I've discovered a pattern in the music that I have chosen to surround myself with over the last few years. All the music and artists must have staying power. Basically I just ask myself, " will I still want to listen to this in 5 years? 10 years?" This mentality has really helped me discover some great music and look past the average.
As you can probably guess, none of this music is "mainstream." These are artists who are creating works that do not appeal to the mass audience. I believe this is due to that fact that the music is not aimed at anyone. The songwriters and bands are returning to a frame of mind that was prevalent in the great songwriters of the past. They make music for themselves. Is this selfish? Not at all. It is simply an outpouring of human emotion and experience that is created for the benefit of the author. This is not to say that the music is not meant to be shared with the world, but it was not made because people will like it or it will make them rich and famous.
Another thing that I have noticed is that types of music that once thrilled me and got me to rock out now bore the shit out of me. Last weekend I went with my buddy Tim to see a band I was really into in college called Pepper. They're a reggae/rock/dub trio who had one hit infused album about ten years ago. I thought that it would still be a good time, perhaps in a nostalgic way. But I was so insanely bored. The song formulas were predictable and average. The hit songs that I once blasted out of my speakers in my dorm room no longer had any effect on me besides, "when will this be over." Also went down to a street fair-type thing in Bay View yesterday. There were some bands, but they all played straight rock. The lead singer of one band yelled to the family-based audience that the next song was called "we want to get you high." Stupid. What really made me sad was that more people would go see a band like that than a local singer/songwriter ( http://www.haywardwilliams.com/ ) I discovered a few weeks ago. But regardless, I know if I was in high school, I would have watched that band and nodded my head the way white guys do to rock. It isn't head banging but it isn't standing still. It's what we do. But it was just so...meh.
This is another thing that these new artists that have staying power excel at. The songs are interesting and make you want to keep listening. Even after the twentieth listen, you can still find something new and draws the listener in. I believe this mentality of moving away from cookie cutter rock and moving forward with music is spreading. It is part of the reason artists are making the music they're making. It is part of the reason I make the music I make. We're evolving. This has how it has always been, but nowadays it is so easy to get this music into people's hands and into their ears. We can make our own recordings and post them to the interweb latter that day. Think about 50 years ago. This was impossible. And now the forward thinking musicians are gaining prevalence and a dedicated following.
But there will always be part of the music listening society who will hold on to the four-piece rock band playing verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus songs. They also hold on to image of the pop star whose voice will make up for the lack of originality. And that's fine. But the staying power mentality is increasing, spreading to the ears of young listeners. The Darwinian evolution of music will continue and this makes me happy.