There's an old truism that pop music supposedly gets better during economic downturns. I don't necessarily agree with this - in a capitalist system there's hardship for some sectors of the population all the time, and a lot of the happy-time music is great too. But certainly there's quality to be had in the darker or more desperately escapist music popularly associated with recessions. For whatever reasons, not necessarily just economical, music often weaves in and out of happiness and darkness, as anyone who's read Energy Flash can attest.
So I'm wondering, has any reader noticed any trends in music that could be somehow attributed to the current economic recession? I guess it's probably a little early to tell yet, but I'm definitely keeping my eye out for it during the next few months. In fact, there's only one genre where I'm properly sensing it at the moment. And strangely enough, that genre is the once so slick R&B.
I've had a huge surge in my interest in R&B in the past few months, downloading massive amounts from Im1 and (in the past few weeks) following great new R&B blog Plain Gold. The genre is certainly as fascinating as its ever been. A lot of the best stuff right now is made by songwriter-producer-singers like The Dream and James Fauntleroy, and the breadth even within the single artistic oeuvre is staggering.
And that definitely includes music that plays right into the recession. To take a couple of examples from Plain Gold's current best of 2008 list: the angsty, desperately militaristic "16 at War" by Karina Paisan and the plaintive, dislocated "Heated" by James Fauntleroy. You can feel the icy synth pads piercing and weaving through the multi-layered desperation, a perverted twighlight on the most exuberant Miami sound a few years ago.
But my absolutely favourite song recently has been "Keep Dancing" by Ciara featuring The Dream. Perhaps the best recession song in decades, it encapsulates both the sombre menace and dionysian abandon of the hopeless, in an endless, maddening dance leading to bitter-sweet insanity and final dissolution. Love, death and escape enveloping each other in an endless vortex of serenity and shadow. Could it be the best melancholic song about dancing since Delroy Wilson?
I know several of these songs were produced before the bunt of the meltdown and that they're part of a field that includes a whole lot of other stuff. But nevertheless, this is the kind of music I'd want as the soundtrack to my recession.