Are You Not Entertained?!

Nathan Rabin, having just stumbled through volume 34 in the NOW That’s What I Call Music! compilation series, writes:

At this point in the THEN project, it should be apparent to everyone that pop music is just fucking with us. People with too much money and too little talent are taunting us to call their bluff and concede that they’re all empty vessels conducting an insane masquerade that has gone on entirely too long.

This is precisely what I (and, I think, many others) find so depressing about what passes for modern pop music: not its shittiness, but its poverty of ambition. I can respect the sort of woefully ill-conceived project that comes from a deeply personal place — hell, it might even make me feel a weird sort of awe. But virtually every popular medium is saturated with competently produced detritus made by people with a decent grasp on certain technical mechanics but no grasp at all on how to make something feel like it came from a goddamn human being. The fact that a handful of postmodern ironists have managed to elevate that soulless craftsmanship into a sort of self-referential joke doesn’t make me feel a whole lot better about the trend.

Sure, there’s always cool stuff happening at the margins of pop culture, and perhaps now more than ever. Sometimes, it’s even in the mainstream. But the continued flourishing of soulless craftsmanship creeps me out in all sorts of ways, and I don’t expect that to end anytime soon.

(Do I even need to explain how the same complaint applies to modern American politics? No? Sweet.)

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