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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's

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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 18-Apr-2009
Does Susan Boyle's sudden popularity signal new direction for popular music?

Web Log - April, 2009

Does Susan Boyle's sudden popularity signal new direction for popular music?

The sweet, melodious music of the 1930s and 1940s may finally be returning.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, popular music reflects generational moods, just like other cultural symbols due. Thus, the Boomers brought forward counter-culture "rock 'n' roll" music in the 1950s and 1960s, and Generation-X popularized the nihilistic music that I described in "Teen 'emo subculture' creating violent fault line in Mexico City."

A major shift in popular musical tastes is thus a signal of a change in generational mood, just like populist so-called Tea Parties in America, or a best selling nationalist book in China.

Whether such a change in popular musical tastes has yet taken place remains to be seen, but one possible signpost is the sudden explosive excitement over Susan Boyle's show-stopping performance of "I Dreamed a Dream" from the 1980s Broadway play Les MisÚrables, on the UK tv show "Britain's Got Talent," similar to the US show American Idol.

If you haven't seen Boyle's performance, then click on this link and watch it now. (YouTube is getting very legalistic, and won't permit the video to be embedded.)

Here are the lyrics (the verses in parentheses are not part of Susan Boyle's performance):

    I Dreamed a Dream
 
    (There was a time when men were kind
    When their voices were soft and their words inviting
    There was a time when love was blind
    And the world was a song and the song was exciting
    There was a time, then it all went wrong)
 
    I dreamed a dream in time gone by when hope was high and life worth living
    I dreamed that love would never die, I dreamed that God would be forgiving
 
    Then I was young and unafraid and dreams were made and used and wasted
    There was no ransom to be paid, no song unsung, no wine untasted
 
    But the tigers come at night with their voices soft as thunder
    As they tear your hope apart and they turn your dream to shame
 
    (He slept a summer by my side. He filled my days with endless wonder
    He took my childhood in his stride, but he was gone when autumn came)
 
    And still I dream he'll come to me, that we will live the years together
    But there are dreams that cannot be, and there are storms we cannot weather
 
    I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I'm living
    So different now from what it seemed. Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Related Articles

Music
Wartime entertainer Vera Lynn returns to pop music charts in UK: The romantic escapist music of the the 1930s and 1940s is returning.... (1-Sep-2009)
Does Susan Boyle's sudden popularity signal new direction for popular music?: The sweet, melodious music of the 1930s and 1940s may finally be returning.... (18-Apr-2009)
Have yourself a merry little Christmas.: Some music from World War II.... (25-Dec-2008)
Teen "emo subculture" creating violent fault line in Mexico City: The depressive 'emotive' music style is also being blamed for suicides in Europe.... (25-May-2008)
Food rationing comes to the United States: After years of price rises, mainstream media is finally recognizing there's a problem.... (24-Apr-08)
Victoria's Secret changes from "too sexy" to "ultra-feminine": Yes, this story DOES have a generational angle.... (29-Feb-08)
The nihilism and self-destructiveness of Generation X: Who's more to blame for our troubles: The Boomer generation or Generation X?... (21-Jan-08)
Madonna switches record labels, accelerating a return to a new Big Band Era: Madonna is leaving Warner Music, her long time record label, for Live Nation,... (12-Oct-07)
Boomers commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love.: In many ways, 1967 was the cultural peak of America's Awakening era.... (12-Jun-07)
Activists accuse Fox's '24' of promoting torture.: In the end, it's just another way to bash our troops.... (18-Mar-07)
Learning-disabled journalists and politicians continue to predict Iraq civil war: Occasionally journalists take a break from their heavy-breathing over Congressional pages,... (8-Oct-06)
Paul McCartney and a Pink Floyd reunion at Live 8! London's the place to be today.: Meanwhile, tens of thousands march in Scotland, to end poverty in Africa.... (2-Jul-05)
Big Band Era: The Big Band Era is coming back, and stores selling CDs are going down. (8-Mar-03)

The song "I Dreamed a Dream" is not a new song -- it's been around for decades. What's different now is that it's suddenly a very popular song. And when something like this suddenly becomes very popular, it's of interest to Generational Dynamics.

Music during the Great Depression was sweet, melodious, and escapist. During the Great Band Era, 1935-45, leaders were able to form large bands because unemployed musicians were willing to work for little or no pay. Typically, each band had a singer. They would play at dance halls, where anxious, frightened people would go to dance and forget their troubles for a little while.

Now things are coming back full circle. People are becoming anxious and frightened again, and there's little patience for the violence nonsense in Gen-X music.

In fact, I see this change in musical tastes as part of the same change in mood as exhibited by the tax day "Tea Party" protests of the last week. These protests were anti-Washington, anti-spending and anti-tax. The protests were caused by the same kinds of anxieties and fears that are causing people to seek escape through sweet, melodious music.

In 2004, I wrote the article, "'It's going to be the 1950s all over again.'" In that article, I discussed a significant ongoing change in the behavior of college-educated women -- a desire to stay home with the kids, rather than be out in the work place.

With gender issues changing, it's not surprising that tastes in music are changing as well. As the new Great Depression progresses over the years, and as more and more musicians become unemployed, there's a good chance that we'll see a new Great Band Era, with bands playing sweet, melodious music in halls where anxious, frightened people will come to dance for a few hours, to forget their problems.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Music and Generations thread of the Generational Dynamics forum.) (18-Apr-2009) Permanent Link
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