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Another New Year's Day?: Moving Mountains of Mediocre Music in 2005
A songTALK by psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. B.L.T.
***Phantom Tollbooth readers: For a free copy of Another New Year's Day, the alt rock one-song soundtrack to this article, a song designed to "set the tone" for what you are about to read, please visit:
By the time you read this, 2005 will likely be off to an auspicious beginning, after a spirited New Year's Eve Winterfest, hosted by Liberty University, featuring stellar Christian acts like KJ-52, Casting Crows, Audio Adrenaline and Sarah Kelly. It will surely be a shot in the arm to a culture bereft of depth in 2004. In a year when Britney Spears was named Top Star of 2004 by the TV show, Access Hollywood, every sign of life in this musical corpse of 2004 is a welcome one. When one of the most praised music videos of the year was Eminem's "Just Lose It," I fear that the music industry itself is losing it. Eminem’s song, "Stan," and the corresponding music video was an example of genius at its best. Though I never condoned a single cuss word, I even attached therapeutic and artistic value to "Cleaning My Closet." But in "Just Lose It," Eminem resorts to hackneyed, adolescent tricks, fueled by crude images I would like to leave behind in 2005. They were simply too graphic to let go of in 2004. U2 showed signs of life in 2004, with the release of an edgy and spirited How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. But, while I applaud the artistic value of subtlety, and I'm no admirer of in-your-face preachy Christian music, finding the Christian message in U2's music is beginning to be every bit as difficult as finding the needle of a turntable in a DJ’s haystack of records.
Where will the musical salt of the earth come from in 2005? I don't expect to find it in 50 Cent's February 15 release of "The Valentine's Day Massacre." At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll say it again: Though 50 Cent sleeps, eats and drinks rhythm, when it comes to conveying values, he is a day late and a dollar short. Dr. Dre produced Disco Inferno, the first single from this highly anticipated release, but to borrow from U2, the band I just criticized, I'm looking for an "Unforgettable Fire," and, as I've been perusing the internet for the most highly anticipated releases of 2005, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," at least not within the musical community often mislabeled "secular."
Some of the most promising signs of life come from rumors of reunions, one by The Who, and one by Cream. Not to mention another album by The Rolling Stones, the band that takes a licking, but keeps on ticking (maybe its the Bran Flakes). These bands have passed many a test of artistic integrity. Most importantly, they have stood up to the test of time. By the same token, what turns on these bands? What makes them tick? Plugging in to any source other than the Holy Spirit for inspiration, is like plugging an electrical guitar into an electrical outlet after the breaker has snapped. To boldly and unapologetically mix my metaphors, there's plenty of juice, but its all made from concentrate, and it contains mostly artificial ingredients.
Younger acts also offer a silver lining in 2005. I expect more great stuff from Beck as he plans to release a new CD in the spring. It includes a collaboration with Jack White, one of the most prolific artists/produces of 2004, the one who produced “Van Lear Rose,” one of the best, if not, the best album of 2004, when he collaborated with country legend, Loretta Lynn. Nine Inch Nails, Foo Fighters, Moby, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Oasis will likely offer new material in 2005. In terms of creative music, and clever lyrics, I'm not expecting any of these releases to be too disappointing. But I'm looking from something more than spectacular. I'm looking for something supernatural. It may not come from the usual suspects, and I'm hoping that somebody surprises me. But, as for now, I'm expecting the most meaningful, least mediocre rock music to come from artists like Mercy Me, Switchfoot, P.O.D., and Casting Crows, who boldly embrace the message of the gospel and generously offer large helpings of it in on every single disc dish.
2004 was a year of comebacks for Morissey, The Pixies, Motley Crue and Tears for Fears. It was also a year for losses. The Christian community was greeted with the unwelcome news that the sanctified ska group, O.C. Supertoneswas calling it quits. We lost Johnny Ramone of the Ramones to cancer. We lost Rick James to what appears to be complications of years of drug abuse. We lost metal guitarist Dimebag Darrel, founding member of Pantera to murder. We lost Ray Charles, and that cut was the deepest, at least for me, for his music was the most soulful of all.
I'd like to see musical sincerity and lyrical depth make a comeback in 2005. I'd like to say good-bye to mediocrity in music. I'd like to say good-bye to lyrical superficiality, negativity and vulgarity. I'd hate to see New Years Day, 2005 become just “Another New Year's Day.” I'd hate to see the New Year become just as depleted of life by the forces of spiritual depravity and darkness as 2004 was. I'm looking for something real. I'm in search of something righteous. I'm looking for artists who will make a joyful noise. I have at least a half a mustard seed of faith, but that's not enough to believe that deleterious musical forces will disappear in the new year. However, if one of you with a half of a mustard seed will connect it to my half a mustard seed, together we can move mountains of musical mediocrity in 2005!
By the way, HAPPY NEW YEAR
from me, Dr. B.L.T.