For some, it’s just a vague, nagging suspicion that new music sucks–while others can get positively histrionic about it. But the vast majority of us are too well aware, to one degree or another, that we’re experiencing what is likely the worst period in popular music ever. That’s no hyperbole. Think of how many times we all must have heard chart toppers by Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus, and then damned if, at the end of the day, we can honestly tell the difference between the one generic lump of ear candy from the other. And while it might seem like the sort of rant you’d expect from any octogenarian who doesn’t “get” youth culture, Tony Bennett has confirmed what everyone who’s passed the 9th grade is thinking: modern music is “terrible.”
The well-weathered crooner, now 87, had this to say to BBC Radio: “The songs that are written today, most of them are terrible. It’s a very bad period, musically, throughout the world for popular music.” That one of the few living vestiges of the swing era should say such a thing is, in a sense, unsurprising. A number of the so-called Greatest Generation didn’t understand what their children saw in that noisy Beatles racket, and those Boomers, in turn, didn’t know what to make of their kids with their crazy Nine Inch Nails. But never mind Tony’s age–his point ought to resonate with anyone who’s got two discerning ears on their heads.
Bennett doesn’t fault the listeners who’ve got no recourse but to accept what their Pandora channels present them with—nor does he think the artists themselves are necessarily to blame. Rather, like all things in life, it’s the soulless corporate heads in search of a quick dollar responsible for the mess. “They think the public is ignorant,” he says of music industry chiefs, “so their attitude is, ‘Don’t give them anything intelligent, because it won’t sell.'” Sadly, that strategy seems to have worked; in the absence of lyrical profundities like “Blowin’ in the Wind” to shake our asses to, it’s going to be wordsmithing like “Baby baby baby baby baby” that pays for Bieber’s next six Lamborghinis.