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Are Classics Actually Better Than Today’s Pop?

Image courtesy of Helene Pambrun

By Margaret Adams

The classics are classics for a reason. We regard artists like Billy Joel, Cher, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Supremes, Fleetwood Man, The Rolling Stones, and countless others so highly because their music was not only good, but it changed the standard of what good music is; the Beatles transformed the music industry and started trends that are still followed today!

Many people often think our parents’ music from the 60s and 70s to be generally better than the pop music of today. Whether it be because this music was the foundation for today’s or because of plain old nostalgia, people (usually the older generations and some younger people) tend to prefer the music that was popular decades ago. 

But are these classics actually better than pop music of today? 

Pop music today has the advantage of utilizing techniques and trends that have been used and perfected for decades. A particularly successful example is Harry Styles’ “Fine Line,” an album that has received much critical and commercial acclaim since its release in 2019. 

“This record means a lot to me,” said Stevie Nicks of Styles’ “Fine Line.” “When it was all put together, I listened and said, ‘Oh, my god, the Beatles live.’ A whole lot of people live in these songs. Fleetwood Mac lives there. I live there. When I listen to ‘Fine Line,’ I hear melodies that would’ve worked on ‘A Day in the Life.’ It has that same kind of complexity. I think the Beatles would’ve thought, ‘Here we’ve influenced a young man who took some incredible things from us and made them his own years and years later.’” 

The world’s most prolific songwriter also shared that she was even inspired by the Grammy-winning album. 

“Listening to music (mostly Harry Styles’ “Fine Line”) and being inspired by him to write some new songs and poetry. Way to go H – it is your Rumours [sic],” said Nicks in a statement on Twitter. 

This is just one example of pop music that exceeds the standard set for it. Many of today’s artists employ techniques and credit their music to the classics they grew up listening to; Finneas O’Connell, who has won multiple Grammys for his work with his sister, Billie Eilish, grew up listening to Frank Sinatra. 

“I love that melodic sensibility,” said O’Connell. “If you let contemporary music inspire you too much there’s not a ton of growth––it’s so of the moment.”

This is a huge problem with modern pop music – the trends are so fleeting. Not much can be special or extremely influential, like the classics were, because what is considered special and influential is constantly changing. 

Compared to today, artists in the 60s, 70s, and 80s were allowed time on a small stage. Because of the Internet, that stage has gotten much bigger; everyone and their mothers have hopped on. There is so much more to listen to, which is why it is nearly impossible to make a modern classic. 

Our general attention spans are smaller, and every piece of music is built on top of decades of other music, only to be passed up on the trending page on Twitter the next day. Does this mean today’s pop music is necessarily worse than our parents’ music? Absolutely not. 

The music of today is the soundtrack to young people’s lives right now. Despite how good or bad it is, it will hold meaning for this current generation, the same way the music of the 60s, 70s, and 80s does for our parents. 

If older generations opened themselves up to current pop music, they would be pleasantly surprised; after all, most of it was inspired by their favorite music. 

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