Creative Culture Journal

The best site on the web for what is real in arts & entertainment

Edition I -2022 

Is Pop Music Doing for our Culture What it Once Did?

Back in 2011, NBC News featured a piece lamenting changes that a group of academics had identified in the popular music we listen to. They reported  - "It would seem that the popular music we listen to today has become more 'me'-centric, less 'we'-centric, when compared to hits from decades past -- at least, that's what a team of finger-wagging psychologists are saying in a new study analyzing the lyrics of pop hits from 1980 to 2007. What's more, they argue that the increase in 'me me me' lyrics reflect a nationwide increase in that 21st century affliction: narcissism." 

Twenty-seven years seems like a good sampling period, touching on two full generations, each of which have their own broad taste in music, and three or four seven-year cycle groups, which granulize trends in musical interests even further. It is enough for one generation to fully express a perspective, or point of view, that they can pass along to a subsequent generation, normalizing that attitude, right or wrong.

The researchers went purely on objective data: "Researchers used a text analysis program to examine song lyrics for the 10 most popular songs (according to the Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart) for every year from 1980 to 2007. They found that the decades-old songs were more likely to use more first-person plural pronouns (we, our, us), while the newer lyrics contained more first-person singular pronouns (me, my, mine)." 

The researchers also noticed that "modern songs aren't just more 'me'-focused -- they're also meaner, the study shows. Researchers saw an increase in angry, antisocial words in pop songs as the years went on -- words like kill, hate, annoyed, damn, and fuck."

More than a decade has passed since that study was reported, and a person could argue that our cultural divisions have grown even more defined over time, expressed through increases in hate crimes, and through events of civil disobedience, noticeably the January 6, 2021 assault on the nation's capitol. 

A person could ask "What good is a Pop music that drives people apart?" And more to the point, why is it happening?

Pop music has literally been an expression of the vox populi, and until fairly recently, the people's voice has risen up against a host of shared oppressors: banks, the man, the government, the law, and so on. The '70s began to surface some divisions - The Allman Brothers didn't need Neil Young, and visa versa - but Pop music didn't seem to become internally divisive until the advent and widespread popularity of the internet. Clearly, divisions within the general population have been exacerbated by the introduction of the smart phone, and the social network, both of which have been instrumental in the isolation of their users, and to the plethora of "me-me-me" apps to which it has given birth.     

Digital tools have provided everyone with the ability to compare their experience with life with those of others, and inevitably that has put jealousy, greed, pride, and the rest of the deadly sins on steroids, primed by a raft of apps providing easy acess to individual publishing platforms. Some users have become effective marketers, image creators, purveyors of exploitive messaging. And the independent music producer ethos of the last 20 years has provided "artists" championing every one of those attitudes, with plenty of support for every angry, special-interest-group grievance. It has all added up to a fractured soundtrack of revolution designed around the circular firing squad.

There can be no practical response or solution to this vexing situation, for Pop music is a barometer, not a steering device, right? 

Or is it? And if it is more than an expression, but rather a driver of societal change, perhaps close attention should be paid to those at the wheel. That is a great deal of what the CCJ is all about. - RAR   


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Gretchen Stops the Tour

Nashville singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters is one of the good things, a writer of deep emotional insight, a classy intellectual who has turned her East Coast sensibilities into a spot in the Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame.

Gretchen has been a road warrior, touring for years and building a particularly strong following in the U.K. But, according to her recent newsletter, she has finally had enough.

In a beautifully written statement, Gretchen explained - "Music has been my church for as long as I can remember, and live performance has always been the thing that brings me closest to losing myself in the beauty and mystery of it all. Of all the aspects of my job, performing is the most ephemeral, the most of-the-moment. You can’t do it while you’re watching yourself. It’s a high wire act - and for a circus girl, that’s a nearly irresistible thing. Nonetheless, after several years of soul searching, questioning, and yes, grieving - I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to say farewell to touring life."

Gretchen has a live performance recording now available - "The Show", available through all major outlets. U.K. fans may want to visit Proper Music - The Show for details. Click the Gretch button to go to her website to learn more about her future plans.


APP Music

Is that a band in your pocket, or are you..?

It is amazing, these days, the musical resources that anyone can carry around on the mobile device. You have apps that help you learn to sing on key, and others to record your musical inspirations, all without involving another burdonsome human in your project!

Check out this link to a UK site that has the whole playing field sussed out. 


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Grass Valley Center for the Arts 

Russel Davidson Architecture + Design renovated this building, beautifully realizing local arts enthusiasts' vision for the establishment of a creative arts engine for little Grass Valley, California. The design firm and members of the local business community have succeeded in renovating and re-purposing a wonderful old building that has been integral to the community since 1947. It began life as a Chevrolet dealership and over time has been a beauty school and a gym and dance facility. After receiving grant funding in 2016 to complete the renovation, the building only reopened last year, and with great impact.

Tomorrow night, as this is written, the facility will host an evening with Graham Nash. 

Grass Valley, and Nevada City, it's sister a few miles up Hwy 49, is a really special place with a lot of energy. It has two top-flight performance venues that have somehow survived the pandemic shutdowns.

 PHOTO - Melissa Clark

The Center for the Arts is a labor of love one can only hope can survive, because it provides fantastic creative programs for youth, beautiful exhibit space for fine artists, and a jewel of a performance auditorium. The space attracts top acts (Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt will be there next month, sold out) to a town of less than 13,000 population. It is home to numerous musicians and actors of note and it is spectacular that this little community is able to support this extraordinary community asset.  


Vocal Range Isn't Everything

When it comes to determining those singers who can put a song across to an audience, a singer's range may have less to do with it than do other vocal attributes. That said, vocal range does say something about the engine your favorite singer is working with.

On average, humans have a somewhat limited vocal range. Most untrained singers have somewhere between a 1.4 to 2 octave range. The average trained singer will have a 3 octave range, while trained classical singers may have as much as a 5 octave range.

Here is a list of well-known singers, and their vocal ranges, as identified by various internet sites. Exception could be taken to some of these range assessments: 

2-Octave Range
  • Avril Lavigne
3-Octave Range
  • Ed Sheeran
  • Adele (3-minus)
  • Celine Dion (3-plus)
  • Taylor Swift (3-plus)
  • Bruno Mars
  • Lady Gaga
  • Freddy Mercury
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Kelly Clarkson
  • Elton John
  • Idina Menzel
  • Madonna
  • Aretha Franklin (3-plus)
  • Dua Lipa (3-minus) 
4-Octave Range
  • Ariana Grande
  • Prince (4-plus counting shrieks)
  • Michael Jackson
  • Alicia Keys
  • Beyonce (4-minus)
  • Jennifer Hudson
  • Demi Lovato
  • Miley Cyrus (4-minus)
  • Paul McCartney 
5-Octave Range
  • Whitney Houston
  • Mariah Carey 
8-Octave Range
  • Georgia Brown (Brazilian Jazz singer)

There is a Guiness Book of Records range record holder, spanning an extraordinary 10 octaves, but it didn't make his name (Tim Storms) a household thing.     

Sax Players to Know

We at the CCJ are big fans of sax man Jay Metcalf, at In this video, Jay turns us on to some of the visionary sax players who made the instrument what it is today.        


Corey Landis Lands America

Congratulations to Corey Landis, who just landed a role in the beloved Tony Kushner play "Angels in America". This is being staged by RedHouse Theater, Syracuse, New York. Corey posted the following on his Facebook site. Corey is funny and his Facebook page is filled with audition videos and other postings, all of which are highly entertaining. 

Corey Landis is too-little recognized for his considerable songwriting and singing talents, possibly too-associated with his "5-Hour Energy" commercials. Corey and his band The Attacks play the L.A. area. He also fronts Black Angel, a Goth rock unit, and also plays and records with the Corey Landis and the Finer Things band. Corey got his leg up in L.A. with a recurring role in "That 70's Show", and he has an impressive resume of movie credits. See his website for more.    

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