January 8, 2013

Top of the Pops: Johan Karl Schuster, Łukasz Gottwald, Wouter De Backer, and other pale males

As commenters have been pointing out, the songwriters of today's most popular pop hits tend to have names that sound like they were cribbed from the New Grove Dictionary of classical composers.

I like to take found lists assembled by other people for other purposes and look up their demographic backgrounds on Wikipedia:

ASCAP bragged last November:

"According to Billboard magazine, the top songwriters - all ASCAP members - from the past three months are:

Shellback / Johan Karl Schuster
"Shellback (Maroon 5's "One More Night," Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together")

From Wikipedia:
Johan Karl Schuster, better known by the stage name Shellback, is a Swedish songwriter, record producer and musician. ... Julius kept sending Schuster's indierock/deathmetal demos to Max [Martin], who became curious about what it would sound like if Schuster would make pop music.

Harris / Wiles
"Calvin Harris (Rihanna's "Where Have You Been," Scissor Sisters' "Only the Horses")
Adam Richard Wiles (born 17 January 1984), better known by his stage name Calvin Harris, is a Scottish DJ, singer, songwriter, and record producer. [Unfortunately, Wikipedia neglects to mention whether or not Harris/Wiles is related to Andrew Wiles of Fermat's Last Theorem. They don't look all that different.]

"Max Martin (Katy Perry's "Wide Awake," Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together")
Martin Karl Sandberg (born 26 February 1971), known professionally as Max Martin, is a Swedish music producer and songwriter. ... Martin grew up in Stenhamra, Ekerö Municipality, a suburb of Stockholm

"Savan Kotecha (One Direction's "Live While We're Young," Maroon 5's "One More Night")

Savan Kotecha is an Indian-American from Texas who made himself an honorary member of the Swedish songwriting mafia by spending six years in Sweden and marrying a Swedish girl.

"Dr. Luke (Rihanna's "Where Have You Been," Ke$ha's "Die Young")
Łukasz Gottwald (born September 26, 1973), better known as Dr. Luke, is an American songwriter, record producer, and remixer. ... Luke was born in Westerly, Rhode Island[4] to an architect father and an interior-designer mother, but spent much of his formative years in New York City.

Cirkut / Walter
"Cirkut (Katy Perry's "Wide Awake," B.o.B.'s "Strange Clouds")
Henry Russell Walter, known professionally as Cirkut, is a Canadian music producer and songwriter based in Los Angeles, California. 

"Greg Kurstin (Pink's "Blow Me One Last Kiss")
Gregory Allen "Greg" Kurstin (born May 14, 1969)[2][3] is an American songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. 

"Luiz Bonfa (Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know")
Luiz Floriano Bonfá (often seen as Luis Bonfá) (October 17, 1922 – January 12, 2001) was a Brazilian guitarist and composer. He was best known for the compositions he penned for the film Black Orpheus.[1]

However, Gotye, the adapter of the Brazilian jazz guitarist's tune into a current hit, is:
Wouter "Wally" De Backer (born 21 May 1980), also known professionally by his stage name Gotye (pronounced /ˈɡɔːti.ɛə/), is a Belgian-Australian[1] multi-instrumental musician and singer-songwriter. The name "Gotye" is derived from "Gauthier", the French equivalent of "Walter" or "Wouter". 

Here's Gotye's video, which emphasizes that he is, indeed, an extremely pale male.

There are a variety of ways of thinking about this phenomenon.

This could just be a matter of who you know, based in sizable measure on knowing Max Martin, who has been a major figure in what's normally a fad-driven business for a long time now.

Or, if you look at the last 500 years, the European continent produced the vast majority of music still known today, while its English-speaking periphery was peripheral in music. In the 20th Century, however, the English-speaking world came to dominate popular music. But in the long run, the future, like the past, may belong to the Euros, although they may need more vibrant-looking frontpersons.

It could be that changes in music technology have put the music crafting advantage back in the hands of white guys who are good at being creative while sitting alone in a room with precision devices.

80 comments:

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

Police Stop-and-Frisk Program in Bronx Is Ruled Unconstitutional

Franke said...

Don't worry, since Nick Diaz said its all due to money it can't possibly have an HBD component.

anony-mouse said...

Er, isn't today's pop music kinda, well, crap.

I'd put Holland-Dozier-Holland, Michael Jackson/Quincy Jones, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry, Howlin', Marley, the Fat Man, Hank Ballard, James Brown, Prince, Ray, Barry White, BB, even the horrible Ike Turner, etc so far above these pale males as songwriters.

Heck the Scandinavians on that list aren't as good as Ulvaeus and Andersson.

If you want a good example of Idiocracy in popular music, you've provided it.

stari_momak said...

This has been going on for a while. As I've said here before, the myth that I was taught is that American and British whites 'stole' the blackman's music. Then you look into it, and it turns out that whites wrote a significant number of 'black' hits. For example, Hoagy Carmichael wrote the signature songs of both Ray Charles (Georgia) and Nat King Cole (Stardust).

It's time for a reverse Howard Zinn -- one that is true.

Anonymous said...

Is this post serious? All those pale males write pretty shitty songs, if you actually listen to them.

Anonymous said...

I'd put Holland-Dozier-Holland, Michael Jackson/Quincy Jones, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry, Howlin', Marley, the Fat Man, Hank Ballard, James Brown, Prince, Ray, Barry White, BB, even the horrible Ike Turner, etc so far above these pale males as songwriters


No.

Anonymous said...

it turns out that whites wrote a significant number of 'black' hits.


Let the Music Play, for example. The best of electro-funk brought to you by Chris Barbosa and Ed Chisolm.

Anonymous said...

Is this post serious? All those pale males write pretty shitty songs


I think it's clear that the average age of iSteve commenters is 55, and that they think music peaked in the mid 1980's!

Steve Sailer said...

It's been all downhill since the last week of December 1979.

Anonymous said...

It was the norm before WWII for professional songwriters to write songs, and for professional singers to sing them. That order broke down somewhat in the sixties and seventies when the singer-songwriter came into vogue, but the natural order is re-establishing itself.

Anonymous said...

What song is it you want to hear?

Freebird!

Whiskey said...

Yeah, figured stop and frisk would not hold up. It can't, because it will always have a lot more young Black men being stopped and frisked (and arrested for carrying weapons illegally) and we can't have that. Literally, sixty years of Supreme Court decisions and Congressional Law outlaws it.

As for the relative songwriting merits of the pale males, today, the point is that they not say, Jay-Z or Shawty Lo or other Black rappers are the ones writing today's crummy music.

Heck I'm hearing Jazz covers of Eleanor Rigby on KKJZ. Songs that last, for the most part, are going to be written by White guys who have both the talent and discipline to sit in a room writing that stuff. This is particularly true since the collapse of the Black nuclear family means no more churchgoing, and no more apprentice-style learning basic musical theory, sight-reading, and the like which is generally critical for making lasting pop songs (caveat that Paul McCartney did not learn to sight-read music until the late 1990's, well after he crafted all those Beatles and Wings hits).

Anonymous said...

geez, no wonder music today is so plastic, generic, and formulaic. swpl dorks are behind it.

Anonymous said...

"Then you look into it, and it turns out that whites wrote a significant number of 'black' hits."

But they were inspired by the black sound and soul.

agnostic said...

That stuff is so drowsy, when pop music is supposed to pick you up.

Continental Euros seem better at music without a beat, refining the ancestral form of music that was connected to the body and dancing.

The knack for catchy pop music comes more from the redheaded rather than the blond part of Europe. Celts are less domesticated than Nords, and those are the kind of names that I see over-represented among songwriting credits from the good old days.

Even the English have a good Celtic foundation, with varying degrees of Anglo-Saxon or Nordic or Frankish superimposed on it. And of course a lot of the "English" songwriters, composers, and performers are actually Celtic (Lennon and McCartney) or at least partly so (David Bowie, Kate Bush, etc.).

Made In Scandinavia pop music will largely be forgotten.

Anonymous said...

Here is some modern music for the old fogey's who hang out here. It was written by Thomas Wesley Pentz (white guy), Ariel Rechtshaid (child of Israeli immigrants), and Usher Raymond IV (believe it or not, a black guy). Performed on violin by Peter Lee Johnson - because violin makes everything sound better.

Even rap music sounds like high art through the magic of the violin.

Anonymous said...

songwriting is now like computer programming.

steve jobs was right.

jim said...

I don't know. I find it impressive that such a small number of songwriters can write such a large collection of pop tunes.

Writing a catchy pop tune is not easy.

Anonymous said...

I call this synthesizer pop. Electronica has Europopped world music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1buQdSboVs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02yMUXZFTHg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgvWx6hlbfA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI2Etxb7DfQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCNRfqPsZNs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxEASJNQI-w



tanabear said...

Motown was described as "The Sound of Young America". I believe the songs by Max Martin and other Swedish songwriters could be described as the sound of young America today.

For a Max Martin retrospective watch this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzRup5YFf8Y

p.s. I believe the top 10 most played radio songs of 2011 were all written and produced by Max Martin. If a musical group had accomplished such a feat it would be quite historic.

Reg Cæsar said...

I believe the top 10 most played radio songs of 2011 were all written and produced by Max Martin. If a musical group had accomplished such a feat it would be quite historic. --Tanabear

I was just reminiscing today about how half the hits of 1969-70 were written by Jimmy Webb, and the other half by Laura Nyro.

The knack for catchy pop music comes more from the redheaded rather than the blond part of Europe. --Agnostic

Maybe, but if you want really hummable, whistle-worthy classical music, Scandinavia is the place to go: Grieg, Nielsen, Alfven, Halvorsen, et al. (Though Grieg, originally Greig, was part Scot. Hybrid vigor!)




"Then you look into it, and it turns out that whites wrote a significant number of 'black' hits."

But they were inspired by the black sound and soul.
---Stari + anon.

Yes, but Detroit public schools (in pre-riot days) emphasized the classics, and it showed at Motown. The influence went both ways.

I think it's clear that the average age of iSteve commenters is 55, and that they think music peaked in the mid 1980's! --Anon Jr

No, some of us admit it peaked before we were born.

Reg Cæsar said...

Wouter "Wally" De Backer...

This name is suspiciously close to Walter Becker. Did Steely Dan tour Belgium in 1979?

"Luiz Bonfa... was best known for the compositions he penned for the film Black Orpheus.

Hard to imagine now, but Bonfá was asked to write half the music for the film because the producers weren't sure Antonio Carlos Jobim was up to the task. Then again, "Tom" was still pretty green at the time. (Kind of like Ethel Merman's scotching of Stephen Sondheim as composer of Gypsy)

Sometime in the '90s an American jazz reporter wanted to interview Bonfá to see what the man was up to... if still alive. He was shocked to find his subject listed with everyone else in the Rio phone book. Ah, the humility!

Martin Regnen said...

Take a look at the research on testosterone and musical creativity done in Germany in the early 90s by M. Hassler. These studies repeatedly found that guys with below-average testosterone levels are more likely to be composition majors (and girls with above-average testosterone).

From that perspective, it's not really surprising to see a bunch of skinny pale white guys at the top of the field.

wren said...

What? No mention of Swedish House Mafia in the post or comments?

wren said...

Swedish House Mafia is:

Steven Angello Josefsson Fragogiannis

Axel Christofer Hedfors

Sebastian Carmine Ingrosso

Steve Sailer said...

"Take a look at the research on testosterone and musical creativity done in Germany in the early 90s by M. Hassler."

Along those lines, Johnny Depp went out to Hollywood in 1979 to become a rock star, not a movie star. He's less masculine-looking than usual for leading men, but he looks like a Rolling Stone.

I think you see something similar with visual artistic ability.

I suspect golf course architecture is a profession that is difficult for anybody to have all the skills that would be ideally required: to be artistically sensitive and to order bulldozer drivers to knock the top 50 feet off that hill over there so players can smoke a drive down the fairway.

Stephen Edkins said...

europeans were cut out of the rock and roll revolution because lyrics were important and it was built on a combination of black music and celtic folk. the electronic/dance revolution in the late 80s evened things up again.

Anonymous said...

'Made In Scandinavia pop music will largely be forgotten.'

Swedes are a singing people. Each summer they have big outdoor sing-alongs like this http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wLmxaVe6-kQ. They churn out lots of perfectly crafted bland pop.

Celts less ordered souls gives them a musical edge over the more ordered Scando's.

Anonymous said...

Britain's' contribution to classical music isn't THAT bad.

Byrd, Purcell, Delius etc, also plenty of foreign musicians flourished in the UK and we have always had excellent choirs.

Anonymous said...

I think Motown produced the most glorious sound since the 60s.

Kathy Shaidle said...

Isn't the real takeaway that "strong women" singers are having "their" songs written by men?

slumber_j said...

"I suspect golf course architecture is a profession that is difficult for anybody to have all the skills that would be ideally required: to be artistically sensitive and to order bulldozer drivers to knock the top 50 feet off that hill over there so players can smoke a drive down the fairway."

Well, architect-architects do stuff like that all the time--e.g. Richard Meier telling the guys at Dinwiddie Construction how much of the hillside to cut down and how much to grub, what he wants the bench drains to look like etc. etc. at the Getty Center site back in the day.

But if you're, say, Fuzzy Zoeller perhaps you do need fewer intermediaries: if you want to modify something on the fly you can just talk to the guy driving the 10-cu. yd. scraper (or his boss, anyway), and hey, what's he gonna say? And what's the client gonna say? You're Fuzzy Zoeller, after all, not some long-maned, besuited space alien from New Jersey.

So perhaps this is why the pros later turn pro in golf-course design: they have a leg up in the regular-guy-credibility department.

stari_momak said...

""Then you look into it, and it turns out that whites wrote a significant number of 'black' hits."

But they were inspired by the black sound and soul.

Sure in some cases. There is nothing remotely black, however, about examples I gave, "Georgia" and "Stardust', as performed by Hoagie.

stari_momak said...

Being past the age I actually pay attention to pop, I thought that 'Someone that I used to know' was a Peter Gabriel comeback bid.

One of the great ironies of hip-hop and rap is the debt it owes to Kraftwerk, whose original members were not known for their brash talkativeness , but were known for a bit of a fascist aesthetic.

FredR said...

That song "somebody that I used to know" is really good.

Reg Cæsar said...

Re my reply to the replier to Stari's reply to whomever above, Smokey Robinson referenced Pagliacci in "Tears of a Clown."

Do any of today's white kids, in Europe or North America, have a clue who Pagliacci was? (Actually, were.) Hell, in 1969 I had to ask my father. But at least I had heard of the character, if not his name.







agnostic said...

"No mention of Swedish House Mafia in the post or comments?"

That's a good point -- it's not just pop/rock/rap music that the Scandinavians have turned into bland porridge, but electronic and dance music too.

Sure, ABBA wrote some great dance music, but again most of the best came from the Celtic part of Europe, where folk dancing is a lot livelier and there's a stronger culture of rambunctious merriment in public.

You see the same trends with heavy metal as well. In the good old days, it was almost all British and American, and they drew more on the Celts for their stoned-out connection with the mystical ancient past. As well as more exotic ancient cultures like the Egyptians for Iron Maiden's Powerslave.

Sometime during the '90s, metal dropped the rollicking good time of the '70s and '80s and switched over to brooding, hostile, suicidal Nordic metal. It's all about angry growling at the rest of the world, i.e. for dorks.

They don't try to unite the fans like they used to. Judas Priest had two songs on that very theme -- "United" and "Take on the World". You're just supposed to stew in bitterness in your room with the door locked.

The mythology they draw on is like Wagner's a kind of uber-campy butchified Nordic/Gothic caricature. You don't see the interest in exotic or primitive cultures anymore.

BB said...

Good composers aren´t necessariy good performers. Richards/Jagger are the exception, not the rule.
Also companies look for different type of artists when marketing their music. They want to see Rihanna, Katy Perry or Adam Levine on stage and on TV, not some random dude with musical talent but without striking looks an/or performing skills.
Moreover, good voices are pretty rare while playing the guitar and coming up with some chords is comparatively easy.

agnostic said...

Pop songs in the key of Ikea.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia always fails to mention when someone isn't related to someone. What a weirdly autistic thing to expect an encyclopedia article to mention.

Anonymous said...

"I think it's clear that the average age of iSteve commenters is 55, and that they think music peaked in the mid 1980's!"


No, some of us admit it peaked before we were born.



You remind me of Richard Weaver, who pinpointed the decisive moment in the Decline Of The West as the development of nominalism in the 13th century. It's all been downhill from there!

Anonymous said...

they were inspired by the black sound and soul


No, not really. Once you start digging into musical history you quickly discover that "black music" is an imaginary category. The "black sound" was heavily influenced by the "white sound".

Anonymous said...

Actually Europeans are rather good at making quality pop-music.
For example,these Norwegian producers known as Stargate team have made a couple of hits for some black US artists.

not a hacker said...

I think it's clear that the average age of iSteve commenters is 55, and that they think music peaked in the mid 1980's!

Guilty. On the other hand, recently I walked by a fraternity on the Berkeley campus and they had Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" album blasting out the second story.

pat said...

Musical ability is one of those abilities that is separate from general mental abilities. It is not part of Spearman's "g".

Musical ability seems to be located in or around the posterior anterior gyrus not the frontal lobes. This may be why it is independent from intelligence.

I have known at least one world class conductor very well (Kent Nagano). I have a good feeling for what qualities are required beyond simple musical ability to allow you to succeed at that level. I have never known any great composers but I certainly knew a lot of bad ones. While an undergraduate I attended many recitals of new original musical compositions. My second wife - as a conservatory student - heard even more. Every music school has a composition department. Neither of us ever heard anything that was any good. Music students are required to listen to the performances of their composition colleagues. They do not enjoy it.

Symphony orchestras worldwide have no trouble finding superb musicians for the thousands of opening that they have every year. But almost no one is available to write a really good new cantata or sonata. Compositional talent as opposed to mere musical talent is very, very rare.

Conductors also need organizational ability and people skills. These are not required for composition. What else it is that is required, remains a bit mysterious.

And then there is the strange case or Irving Berlin. Berlin was just like Andrew Lloyd Webber - except backwards In every Webber musical there is one, and only one, real hit. In most Berlin musicals there was only one song that was not a hit. Trust me, you know every song in "Annie Get Your Gun" and you can't whistle anything from "Evita" except "Don't Cry for me Argentina".

Berlin was phenomenon but was he a musician? Everyone knows about his tricked out piano that helped conceal his limitations. He also hired "real" musicians to assist him with the less important parts - writing down the actual music. He had something else.

If he could get into a music school he likely couldn't stay in. By some lights he wasn't a real musician at all.

Richard Rogers who was almost as phenomenal a tune-smith as Berlin couldn't orchestrate. I doubt if he could have graduated from a conservatory either.

Composition ability is very rare and very odd.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

good voices are pretty rare


I don't think that was true , even before auto-tune. And it's certainly not true after it.

Truth said...

If one were to ask about Nat King Cole's signature song to someone of his era it would probably be "Mona Lisa", "Unforgettable" or "Route 66."

Truth said...

Nat King Cole is not particularly indentified with Stardust:

Mitchell Parish wrote lyrics for the song, based on his own and Carmichael's ideas, which were published in 1929. A slower version had been recorded in October 1928, but the real transformation came on May 16, 1930, when bandleader Isham Jones recorded it as a sentimental ballad.[5]
[edit]Covers

Jones' recording became the first of many hit versions of the tune. Young baritone sensation Bing Crosby released a version in 1931, and by the following year, over two dozen bands had recorded "Stardust." It was then covered by almost every prominent band of that era. Versions have been recorded by Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Tommy Dorsey, Tex Beneke with The Glenn Miller Orchestra (Recorded in New York City on February 1, 1947 and released by RCA Victor Records as catalogue number 20-2016B[6] and by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalogue number BD 5968), Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Doris Day, Jan Garber, Fumio Nanri, Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole (considered by many to be the best), Mel Tormé, Connie Francis, Jean Sablon, Keely Smith, Terumasa Hino, Harry Connick Jr, Ella Fitzgerald, Olavi Virta, The Peanuts, Django Reinhardt, Barry Manilow, John Coltrane, Earl Grant, Willie Nelson, Billy Ward and His Dominoes, George Benson,

DaveinHackensack said...

"Er, isn't today's pop music kinda, well, crap."

"Blow me one last kiss" is a catchy, well-crafted pop song. The video is a fun faux-retro romp too, and Pink looks great with the old-timey hairdo. Turn up the volume and enjoy. Not everything sucks today.

Anonymous said...

"Britain's' contribution to classical music isn't THAT bad."

Vaughan-Willams' Tallis Fantasia and The Lark Ascending. Sublime.

How about Walter Leigh, killed at Tobruk in 1942? But from his music he could have been killed at Fontenoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAF90oIe4Fw

Simon in London said...

anon:
"I think it's clear that the average age of iSteve commenters is 55, and that they think music peaked in the mid 1980's!"

I just turned 40, and I know music (and cinema) peaked in 1984!

Anonymous said...

How do Asians fit into all this?

Anonymous said...

>Er, isn't today's pop music, well, crap.

No. Whiney 90s pop music was crap. 70s pop had some real crap (trust me, the first album I ever bought was Firefall). Today's pop has absorbed the dumb fun of good rap and knows how to mix it into the standard disco house party stuff as that mellows a blah too far. As to 60s rock being stolen from black music, yes of course, as well as from everyone else they could steal from, and all the better for it. But can you really see the Beatles stealing more from the blues than from old school British Music Halls? A little song, a big dance, a cocky slant-eyed Irish tenor and send in the girls!

travis said...

The knack for catchy pop music comes more from the redheaded rather than the blond part of Europe. Celts are less domesticated than Nords, and those are the kind of names that I see over-represented among songwriting credits from the good old days.

You say "domesticated"; I say "robotic." Bob Dylan adopted a Celtic persona. He took his name from the poet Dylan Thomas; however, his greatest inspiration was Robert Burns.

I don't know what to say about this "pale male" music. It sounds rather soulless to me, and great lyrics always come from the soul.

Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burning coal
Pouring off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue

DaveinHackensack said...

"As to 60s rock being stolen from black music, yes of course, as well as from everyone else they could steal from, and all the better for it."

Sure, you could say the same about Led Zeppelin, though of course they were active mainly in the '70s. In their first couple of albums they demonstrated they could play the blues, and then they opened up to broader influences from there (Jimmy Page's "CIA" -- Celtic, Indian, Arabic -- connection).

jody said...

i've been charting the decline of american popular music for years, and 2012 may have been it's nadir. although it gets hard to say when something has either peaked or hit rock bottom, when you're in the middle of it. nevertheless, 2012 was easily the worst year for american music, relatively speaking, in 60 years. the american music scene has never been less genuinely vibrant, creative, or interesting. let's review the evidence.

the top selling CDs of 2012:
1) adele - 21. not only is this british, it was released in january 2011! that's almost 2 years ago!

2) taylor swift - red. unlike her other albums, this a collection of pop songs written by foreigners.

3) one direction - up all night. a british boy band. and, like adele's ablum, this was released in 2011!

4) mumford & sons - babel. a british folk band

5) one direction - take me home. these guys again?!

6) justin bieber - believe. a canadian.

we'll stop there, as it's evident, americans were totally routed in their own country in CD sales.

jody said...

but that's not all jody, you say. CD sales are falling every year, and don't account for everything happening.

well, that's true. so let's look at other indicators.

best selling music download in 2012: gotye - somebody that i used to know. an australian.

most watched youtube music video in 2012: psy - gangnam style. a korean.

the most famous musician at the moment: justin bieber. a completely bland, unremarkable canadian hukster of inoffensive, quickly forgettable studio produced pop songs.

it gets even worse when we look at the top selling tours of 2012:

1 madonna
2 bruce springsteen
3 roger waters
4 cirque du soleil does michael jackson!
5 coldplay
6 lady gaga
7 kenny chesney & tim mcgraw
8 van halen
9 jay-z & kanye west
10 andrew rieu

here we have the supremacy of the 80s on full display, with contemporary music far behind. the current dysfunctional version of van halen outdrawing jay-z & kanye west TOGETHER, and ancient relic madonna smashing everybody.

the rappers are lucky none of the major old rock bands are on tour this year or they wouldn't have even made the top 10. justin bieber, the most visible musician in the world right today, does not even appear on the list until down at number 20.

all data were pulled from billboard.com using their soundscan information.

jody said...

"It could be that changes in music technology have put the music crafting advantage back in the hands of white guys who are good at being creative while sitting alone in a room with precision devices."

they've never not been on top. i remember charting rap sales in the US 10 years ago, when rap was at it's sales peak and white guys had started to lose interest in making popular music and were leaving the industry, and rock sales were crashing. when rock sales were crashing and rap sales were all their all-time high, rock was still outselling rap 2 to 1.

i've defended black americans against charges that they haven't made important contributions to music or that all they ever made was crap, neither of which i think is true. however, the recent idea that black americans dominate music seems to be a media created perception. they certainly don't.

they are great at making pop music. but they don't come even close to 50% of sales in the US, let alone worldwide. i calculated their peak "market share" of sales in the US as around 35% at it's peak, don't remember the exact year though i think it was in the 90s. worldwide they never came close to 30%. today their US "market share" is probably below 25%, though i've lost a huge amount of interest in music, so i don't study this stuff much anymore.

once you get outside of popular music, africans just disappear. they barely participate in any other styles of music.

jody said...

as far as steve's comment about the advent of the electronic studio, i've been thinking for a while now that it's actually the opposite.

the electronic studio enabled africans in the US to ditch instruments and just make simple music on keyboards and drum machines using synthesizers and loops, taking a lot of the skill out of it and reducing the talent level needed to write a catchy pop song.

this has run it's course though. now when black americans go in the studio, it's mostly crap coming out. and with the advent of auto tune for voices, the talent level needed has dropped even further. the era of genuinely vibrant rap is over, and today all these guys do is pump out generic garbage, which is easy and inexpensive to produce. the african music scene in the US today is anything but vibrant.

their music in 2013 is pretty drab and boring, and that's when it's not being obnoxious or just straight up garbage. because things change over time, it is not certain that the electronic studio spells the end of anything dynamic coming from black americans again, but i don't see anything on the near horizon.

Anonymous said...

As to 60s rock being stolen from black music, yes of course


No, that's an idiotic myth. But a myth which has taken on the status of unassailable an uncontested Truth.

Blues was never "black" music. And we were not always at war with East-Asia.

wren said...

So, a black woman with blue lips, Scandi guy, blonde woman, and some other future hipsters walk into the desert to race greyhounds.

The winner? Absolut Vodka.

Curiously missing: Asian chicks and any hint of soul.

The greyhounds are, yes, Swedish House Mafia.

wren said...

Agnostic:

I hear a lot of stuff without knowing who makes it, so when youtube and wikipedia told me that this guy was actually a Swedish DJ, remixer, model, and record producer, I got a good feeling!

Volksvethetzer said...

English is a Scandinavian language, if you look at grammar only, so English is really simple to learn for a Scandinavian.

We don't for instance learn English grammar in school, even though we start with English in the first grade, as the goal is to get the pupils to develop a feeling for what is correct, like if they spoke their own language.

We also have long winters, where young children can develop their skills without getting disturbed by something fun. The last part seems to be important, as international musical fame is a career of rural people foremost.

Perhaps most important, Scandinavians are expected to form families fairly late, so they have 10 years where they can go for their dream, and become a musical teacher or something else, if it did not work out.

The social welfare system has also feed quite a number of Scandinavian musicians, and is probably another reason why people dare to try to live from their music.

Stockholm has become the capital of songwriting, as they have quite the hub for musicians, songwriters and producers. Many Scandinavians go there when they find out that they don't have a chance of their own career as a star, but can make a good living writing for the stars.

By living in Stockholm, they get to meet all the important people, so that they for instance can upload their songs to closed networks, where stars browse for new material.

You also have these guys, that are pretty big in pop music:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stargate_(production_team)

Nick Diaz said...

@Franke

"Don't worry, since Nick Diaz said its all due to money it can't possibly have an HBD component."

You try becoming a great song writer when you are "living" on 300 calories a day and constantly fearing for your life. Are the conditions in, say, Sierra Leone conductive for a song writer to flourish his talento?

As for thse Germans and Swedes, all their accomplshments happened in the past 600 years with almost nothing of notice before that. Since to you guys genes are all that matter, then explain why since the late Paleolithic Era until a few centuries ago all those genetic ûbermen were completely devoid of accomplishments? Read Tacitus and he will describe what the ancients thought of your ancestors - the bulk of White Americans are of northwestern European ancestry. They spoke about the Germans in even WORSE terms than you guys talk about blacks. They were savages living in flea-infested villages. They lived in HUTS and ate raw meat, and their homicide rate was at least 100 X and more likely 1,000 X worse than the worst Latino "barrio" or black "hood" you can think of.

As for Steve Sailer's "Human Biodiversity" theory and "Human Biodiversity Institute", the problem that I have with them is that they are just fronts to cover what Sailer really wants to say, namely, that Latin Americans are innately inferior to Americans and thus shouldn't be allowed to immigrate to America. What Sailer really wants to say is:

"Those Latin Americans have an inferior civilization because they are biologically inferior to White Americans, so I want them to get the hell out of my country!"

But he cannot say that because that is bad for his brand, so he created his "Human Biodiversity Institute" as a proxy for saying that. I know it and he knows it. He wants the reader to look through it and say to himself:

"Hmm...if humans differ biologically, maybe the reason why those blacks and Latinos are so poor and violent is because they are biologically prone to it, so maybe mass immigration from Latin America is a bad idea".

What pisses me off is Sailer's disengenuity and cynicism. He created his Human Biodiversity Institute as a proxy to argue for less immigration from Latin America. Simple as that. I would respect him more if he simply stated it flat out instead of resorting to subterfuge. I would still find him disgusting, but I would respect him more.



wren said...

Volksvethetzer:

AWOLNATION, one of my favorite American bands (singers?) will be in Sweden next week.

I think he puts on a good show, especially if you've checked out his music ahead of time.

Anonymous said...

"i've been charting the decline of american popular music for years, and 2012 may have been it's nadir."

and everywhere:

they might as well be computer-generated.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTDg0aMPSgA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiqisBz-xW8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iW2EXDzFNxU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pCR7pSnVn0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zhn82JsTQGk

Actually, I prefer this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9KQbbheFcM

At least back to reality.


TGGP said...

Blech, drum machines and synths as far as the eye can see. Scandinavians with fiddles, burning fiddles, aren't so bad.

It also used to be the case that songwriters tended to be Jewish. Is that another instance of Unz' decline of Ashkenazi achievement?

TGGP said...

A funny instance of that songwriters being Jewish bit, it's Steve Goodman who is credited with making David Allan Coe's 'You Never Even Called Me By My Name" the perfect country & western tune. Coe's underground albums are chock-full of humorous racism & misogyny, and oddly enough a pro-homosexual anti-Anita Bryant tune.

Volksverhetzer said...

"As for thse Germans and Swedes, all their accomplshments happened in the past 600 years with almost nothing of notice before that."

You should visit the Danish National Museum, as Denmark used to contain some of the richest parts of both Sweden and Germany, and they have a good English web exhibition, covering the timespan from the stone age to 1050 AD.

http://natmus.dk/en/historisk-viden/danmark/prehistoric-time-till-1050ad/

"They were savages living in flea-infested villages."

You have kind of managed to disregard the one thing that separates Germanics from most of the rest. They did not live in villages.

Not until the 30 year war, did the Germans start living in villages, and the English and Scots are latecomers to village life as well, IIRC. Scandinavia has never had villages.

As for flea infested, I kind of doubt it. When the winters are so cold as in Germany or Scandinavia, you could kill the bugs by letting your house deep freeze during a cold spell.

The traditional way to clean a house and a family was to get really clean and bug free, take on deep frozen clothes, and then visit som friends until the house was completely frozen.

Anonymous said...

You try becoming a great song writer when you are "living" on 300 calories a day and constantly fearing for your life.

Kurt Cobain wrote some of his best songs during such a time in his life.

Anonymous said...

Read Tacitus and he will describe what the ancients thought of your ancestors - the bulk of White Americans are of northwestern European ancestry. They spoke about the Germans in even WORSE terms than you guys talk about blacks. They were savages living in flea-infested villages.




Strange, you can read what Tacitus though of the Germans here, and it's almost uniformly praise for them. Not a single mention of "fleas".


You've never actually read anything by Tacitius, have you?

Anonymous said...

they might as well be computer-generated. ated
They are are
Aren't they? They?

(Slow bit.)

Notice how how
Words or fragments repeat peat
Because that is what what
The public wants wants

Anonymous said...

"Moreover, good voices are pretty rare while playing the guitar and coming up with some chords is comparatively easy."

If you consider playing 3 chords adequate, then yes guitar is easy. If one considers Mick Jagger to be a good singer, then singing is pretty easy too. Neither ability is that rare when the bar is set that low. The only Richards has a gift for is not dying.

speed bump said...

Personally I'm most impressed with film tracks. Hans Zimmer, of course. They are gob-smacking. I think it's because they are written for something, with a compelling theme in mind. Music often has been. Modern pop is unique for its disposability.
Oh--and most film tracks are written by white guys, though I don't know how pale they all are.
This youtube compilation was put together by a white guy, as are all the composers. The soundtracks get more than half a millions hits easily. I think it catching on
My favorites--the haunting Inception, by Zimmer; Breath of Life, first on the track; and the Surface of the Sun.
And somehow amidst all this electronic music, sits For Those in Peril on the Sea (Crimson Tide) and something by Bach.

speed bump said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzzGcAQiug0
Soundtacks for 2012 from Breath of Life (Adjustment Bureau), Heart of Courage (Narnia Chronicles, to Last of the Mohicans, to Inception, to a tinkly number from a 60s western.
Breathtaking and hypnotic.

french quarter said...

Circa 1997, I learned that my friend's nephew, age about 13, listened to Janis Joplin and various 60s people.
The 60s just won't go away.
While blacks didn't invent the instruments they use, musical notation, or even most of the lyrics, they do have a distinctive sound that you recognize immediately. It's not a myth. More of them really can sing in a full voice, and carry a tune, than other races. What is called "black music" is their sound. When they played or sang classical music, they gave it a kind of slackness that was called "jazzy.' Jazz can be traced back to "mulatto" musicians who had been educated, often in Europe, by white fathers. yes, that sort of thing really did go on. After the Civil War, the mulatto class lost their special place and were grouped with blacks. They used to have their own orchestras and sometimes performed in concert halls. Towards the late 1800s, they actually found fewer and fewer opportunities, and began to play in dance halls. They mixed it with old French and Spanish tune, and probably African, though African music I've heard sounds nothing like black American music. Ragtime was the result. Musicologists, who have studied the trajectory of jazz, have traced it straight back to classical music and classically trained musicians, usually of mixed racial origins.

Steve Sailer said...

There's a Wikipedia article somewhere with a list of a dozen or so 19th Century New Orleans Creoles of Color who traveled to France to study music.

speed bump said...

The Germans were not that badly thought of by Romans, considering they fought bitter wars. People in backwaters, aways from the centers of civilization, have always be mocked.
However, there is stupidity that comes from isolation and stupidity that comes from within. Nobody gave the Germans free education, welfare, medical care, phsyicians without borders, affirmative action, airplanes for emmigration, free education, free libraries, free inventions they never had themselves.
No. Those dumb Germans -- and Belgians, and Brits, and Scandis, and Gauls, and the rest of Italy, had to invent it all from scratch. Oh--well-- Arab (actually more Persian) civilization just after its peak, did the Crusaders a lot of ideas. But lord what they did with those ideas.

You do not really have any analogy that makes any sense. The "minorities" in today's first world countries have access to all the advantages of a civilization they did not themselves invent. It's already been built.

asterix said...

"They were savages living in flea-infested villages"

They were not savages. They were barbarians. There is a difference, much discussed by anthropologists, even in this PC era.

The tribes of Europe had a level of develpoment (you don't really know much about them, you just fantasize) that corresponded with "barbarian", not savage.
Savages are stone age. Barbarians are metal workers. Even if they don't invent writing, they find it easy to acquire and assimilate it into their culture, if they come into contact with a reading/writing culture. This is something sub-Saharan Africans never did, despite being in frequent contact with literate cultures like the Arabs. The only black African culture to have developed writing were the Ethiopians, who were partly Semitic. Other criteria are the level of social development. Many American Indians might better be described as "barbarians" than "savages."
However, we can all sink back into those phases easily, in certain circumstances.

As for fleas, Northern Europeans had effective ways of ridding their dwellings of bugs, as described here already. They were unlikely to have been chronically "fea ridden." Cold took care of that, as did burning certain herbs.

That said, the Black Forest was not the City of Rome.

The barbarians are said to have sacked Rome, but in fact it was long in decline. By the time they sacked it, it was probably like sacking Detroit.
Slight exaggeration, but not too much.

stari_momak said...

Mona Lisa was written by two (presumably white) Jewish guys. "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66" was written by Dr. Joe Early from Emergency!

Bobby Troop had an econ degree from Wharton, where he was also in ∑AE. Can't get much whiter than that. Oh wait, maybe you can -- by marrying Julie London (whose first husband was Jack Webb, as in Dragnet).

Troop did have experience around a lot of blacks, as an officer at a black recruiting station during WWII. So maybe he picked up so 'soul' there.