If It’s Not On The Radio

It’s Probably Good

Last week Vinny and I began discussing the topic of popular music. For a blog centered on the discussion and criticism of pop culture, it seemed like a natural fit to start with. The questions we have about music’s path into the future are deceptively simple. Where is it going? What is it doing? Is it a good direction? A bad one? Surely the answers to these are a matter of opinion, but then, the Chaos Collage is devoted to our opinions, and being the elitists we sometimes (or always) are, those opinions usually feel somewhat more like fact. Still, the questions remain complex.

In my last post, The Mass Market Music Blues, I briefly discussed the idea that even with artists spread across so many genres, media hyped music is focused more on image than on actual musical talent. It’s a shame, but it’s there. However, now that I’ve solidified that point, I’ll move on to the other end of the spectrum – modern music that deserves, at the least, more attention and appreciation, but just isn’t getting it.

Firstly, let’s qualify popularity. Many artists that fly under the mainstream radar are actually rather well known within their own musical niche. Joe Satriani, for example, fills large venues, has endorsement deals and gets coverage in guitar magazines, but his name is hardly ever heard on the radio or seen on television. The media pays him no serious mind because he doesn’t appeal to enough people, or the right kind of people. Hell, the man has been nominated for the “Best Rock Instrumental Performance” Grammy Award fourteen times and never won. Some might feel the nomination is enough recognition – but fourteen times? Give the guy some credit,  he at least deserves some critical validation. I say critical validation because the truth is, he will never appeal to a massive audience, and I think I’d like to keep it that way.

From a personal standpoint, a world full of people who absolutely love virtuoso guitarists like Satriani would be a nightmare. Shows would sell out too quickly, tickets would be prohibitively expensive, and there would be so much chatter from the media and fans that I might lose interest based solely on saturation. Excellent musicians deserve their chance at popularity, but, like a recent commenter suggested; keeping them a little hungry may also keep them honest. The more they care about the music, the more original it’ll be, and they’ll hold on to their diehard fans while remaining obscure to the mass market. In that respect, I suppose I’d vote to keep the status quo.

Of course, the opposite could happen. Their original stuff could end up being just what the spoon-fed masses needed, and they could either start releasing consecutive albums of little consequence (hence the phrase “I liked their earlier stuff better.”), or they could defy all the scenarios I’ve set up and be wildly popular and consistently genuine with their art.

That said, and since I’m sticking up for the little guy today, I’d like to issue a question to our readers. I’ve posted a video below of a song entitled “New Beginning” by the band Gravity. Back in 2007, they beat out two-hundred other groups in a battle-of-the-bands type competition, not to mention that all but one of them was still in high school. Considering the current musical landscape, I think that’s quite an accomplishment, especially for an instrumental-only progressive rock group.

I have my own ideas about why they took home the grand prize, and while I know anyone watching this probably wasn’t privy to the competition they faced, I think it’d be interesting to hear some other opinions about why they did, or perhaps didn’t deserve to win. Comment away!




Filed under Music, Uncategorized

8 responses to “If It’s Not On The Radio

  1. Henry

    I think they won because they are all young and the one guy can do cool things with his guit’. I would have liked to have seen the other bands that lost to get an idea as to why they were chosen.

  2. Dustin

    I definitely agree with you. Another group that I think is a good example is 311. Although, yes, they’ve been featured on major music networks, (MTV – VH1 respectively) and have had great success in the music industy; they’ve never made it into the mainstream, unlike, say The Red Hot Chili Peppers have. Both bands are filled with tremendiously talented musicians, however, I believe 311 is kept a little more honest, much like Alex was saying about Satriani, because of the loyalty of their ‘actual’ fans, because their fan base isn’t composed of people who go through bands like tissues.

    Also, I base this off the notion that their music has always been “the same.” I mean this in a positive way, and not to say they can’t expand their musical horizons; I believe they know what sound they like, and have a strong sense of who is buying their cd’s. 311’s early music, much like their newer stuff, is coming from people who maintain a positive attitude toward life, love California and of course, weed. Their fans reflect this and have become a very strong core for the band.

    I know, I know. I’ve just written about a band most of you may not actually like. But, A) Alex wouldn’t leave me alone about posting, and B) I felt they would reflect Alex’s point.

  3. Megan H

    I’ve always admired your and Vinny’s taste in music. I’m always looking for new/different artists to listen too cause I have a hard time enjoying alot of mainstream artists today. Or I’m just not looking hard enough.

    I’d love if you mention a different artist or band in each entry (if music related) that doesn’t get the credit they deserve or just someone you really like. I always enjoy listening to new people!

    And Joe Satriani is pretty awesome. 🙂

  4. rgpphd

    Although I appreciate your comments about enough of the “right” kind of people being required for mass media attention, and although I admire The skill and technical wizardry of Satriani, I think it is fitting and proper that he has not won the hearts and minds of the public. He is a very talented guitarist and teacher, but his pupils (Vai, Hammet, etc.) play and write with more emotion than their teacher. As a guitarist myself, I only wish I could play with the speed and accuracy Mr.S demonstrates, but I have never been as moved by any of his compositions as I have been by Hendrix, for example. I do not know where music comes from, but I know it when I hear it. Of course, it is personal and a matter of taste, but it is probably a sentiment that is shared, if not consciously thought, by many others. If that were not the case, old Joe would have one at least ONE of those fourteen near-misses.

    Love the blog. Keep up the good work.


  5. Not only is this band playing that “satriani” sound, but the kid is playing a satriani ibanez. i think they won because they are a clean band but most importantly the music is something when played in front of a group of people, theres nothing there to turn any one off. no bad vocals, no post hardcore screams, no street punk beats or heavy break downs. for a young band, its a mature sound.

  6. Well firstly, that’s actually a Steve Vai signature model Ibanez JEM. None of Satriani’s guitars have the cut out handle or the artsy fretboard designs. And while I don’t disagree about your reasons for why they took home the prize, I think their sound is much closer to Dream Theater than Satriani, especially at the end when the guitarist is trading solo’s with the keyboardist.

  7. Hi Alex,

    Welcome to the blogging community. As I’ve proved time and time again in class, I don’t know much about music, but I am glad that you are blogging about what you love. I posted a link to ya on my blog, so hopefully I have some more culturally aware readers who will come over here and become your loyal readers.

    The best way to build a readership is to read and comment on other people’s blogs, too.


  8. Apo

    I have to say, if I was at a battle of the bands and they came on, I would head back to the bar, get a drink, and wait for another band to come on.

    I don’t believe they should have won for a few reasons. And here they are:-

    The guitarist was very talented, but I heard basically nothing from the rest of the band. The drummer kept time, so did the bassist, keys weren’t up to much…

    Second point, I didn’t feel like there was any, well, point to the song. I realise that this is difficult in an instrumental, but still.

    Thirdly, as someone earlier pointed out, this is a very mature sound. Or put in another way, there was a lack of originality. I feel like I’ve heard it before, and sections of it sounded like they were straight out of a game made by Sega.

    In short, I’m sorry but I really do not like it. There are many dedicated fans of this genre, and I guess you just have to be one of them.

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