An Ode To Manufactured Music

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I realized that I've only posted about television, which isn't the case of what this blog may be at all. I actually listen to a lot of music, read a lot of silly celebrity gossip, watch a lot of movies, and read a ton (a sick amount really) of books. So I'm going to make more of an effort to actually talk about such things, including music.

Yesterday for whatever reason, I started thinking about 90s boy and girl bands, including (oddly) S Club 7, and how people have continually bitched about 'manufactured music'. And then it kind of hit me / made sense. It's sort of impossible...somewhat anyway...for a band that doesn't play instruments to come together naturally.

Think about this realistically: you're a group of singers (perhaps lyricists or songwriters if you're lucky) but not one of you has more than a smattering of musical talent beyond that. You don't have the fundage to hire a backing band (and you won't until you have a legit record contract) - so you either have to shell out big bucks for cheesy backing tracks by someone that doesn't get your vision, or you risk being relegated to the doo-wop barbershop faction.

Thus, the music industry steps in and offers a ripe, juicy recording contract to any individuals - or small connected groups (Brian and Kevin from BSB, Nick and Drew from 98 Degrees - I'm looking at you) - interested in their shot at the big time.

There isn't much difference between putting together a group of 3-5 of these guys or gals, and those same people seeking out solo careers. Well actually, there may be one difference, in that a fair number of future banders have probably spent some time trying to make it on their own - and after the short stint of success their bands have, try to do so afterwards. Manufactured singing groups are very much a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The charisma of four or five can balance things out so that the more lacklustre members still get some lovin' (Howie from BSB, Chris from *NSYNC, Mel C from the Spice know what I'm talking about).

Thus, I am in support of the manufactured bands of yesteryear. They never asked to be taken 'seriously', as when is the last time you heard of a singing-only 'rock group'? They were just out there producing feel-good pop for the masses that still holds up for sentimentality and "I'm so lame, but it's okay, you are too" conversations.

I recently realized I know pretty much every verse, chorus, hook, and vocal gymnastic warble on the first two Spice Girls albums, despite not listening to them for half a decade. And you know what? Those girls had a reunion tour for a reason - because on their own, they just aren't as dynamic.

The same can be said about most 'respected' bands out there today - with a few notable exceptions (Pete from Fall Out Boy, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, or Richie Sambora from Bon Jovi for example) how often do you know ANY member of a band other than the lead singer? My aunt regularly hangs out with Coldplay - sans Chris Martin. Slightly less exciting, no?

And thus was the realized power of the all-singing, marginally musical pop group of the 90s: there was something for everyone! Multiple voices! Slightly different archetypal styles and personalities! Signature moves!

Am I saying it's time to go back to this? No, but I am saying that the music industry was onto something, and I'm not ashamed to say it wasn't so bad after all.

- Britt's On


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