Pop Music…where art thou?

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away… And it was all because I spent almost the entire day searching for and watching Indian Pop music videos which I used to see on television when I was a kid. It was pure nostalgia I tell you! And the fun part was seeing those videos, and recognizing now-familiar faces in them. A lot of the people who’d been part of such videos, are now either in the Hindi film industry (Bollywood) or they’ve kept themselves in the public eye by doing advertisements, reality shows, low-scale endorsements etc. But of course, there were also many faces which I haven’t seen on TV since that video. But I digress. What I wished to discuss was, where has Pop music in India gone? Except for the few and far between album releases by unknown (untalented) people, there hasn’t been a single singer who’s actually come onto the scene and taken the music industry by storm. And what happened to the singers who had been singing good stuff and had become quite famous? And all those bands who were bands not because they could strum electric guitars, bang a drum-set and sing deafeningly loud ‘music’ (don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate them all). Where is everybody? And why aren’t new people coming onto the stage?

And before starting with anything, let me clarify that by Pop music I’m referring to Popular music, not any genre per se.

I thought and thought, and came up with a few reasons.

Firstly, the widespread phenomenon of Reality Music Shows. A lot of really good singers come on these shows, and a lot of unimpressive performers also get a chance here. So at the end of each show, we’ve got a set of okay-ish people going out into the Big Bad World, all ready to do stage shows and endorse lame things. A few of the good singers are at this point of time given one or two songs to sing by music directors who will make sure the whole wide universe knows that they’ve done this immensely charitable deed by announcing it on TV or giving interviews about it. The apparently lucky contestant grovels and cries tears of happiness at this, sings some nice song and then vanishes into oblivion. Why? Because there are too many singers around. You can’t expect to keep on having reality shows and not reach a saturation point of the number of singers actually needed to keep a film industry going. I admit, the influx of new voices has been a welcome change from the same ol’ voices that rang out from radio sets and TV sets since gawd-knows-when. But till when can good singers continue to be ‘discovered’ by these shows and till when can these people be actually provided with a livelihood pertaining to only this field?

Secondly, as a consequence of these reality shows and the subsequent offers from music directors in films, these singers get sucked into this cycle of singing the occasional song for some ‘Godfather’ music director and then being shifted to the background as the same guardian spirit finds new talent to give a platform to. Basically, I doubt whether these composers even pay these newbies for the songs they’re made to sing. Also, generally all reality shows give a contract with some recording label as one of the highly coveted prizes. Hence, the winner is stuck with this same label for at least a year, without any chances for exploring greener pastures. So, at the end of this contract or this period of having to stick around with some music composer (because he gave you your first ‘break’) the singer finds himself/herself lost in the maddening crowd, because by now another new batch of gullible, starry-eyed singers has already entered the arena, and the numbers are so huge, they easily steamroller the previous guys flat out. All we are left with are certain memories of some songs brilliantly sung and a wistful enquiry sometimes about “that guy/girl…remember? He/she was really good!”

Thirdly, why is it that singers don’t think of launching themselves in the pop scene directly rather than having to go through the film industry first? I think it’s because there are no takers. Very very few people actually find people to finance their albums. This only happens if you have contacts and links. Without any prior backing, you unfortunately cannot get entry into this declining field. And because people with contacts have been able to release their albums, this meant an abundance of poor-quality (read : pathetic) music in the pop scene. This is turn means lower number of people being interested in keeping track of such music. And this of course has led to the situation today.

I wish some nice, new singers would come up. There’s a need for music which is not taken out of a movie! And I miss all the fun, wacky, cute videos that went along with the good songs.

Oh Popular Music! Come back!

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