joan Serra at the Spanish National Research Council ran music from the last 50 years through some complex algorithms and found that pop songs have become intrinsically louder and more bland in terms of the chords, melodies and types of sound used.

“We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse,” Serra told Reuters. “In particular, we obtained numerical indicators that the diversity of transitions between note combinations – roughly speaking chords plus melodies – has consistently diminished in the last 50 years.”

They also found the so-called timbre palette has become poorer. The same note played at the same volume on, say, a piano and a guitar is said to have a different timbre, so the researchers found modern pop has a more limited variety of sounds.

Intrinsic loudness is the volume baked into a song when it is recorded, which can make it sound louder than others even at the same volume setting on an amplifier.

The music industry has long been accused of ramping up the volume at which songs are recorded in a ‘loudness war’ but Serra says this is the first time it has been properly measured using a large database.

The study, which appears in the journal Scientific Reports, offers a handy recipe for musicians in a creative drought.

Old tunes re-recorded with increased loudness, simpler chord progressions and different instruments could sound new and fashionable. The Rolling Stones in their 50th anniversary year should take note.

So, just to be clear, not ALL of contemporary popular music is feeble compared to what the nostalgia-ists call ‘classic’…but the vast ‘majority’ of it is, and that brings us to the other side of the fence and THAT majority.

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The single biggest reason that everything seems to have been dumbed down to monosyllabic drivel…is because the majority are okay with it. The public.

We are the reason.

We are the enemy.

Well, not us specifically, Dear Readers, but we, the consumers of goods and services.

Network television and Terrestrial radio have discovered, over the years that the majority of their consumers like bright shiny objects, loud noises, and pretty baubles. They have also discovered that people LOVE to watch other people make fools of themselves, or people overcome the odds in a way that is both heartwarming and hopeful. They love to watch people just like them compete for vast wealth or fame, and they like to shake their heads in unison over the hoarders, and the fat people trying to lose weight, and the pretty boys and girls they used to be or want to be, who have made it onto the radio or television…a dream come true…to the majority. The bonus to all of this is that this type of programming doesn’t even come close to costing what a well written, acted, and filmed hour of entertainment costs the networks. It is a win/win.

Over the years, radio has created a replaceable audience, and the record industry, in turn, has created the disposable artist. As long as there are young girls and the mothers who live through them, contemporary popular ‘music’ radio and radio friendly product will always exist and be financially successful. Good for them.

The Majority rules. And as long as they do, the rest of us will have to do what we always have done. Look for what we want.

The big difference these days is that we can’t just change the station and hear something new or different like we used to be able to do. No…we actually have to work at finding what we want to hear. Most of us know where to look, but who has the time, all the time, to do that? Luckily, there ARE radio stations who, like us, are dissatisfied with what they have been doing, or realize that sounding like everyone else is a dead end, and they are starting to take chances and play outside the box. There is certainly enough great, new music being made to feed the demand side once it’s created. There will be more of this as time goes by, and more radio stations will pursue the audience that has abandoned radio over the last 25 years, and the young people who are looking for new music all the time. If you are in a major market, a big city, look just outside the city…you will find something more akin to the music radio of yore. Inventive. Creative. Into the music…and leading the way to an alternative to what much of radio has become.

Television is easier. There is so much great TV, even though some of the best is cancelled prematurely because the majority don’t watch it, a lot of it survives because of the devout following of the people who want more than just a dog and pony show, and advertisers and management who realize that their audience might not be the biggest, but is comprised of the trend setters, early adapters, and loyal fans who spread the word to more and more people.

Movies, Politics, services, and everything else…ALL sanctioned by the ‘Majority’. And how often in recorded history, have the Majority chosen the right path?

Think about that for a while.

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None of this is new. The majority has always been…shall we say…misused and misguided by the more unscrupulous of the entrepreneurs out there. By definition, Majority, median, (average), middle, mediocre; that which appeals to the most people. Like my dad said, the more people (majority) in a room, the lower the (overall) I.Q. It’s just simple math.

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In 1979 I wrote a song that was recorded by The Segarini Band and released in 1980. To say the album it was on was mishandled by the label and the distributor would be an understatement. This is the opening cut from ‘Vox Populi!’, the Segarini Band’s last LP and just one of the songs on it that still rings true today. Good luck finding a copy. I’ve included the lyrics so you can sing along. Just right click on the title and open the song in another window unless you want to see the back of the album cover.

Voice of the People

Hey!

Hey!

Everybody talkin’ on the TV and the radio

I don’t hear too much I like

I guess my I.Q just isn’t that low

Oh no

Maybe I’m crazy maybe I’m lame

But I just don’t like what the people been sayin’

Oh yeah

I hear it at the nightclub when I’m playin’ my guitar

The kids say ‘play some rock and roll’

And I say ‘that’s exactly what we are doin’

What are you hearin’?’

Maybe they’re loaded

Maybe they’re high

Maybe they’re stupid

I don’t know why

It’s just the Voice of the People

It’s the Voice of the People

Hey!

Instrumental Break

Now two girls and a guy they live together on this show

And they all try so very hard to prove the guy’s not Hetero

And then the girls they bounce and wiggle

And pause to lick their lips

And if Neilson says it’s Number One

Then I suppose it is

But it’s so sad

Don’t it make you so mad?

That there’s a little black box on some TVs

Say it’s Number One

But you can’t fool me

It’s just the Voice of the People

It’s the Voice of the People

Now every now and then my friends and I go have a beer

We overhear a conversation based on politics and fear

And they discuss the daily issues ‘till it turns to argument

Then they beat each other senseless

On the parking lot cement

And it’s so loud

Always talkin’ so proud

And I find myself wishing that they’d go away

‘Cause I hate to see the issues gettin’ settled that way

But that’s the Voice of the People

It’s the Voice of the People

Instrumental Break

Oh wooh wooh wooh

Voice of the People

(Voice of the People)

Well it’s the Voice of the People

(Voice of the People)

Ooh it’s the Voice of the People

(Voice of the People)

Ooh it’s the Voice of the People

(Voice of the People)

It’s the Voice of the People

Voice of the People

God Please save us from the Voice of the People

Hey!

Hey!

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Segarini’s regular column appears here every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

2 Responses to “Segarini: The Majority Rules – Mainstream Mediocrity”

  1. Sheri Reiman Says:

    WHAT the hell? Is it really you Bob?
    Long long time! Sheri

  2. […] the thoughts expressed during the ‘art’ discussion above, may I recommend clicking on this link and reading the article…. […]

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