“They don’t have heart like they used to.”

The documentary I chose to watch was Before the Music Dies. The gist of it was that the music that is most popular right now doesn’t “have heart,” and  that the way music is put out into the public is much to validated on the image, rather than the actual music you hear, not see.

The director, Andrew Shapter, was inspired to write and direct this documentary because his brother, who died in 2004, was a musician and because the last conversation Andrew had had with him. His brother was saying that he didn’t understand why music was becoming artificial, so to speak. Joel Rasmussen, the other writer, did this project with Andrew because his sister, who also died a couple years back, was also a musician and had the same concerns. They traveled around America to interview several musicians and record label representatives such as executives and artist managers. Some of the musicians interviewed were Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello, Erykah Badu(who was hilarious, by the way), Les Paul, and Dave Matthews.

Les Paul said “They don’t have heart like they used to.” “They,” referring to the “artists” of today’s radio and music industry, the popular ones, anyway. The film talked about how the music being played, replayed, and replayed on the radio is now all repetition. Not in the literal sense that they repeat the same songs at least 10 times a day, which they do, but is that there isn’t any diversity on the radio anymore. It’s all really catchy, poppy, and a lackluster of “heart.” It’s all the same few number of genres that everyone would know, unless they literally lived under a rock in the desert their whole life. There are so many unexplored types of genres infused together to make beautiful music that NEVER gets advertised because they don’t have the ” look”.

You know what look I’m talking about. Video killed the radio star, that’s all it is. Before Britney Spears and ‘N Sync came along(them not being the first), for example, musicians didn’t have to worry about having a society approved body or face to get on stage and play/sing your heart out, and have people love it. An interviewee said on the film that now you have to “fit the model” to be “popular”, because now, MTV has filled in that slot where people can watch and now half their opinions on that artist’s live performance or music video relies on what the musicians look like. The problem is obvious by now.

Bonnie Raitt made a reference to “hybrids,” meaning being an artist that is not like the ones on the mainstream radio stations, the ones now, anyway. She said you have to look at an artist’s manager and record label to determine what they’re going mold them into. It all depends on them because a hybrid artist would usually have a manager that went with whatever the artist wanted, and let them do their thing, or they were their own manager, and on a small local label, which they’d be okay with. Why? Because it’s about if the artist likes what they’re doing, then all is well. Dave Matthews said, “Your goal shouldn’t be fame, it should be to play music.” He said that in reference to the point made that a lot of the aspiring and current “popular” artists are letting their label run their career and write their lyrics for them because they just want the fame.

If you couldn’t tell already, I am passionate about music, not only because it is the caffeine to my soul, but because I have a big musical influence in my life: my dad. He has been playing the trumpet for over 45 years, and professionally, over 30 years. His full time job currently is the lead trumpet at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre’s main stage. He has played at many, many different venues over the span of his life, and with many famous artists in the biz.

All in all, I did enjoy this documentary. It didn’t get boring at any part, it definitely had my attention. I would recommend it to anyone as passionate about music as I am.


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