2016-03-23

In Two Decades We've Lost The Ability To Understand Pop Music


The article making making the rounds this morning was an interview in Vulture with the Hanson brothers, on the twentieth anniversary of their infectious breakout hit, "MMMBop." Hanson was never a truly great band, but I thought they were better than they got credit for being. The interview itself is rather interesting, and provides insight into the fact that Hanson was a band composed of actual songwriters.

But the part of the interview that's causing a stir is this:
Have you heard any good covers of it over the years?
T.H.: I gotta be honest: No. 
I.H.: You know why? People can’t sing the chorus right. Most of the time they syncopate it wrong.

Z.H.: I think “MMMBop” probably needs a really good cover … 
T.H.: Someone needs to either make it totally their own in a genuinely unique way, or it needs to be a band that has a sensibility for old R&B. Fitz and the Tantrums could maybe do it … 
I.H.: If Bruno Mars were interested, he’d probably find a way to kill it.
In the opinion of the Hanson brothers, the problem with all the covers of their most famous song is that people can't play the rhythm correctly. This has incited a lot of media eye-rolling.

Emily J of KISS FM 92.1 writes this:
So, what exactly have we all been messing up since 1996? Syncopation. Yeah, I’m not sure any of us know what that is. Ok, I take that back, any of us who aren’t musicians probably don’t know what that is. But, according to Hanson even musicians are not up to the bands standards. Everyone from One Direction to Phish have covered “MMMBop” and, so far, no band has sang the syncopated chorus correctly.
Hello Giggles comments with dripping sarcasm, "SOOO, apparently, we’re getting the syncopation wrong. The word “MMMBop” must be said *just* so." Uproxx writes with tongue in cheek, "Pay close attention to that syncopation, y’all."

I don't think people understand the severity of the problem. "MMMBop" was 1997's throw-away hit, a song and a band universally derided as being uncool, unmusical, and everything that was wrong with corporate music. In a sense, despite being a hit, it was considered to be the worst of the worst.

And yet, twenty years later, people can't really even seem to get the rhythm of it right.

When people ask me why I blame musicians for the slow death of music, this is the kind of thing that comes to mind.