Nostalgia or Nausea?

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel like you’ve been at the same party for years stuck in a rigidly structured routine? I do every time I go to a conventional club. Mainstream clubs are nearly always exactly the same, dominated by a vast central room and occasionally attached to underwhelming ‘alternatives’. In said main room the music is invariably exactly the same with “R&B” and “cheese” having somehow become the columns upon which nightclubs are built.

But how did this convention begin and why has it stuck? My prime example is the location I am most familiar with; Sheffield. Having been at university here for four years I have put in more ground work for the basing of this blog than any I could ever conceivably write. The clubworld is dominated by Embrace, Plug and five completely individual, yet utterly indistinguishable, University nights (Tuesday club disregarded). But this seeming lack of choice does not deter the punters. Instead it has resulted in a situation whereby anything out of sync with this quagmire of stodgy, insipidness is actively rejected by the masses.

Pre-drink parties now include the very music you will be subjected to in a club. The eternal line is: “It doesn’t matter what the music is, you just get drunk and then you can dance to anything”. I hear it so often it’s almost as if there was a meeting attended by all potential clubbers who decided upon this as the official line. I unfortunately missed this extensive briefing that garnered the foresight to address the natural response: “But if you’ll dance to anything, why does it always have to be dreadful.” Dare to venture a suggestion, maybe anything well regarded by those of a critical disposition or a single that didn’t rely on a target market of 10 year old girls and the answer is this: “Well you can’t dance to that.” It is a sad state of affairs when prepubescents have become the deciders of what those of drinking age can dance to. Club music is indistinguishable from primary school discos or embarrassing post wedding parties. There is no point arguing any further. You’ve lost. It’s check mate. Even though it clearly isn’t!!! It definitely is.

The problem may be the state of pop music itself. “R&B” took over from Indie music as the king genre and much like its precursor it has lurched along until it reached the nirvana of musical formula: structured, repetitive, and uninspired. It is a genre consisting of cliché wails spouted from a production line of lookalike/soundalike/dancealike singers with instrumental accompaniment consisting of, seemingly, a single drum line that is the same in a billion billion billion songs. There isn’t exactly the world of difference between Ne-yo, Akon, Flo-Rida, Sean Kingston and Chris Brown. Just think that this is a day and age where “Chris Brown” as a name suffices for a pop star! How boring is that??  I digress, the point is they’re just rip offs of Usher who in turn was a rip off (although an improvement) of R Kelly.

Indie music had gotten just as stale with the Arctic Monkeys being the swan song of a genre that had run out of ideas. By the end it was gushing out the likes of The Enemy and The bloody View with that garbage “Same jeans” song which would have been an entertaining pastiche of the previous five years had it not catapulted the band and revealed they had an entire album of the stuff. I was just about old enough to get into clubs at the end of the Indie era and since then it has been “cheese” and “R&B” all the way.

Why cheese?? Why do Steps, S Club 7, Westlife, Blue, Backstreet boys, B*Witched etc. etc. etc. get continuously played often in the same order? Nostalgia is a wonderful thing when used sparingly. I would happily ironically dance to a surprising play of “C’est la vie” maybe once every couple of years. But if it’s on every night at numerous venues day in day out then it isn’t a happy nostalgia trip anymore. It’s just a rubbish song being played as often as it was 15 years ago when it was a novelty rubbish song everyone assumed would be forgotten by the end of the week. For instance, if Limp Bizkit is played once in a while then, out of surprise as much as anything, I will roar with approval and bust out the old Fred Durst pervy pelvic thrusts and ‘rollin’ arm movements. I’m as willing as anyone to be a 12 year old again but it’s like watching the occasional episode of Fireman Sam, you don’t watch four hours of continuous CBBC coverage.

So if music doesn’t liven up soon the mainstream will remain dead and that means junk pop club venues will plough on. I’m not saying we need a new Brit Pop, but I am saying we need a new Brit Pop. The problem is that X Factor and friends of X Factor are dominant on both sides of the Atlantic. The brand has taken control of the music buying public and commands popular music. Anything new and original is not encouraged and so struggles to break into a world that has never been so difficult for legitimate talent to blossom into.

I’m not saying the situation is wrong. I’m saying that it’s simultaneously as mental and depressing as scientology.