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ISSUE 116 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/20/2002

From Image to Message

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 20, 2002

Where did they all go? A year ago N*Sync and the Backstreet Boys were dancing their way across television screens and into the hearts of 11-year-old girls everywhere. Britney Spears had just released another album and was threatening world domination, and Christina Aguilera had just "come on over" with her rather interesting wardrobe. A year later, N*Sync has taken a break, with one member going solo and another going to Russia to become a cosmonaut. The Backstreet Boys have all but fallen off the face of the earth, except for one, who was very much on earth, in rehab. Britney cut her last tour short because she was tired of being booed, and Christina still has her "interesting" wardrobe but nothing in terms of media attention. My, how times have changed. This shift was not entirely unexpected. Pop music tends to be cyclical. After the mundane and conformist 50s, rock-and-roll music exploded in the late 50s and 60s. When this no longer reflected the views of the youth of America, artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan made music more radical and political. After the Vietnam War, there was backlash against this extremism. Soon singer-songwriters such as James Taylor and Cat Stevens, and family acts such as the Jackson 5 and the Osmonds, gained popularity. This cycle continues today. The latest series of backlashes being from Nirvana to the boy bands to todays crop of new artists. The most recent shift was inevitable, but its direction could have gone in two ways. A return to the rage-driven rock of the 90s seemed the most likely direction, but this was squashed by the events of a little more than a year ago. People no longer wanted to listen to songs about death and destruction. They already felt they were inescapable parts of their lives. Instead, people have turned to music that soothes their souls. If you turn on a top 40 radio station today, you are much more likely to hear mellow, more meaningful music than in past years. This music is more about message than image. However, record executives have discovered that not having an image is a very marketable image to have. Artists such as John Mayer, Jack Johnson and Howie Day acknowledge that they are just guys with guitars, and they dont apologize. Norah Jones and Vanessa Carlton have also decided to let their music do the talking, instead of skimpy clothes and flashy dance moves. Even the original imageless artists, such as Bruce Springsteen and James Taylor have found a new group of fans, many whose parents listened to these artists during similar situations 30 years ago. While it is impossible to know how long this current music trend will last, the least we can do is enjoy it. As the country returns back to normal, so will the music. Bring on the boy bands.

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