Modern music is crap – is WAP as good as Dylan?

Wet A** P*ssy is “the defining song of 2020” according to so-called critics/journalists who make a living fawning over this crap. WAP debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 100. For weeks it squatted atop the charts like a sweaty naked fat woman on a toilet.  

In “the raunchiest set the Grammy’s have ever seen” that annual television info-award-mercial featured a live performance of WAP. Incompetently acclaimed and shamelessly promoted by those same so-called critics/journalists, the spectacle held all the artistry of a Mexican border town donkey show.

It’s no coincidence that television ratings for the Grammy’s were down 53% this year. I agree with the fawning fools on one thing, however: This is indeed the defining song of 2020.

I grew up half a century ago in a golden age of music. We remember the dawning of rock and roll, with talented and creative bands like The Who and The Eagles, some of the best guitarists the world has seen such as Mark Knopfler and Jimmie Hendrix, and genius lyricists like Bob Dylan (sorry, I can’t put another in Dylan’s class).

We sometimes forget that it wasn’t just mainstream rock and roll that rocked in those days, though rock was where most of the money was. Rock itself was rooted in rhythm and blues like James Brown, Aretha Franklin and, later with a different take on it, Elvis Presley.

Setting the stage for R & B was jazz. Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Charlie “Bird” Parker and Billie Holliday come to mind.

On a different track were Broadway musicians. West Side Story, Singin’ in the Rain and Grease look kitschy now, but only because they were so good and so popular that they’ve become clichés.

These people were black, brown, white, Jewish, pagan, Presbyterian and you-name-it. The one thing they had in common is that they were musicians.

Not so today. Does anyone seriously compare the lyrics of Taylor Swift with those of Paul Simon? Does anyone think the guitar-players in BTS are the equal of Eric Clapton? Is Dirty Honey as good as The Rolling Stones?

Alas, even in fathers and sons, it’s the father who had the talent. Does anyone think Bob Marley’s shoes will be filled by his son Ziggy?

Compare two sets of lyrics that might be rooted in similar emotions, expressed pornographically in WAP and poetically by Bob Dylan:

“Beat it up, n*gga, catch a charge
Extra large and extra hard
Put this p*ssy right in your face
Swipe your nose like a credit card”

And:

“Well, I’m livin’ in a foreign country but I’m bound to cross the line,
Beauty walks a razor’s edge, someday I’ll make it mine,
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born,
Come in, she said, I’ll give ya
Shelter from the storm.”

So what’s happening? Maybe the degradation of music is because, like so much in modern culture, music is no longer about artistry. It’s not designed to be beautiful – that takes too much effort and skill – but to provoke a reaction. When provocation gets stale, as it always does, the promoters take it a step further by resorting to shock. It’s not really music at all. It’s music porn.

OK, but why is that? Why does our culture choose shock over art, porn over beauty? Why are we so shallow, talentless, obvious and stupid today?

I don’t know. But it’s time we start to ask.

Next column: Modern art is crap – is Jackson Pollock as good as The Aspen Beat?  

45 thoughts on “Modern music is crap – is WAP as good as Dylan?

  1. One certainly has to wonder where has all the lyricist talent gone. Freshman year in college aced an English term paper by comparing rock and roll lyrics on the day ( heavy focus on Hayward/Lodge) to Victorian love poetry. Aced it. And we had the story tellers of the 70’s – Croce, Chapin, Simon. Truly a golden era.

  2. Glenn, you could pick any topic and find the warped thought process is the hallmark of the content, today. It pervades everything. It is the mark of a degraded, going-insane society. At this point the only solution is the utter destruction necessary to rebuild it from the ground up.

  3. At the risk of being cancelled (or whatever it is that they do), we have people who want to see total integration of white and Black culture – without further delay. Until middle class whites are driving around in ridiculous overpriced cars with flashy wheels and foam dice hanging on the rearview, wearing gold chains and engaging in wanton violence it ain’t gonna happen. So guess what their answer is . . .

  4. In television parlance, I believe that what the Music Industry did last week (based only on what I’ve read because I didn’t watch any of it), would be called “Jumping The Shark.”

  5. This would be the Trash Pop Culture you are talking about. You should go check out Scott Bradly’s Post Modern Jukebox, some incredibly talented young people doing very good adaptations.

  6. I think many Americans would agree. But for some reason, it sells. Without demand, the reprobate minds who produce it couldn’t foist it on us in this manner. People would be properly sickened by it en masse. It takes a culture infused with goodness, truth and beauty to recognize sewage for what it is, and to reject it. But enough people enjoy playing in the sewage to make it salable. Maybe it’s because of the prevalence and influence of internet porn.

    It’s not new; the ancient world enjoyed its share of obscenity as well. It’s just sad to see us degenerate into Paul’s prediction in his second letter to Timothy: “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…”

    • We can thank the influence of Paul’s Christ for having slowed down this degeneration, at least on a societal and cultural level, by some 17-18 centuries.

      But now that it’s upon us, in answer to Glenn’s final question, I think of verses from “Ah, Holy Jesus”—

      “Who wast the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
      I it was, Lord Jesus . . .
      I it was denied thee. I crucified thee.”

      Each of us has contributed, little by little, to this degradation.

  7. Our culture’s slide away from “pudor” (modesty, shyness, decorum) toward what Ezra Pound called
    “pejorocracy” (worse rule and less class, in all things) has been underway for quite some time. It’s tempting to blame commercialism and the money maggots, but beauty sells as well as does shock and schlock. So go figure. For whatever reason, we are now “sin pudor” — Spanish for “shameless.”

    It’s interesting to note that at about the time (c. 1965) church attendance in the U.S. began to crater, church music also became debased, as the great hymns of the past thousand years gave way to 70s “happy clappy (and crappy) music,” accompanied not by the profundo tones of the pipe organ but by guitars and tambourines, with hippies doing liturgical dancing to boot. Not profane, but certainly the stuff of cheap emotion.

  8. Glen, I’m sorry I read this one, because I have kept myself from all the disgusting words and actions of Hollywood and the music industry. Ugh. How do I get that bad taste from my mouth? If you take requests, would you please write an article on the history of the Hunter Biden tax investigation and where it stands now?

  9. Many of the talented ones killed themselves or their talent with drugs. That might have something to do with it.

    That noted, no mention here of the other kind of music, the Bach, Palestrina, Strauss kind. The same period mentioned as golden for pop music was also golden for serious music, at least in performance.

    I know of no serious music being written today that could be considered golden, but there are several performers who I would include in such a category, the category transcending the merely outstanding. Piano and organ seem to be especially blessed in this regard.

    Note also, perhaps, that CCP is force-feeding their children lessons in serious music and producing withal several highly competent performers, although no composers, the latter of which phenomena is to be expected. Schweitzer pointed out, I believe accurately, that wherever Bach is played, there is the church. CCP, by that practice, are in train of making their young people Christians! 🙂

    Other than Strauss, Schonberg, Rachmaninoff, and Prokofiev, the serious music and lyric of the last century was written for Broadway, Hollywood, and Drury Lane: Gershwin, Mancini, Morricone, Moross, Korngold, David, Bacharach, Bircusse, Fine, and not a few others others.

    Another way, in another medium, to illustrate your point, Glenn, is to ask, what happened between Kandinsky and Warhol? My answer is the one above: drugs. I would add promiscuity.

    • You raise several questions in my mind:
      (1) On the subject of drugs, when did it become de rigueur for the “serious” musician (in the context of pop culture, anyway) to be strung out on toxic substances?
      (2) At what point did music have to be “counterculture” in order to garner respect?
      (3) Recalling how The Beatles were rescued from banality by George Martin (the fifth Beatle), who stuck all those violins into “Eleanor Rigby” and the double bass into “Strawberry Fields Forever,” why hasn’t there been more articulation between pop music and the high-brow stuff you speak of? “Les Miserables” was a spectacular success, musically as well as dramatically.

      • With all respect, Chad, I think you and Mr. Graham have a point but overstate your case.

        There was certainly a counterculture element to rock and roll, and a drug one as well, but that’s not what defined it. What defined it was a willingness to think outside the box, to be creative.

        Bob Dylan is a good example. He re-invented himself at various times as Dylan Thomas, Arlo Guthrie and even Johnnie Cash but in reality he was a gifted Jewish kid from upper midwestern suburbia who went to Greenwich Village. He often railed against the notion that he was a counterculture icon or “spokesman for a generation.” See, e.g. https://theaspenbeat.com/2016/11/12/bob-dylan-to-establishment-it-aint-me-babe/

        Other rockers were similar. The Who’s Peter Townsend was certainly into drugs, but it wasn’t drugs that wrote the incredible music and creative story about the Second Coming in the form of a deaf, blind pinball wizard. You may well see that opera as blasphemous, and perhaps accurately so, but to me, whether it’s blasphemous or not, it’s amazing, skilled and original art.

        How about “Won’t get fooled again” where the main line is “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” In that, they’re expressing an objection to the purported counterculture, on the grounds that it’s the same old crap.

        The Beatles music, at least by today’s standards, is also pretty mainstream. “Nowhere Man” is about a person who’s sedated into somnolence. In short, rock and roll was fairly consistent with Western values notwithstanding the drug and counterculture factors.

        Wet Ass Pussy, not so much.

      • Glenn, I agree that rock and roll was fairly consistent with Western values. I guess the question I was trying to ask was, when did it cross over into Marxist nihilism?

        Ah, “Tommy”! No, I didn’t find it blasphemous, but then I don’t think I understood it at all. I did read that Townsend thought that the Pinball Wizard song was “the clumsiest piece of writing” he ever did.

  10. Thanks for another funny yet provocative piece, Glenn. Years ago, when I was on the radio, I did a show about how multitudes of genres of music have all but disappeared. If you look up what kind of music was around for each half decade of the last half of the 20th century, you’d scratch your head and wonder, did we do it to ourselves by just losing interest or did we allow the record companies to kill off genres. Anyway, it’s a fun exercise.

  11. To me, American music is a reflection of American society. Music of the 40’s and 50’s reflected a society feed up with hard times of depression and war and wanted a peaceful life of love, family and religion. The 60’s brought a generation that wanted change in their parents philosophy and their music reflected it. Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the like spoke to that change and made the definition of love and lyrics change with it. Since then, the American culture and it’s music has changed to reflect the violence that one sees everyday instead of the peace and beauty of musical lyrics describing the tender relationships between man and woman. The younger generation cannot be expected to appreciate the love stories or it’s meaning of ” South Pacific , West Side Story, The Sound of Music ” as they were raised at a time of political correctness and love had to do with the world, not between two people.

  12. The reason the music is crap is simple: Political correctness, which demands rigid conformity of thought. Nothing kills creativity more than that.

  13. An important aspect of all this you didn’t mention is race. If you think WAP is garbage, you’re racist buddy. You MUST like WAP! You MUST appreciate the incredible artistry of WAP! Anything less is racism. I don’t watch garbage award shows but I picture a number of attendees who might possibly be real musicians, who might possibly have an understanding of melody and harmony and other outdated musical concepts, sitting there clapping like trained progressive seals while inside their private thoughts they recognize that WAP is 100% non-musical garbage. But to disapprove? In public? And be suspected just the tiniest bit of not appreciating a BLACK FEMALE artist? Inconceivable! If this woman took a crap on a plate and displayed it in an art gallery it would be hailed as a phenomenal art statement. Didn’t somebody say, back in the 60s, “stop the world, I want to get off”?

  14. Glenn, I seem to be missing something. Morgan Wallen’s career just got “cancelled” and he was banned from being nominated for any county music awards and having his music banned from being played on radio stations and appearing on Spotify playlists, because he was captured, on his neighbor’s Ring Door bell, using the N-word in a drunken state. Yet, when Cardi B and/or Megan the Stallion sing, “Beat it up, n*gga, catch a charge . . .,” that very song gets nominated for a Grammy award AND they get to perform it at the Grammy awards, as well? Shouldn’t that song have gotten this duo or at least this song, “cancelled”? Morgan Wallen apologized for his use of the N-word. I really don’t understand why this use of it is getting celebrated and exhalted.

  15. I did an internet search for traditional ballads, and iirc, the Beatles’ Michelle My Belle, came up as the most popular “ballad”. I was thinking along the lines of Shenandoah, Loch Lomond, Danny Boy, and so forth. Maybe I don’t know what a ballad is. Beyond the decline of music, the decline of education is, imho, a serious problem. We have tens of millions of functionally illiterate adults in this country. Many of our urban schools have been failing to educate their students for decades. We all know the political reasons for the woeful education system. Every time I hear a functionally illiterate adult American speak, I think of Nancy Pelosi and all the rest of the Democrat politicians who have destroyed the promise of millions and millions of human beings.

  16. Thanks for including Mark Knopfler among the greats. He is a good case in point–like the musicals you mention–of someone whose commercial success almost overshadowed his talent. Almost.

  17. Paul Simon was the best of them all. Dylan put socially and politically provocative lyrics to up-yours nasal twang “music.” Simon, similarly oriented, put beautiful poems to beautiful music. I love both but Simon more.

    • Well, Simon did strike out with “Richard Cory”. The 3 D’s did it much better, IMHO. You can find it on Youtube. They have a bunch of other classic poems set to music there, too.

      • Well, popularizing Edwin Arlington Robinson’s 1897 poem did not exactly constitute cutting-edge social commentary on Paul Simon’s part. The theme of “Richard Cory” was already pervasive in such works as “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Babbitt,” “Howl,” and many other critiques of bourgeois status-seeking and spiritual emptiness going back into the 19th century.

  18. At the risk of cancellation, I humbly suggest this is the result of the gradual negrification of American culture. That is, the replacement of a culture of positivity that extols traditional virtues with one that elevates that which is the opposite. One aspect of this is the elevation of the carnal over the spiritual; or perhaps the scatological over the intellectual. Tolkien saw it coming and wrote his cautionary tale in the form of myth. Likewise Lewis, who forecast contemporary society in fiction as well as non-fiction. There were many others, such as Chesterton and H.G. Wells, who captured where we seem to be headed best and most succinctly in “The Time Machine.” It is one thing to have properly recognized and remediated the evil that was African slavery in America, but when the descendants of emancipated slaves were apotheosized our society became doomed.

    • Well, as one who appreciates the “negrification” of gospel, jazz, and rock and roll, I think that race has relatively little to do with the growth of this particularly pernicious gangsta subculture. The culprit is Marxism, which embraces and nurtures any group that can be useful in bringing it all down, “it” being Western civilization. If you’re looking for the Devil, look no farther than Al Sharpton and, more broadly, the entire apparatus of the Democrat Party.

      • Then I respectfully ask what characteristic exists among Negroes that predisposes them to become the willing pawns of Marxists so as to adopt the “gangsta culture” of which you speak? I heartily join in your condemnation of Sharpton and his ilk, who have largely taken over the Democrat party, but demur to your point about music. There is no legitimate connection between a Bach Sonata (or any other piece of classical Western musical composition) and anything in the gospel, jazz or rock genre. I also can appreciate gospel, jazz and rock, and as a trained musician, have played many tunes from those oeuvres, along with classical music. Believe me, classical requires much greater intellectual engagement. But that is my point; viz., that the diminishment of the intellectual/artistic/aesthetic component of our culture has been brought about by the elevation of the opposite. Hence, my contention that our society has become negrified.

    • Steve–

      I don’t think classical music is more intellectual than, say, jazz. I can say from having played jazz that jazz improvisation requires very quick thinking and a great knowledge of chords, harmonics and beat. The musician is literally listening to all that, writing music in his head, on the fly, that he has to modify, again on the fly, and playing it –“it” being sometimes a very challenging “it” — all in the blink of an eye.

      In contrast, classical music just requires the ability to read the music and play it. A piano player can rightly be compared to a typist (but the typist would of course lose in that comparison). Or in the case of a composer, it requires the ability to just read music and write it — all with the luxury of endless hours of practice and experimentation.

      To say that there’s a difference between black intellectual ability and white intellectual ability which is evident in the difference between classical music and jazz, is not at all persuasive to me.

      • Glen, please allow me to say that I truly admire your work and find it to be extremely insightful. (Being a skier in Pennsylvania, I also envy your life in Aspen! While you are getting feet of spring snow, we are being drenched in rain.) But if you will indulge me, I will slightly modify your last sentence to incorporate the content of your headline. “To say that there’s a difference between black intellectual ability and white intellectual ability which is evident in the difference between (Dylan) and (WAP), is not at all persuasive to me.” Last i looked, Dylan’s music was in the tradition of European troubadours, containing poetry and depth of thought, even though musically unsophisticated, while WAP is… what, exactly? The vapid, animalistic lyrics, ululated (I can’t honestly describe the sound as “singing”) while accompanied by simulated copulation is on the same level as natives in sub-Saharan Africa performing their fertility rituals. And yet, these two “women of color” receive the adulation of certain contemporary whites as exhibiting the highest artistic merit. Who is kidding whom? The moral and intellectual degeneration of our society is nowhere more on display. I agree with Murray that there are greater variations within groups than between them, but it is undeniable that group characteristics exist and can be quantified. I submit that, for reasons that i find unfathomable, modern Americans of all ethnicities have adopted the mores, attitudes and behaviors of the descendants of African slaves, to the detriment of society in general and each individual therein. Thus, one can have individuals descended from African slave stock who exhibit the highest of intellectual and moral standards (all of whose names are well known, since they are so rare) as well as individuals of European stock whose intellect and morality leave much to be desired. These individuals are known as “outliers,” whose existence merely establishes the general rule, which has one of its manifestations in the musical endeavors that are the subject of your essay. I grant you find this not persuasive, but after spending 70 years on this planet, I do. Regardless, I wish you all the best, and encourage you to keep up your fine efforts. I look forward to continuing to read them.

    • Steve, let me come at this another way.

      The “diversity” merchants who are inflicting on us this blend of ululation and copulation, as you aptly characterize it, are doing so precisely BECAUSE it is anti-Western, anti-European, anti-white. The whole message is, “Screw your Euro-centric notions of art, of morals and manners, of love and marriage and human sexuality, of social organization, of God. You think we’re primitive and ‘demonic,’ well ‘Up yours!’ We don’t care what you think because YOU are now ‘the other.’”

      It’s all Marxist envy, Marxist revenge, Marxist hatred. I call it Satanic, but that’s my quaint Western perspective that’s showing.

      • We can agree that what is happening to our society is, in fact, demonic. That is to say, it is literally a work of the devil, who always comes to steal, kill and destroy. One of satan’s (I refuse to capitalize, not out of ignorance, but out of my disdain for him and al his works) favorite ploys is to set up ersatz substitutes for the authentic item, thereby subverting the truth and turning it out to be a lie. Clearly, you have recognized this by your earlier comment in regard to the statement of the Music Department of Metropolitan State University of Denver. Substitute the inferior work of untalented, but dark-skinned composers for the Western Canon of Music, and voila! Problem solved, only you are left with the inferior substitute and society is demeaned in the process. Soon, only the Orcs and Morlocks will remain.

  19. I seem to remember sharing as being a good thing. Like when Rock and Roll was pushing Big Band off the airwaves and Elvis was going to send us all to Hell. Despite the dire predictions, Sinatra and Torme joined voices with Paul and Ringo and a shared musical stage entertained us all. Old Ed Sullivan gave everyone their four minutes and even the Folkies enjoyed a renaissance.

    Today’s Woke culture warriors allow no such thing. Our smut or go home. Nice.

    So it’s all shut down. No sports. No Rom Com. No more legitimate awards shows. Just garbage that you don’t want your kids to see, including Pepe LePew. Good grief.

  20. Here is a statement from the website of the Music Department of Metropolitan State University of Denver, where I was once grateful to study..

    “Black Lives Matter

    The Department of Music at Metropolitan State University of Denver recognizes that Black Lives Matter. We mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others because of the color of their skin and we acknowledge the trauma that systemic and institutional racism can cause.

    We recognize music as an essential part of a multicultural, global, and technological society, where music and art are often at the core of activism. Our mission states that we believe that students of all backgrounds, interests, and disciplines should have access to a diverse, affordable, and substantive musical education. Our students learn in an environment inclusive of all identities and cultural backgrounds. We embrace the diversity of our community in performance, analysis, creation, and collaboration through meaningful study of varied musical traditions. We also acknowledge that most performances and music-making in our department are rooted in a Eurocentric history. There is a need to decenter the European Classical tradition in our performances, our pedagogy, and our curriculum, and to make meaningful changes that not only represent the contributions of marginalized groups, but to embrace their perspectives, pedagogies, and contributions as equally valid for academic study. Traditional academic music programs have long participated in systemic prioritization of Eurocentric viewpoints, including expectations of prior musical training in a specific musical system, familiarity with Eurocentric traditions, and privileged access to Eurocentric musical materials, which consequently makes collegiate study of music either undesirable or unattainable to many marginalized populations.

    We realize that representation matters. Moving forward, the Music Department will actively choose to make space for Black music, Black composers, and Black musicians in teaching, learning, and performance in order to honor their voices and experiences. We are committed to supporting our students, staff, and faculty, and to ensuring representation for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. We must, as a department, commit to lowering the barriers to students of color, to diversifying our curriculum, and to supporting each other.”

    It’s over, folks.

  21. Now that you’ve got me thinking about the music of the ‘70s, Glenn, some lines have come to me that, I think, capture the theme and elegaic tone of what you’ve written —

    “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
    The nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”

    And then we are told, alas, that
    “Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away.”

    I was not that enamored of Paul Simon’s lyricism, but with these lines he hit it out of the park. Somewhere we lost a touch of class, of quiet dignity, of earnest work, of a brand of masculinity that does something other than watch porn.

    • Paul Simon was great. Great. It’s his eternal bad luck to have been a contemporary of Dylan.
      I have a column in mind: “Dylan wasn’t Christ but he might have been John the Baptist.”

      • Among break-out Jewish intellects, my guy was Allen Ginsburg. Not a musician, but perhaps the last electric poet before pop music made poetry all-but-obsolete among the masses.

  22. What about country music? George Jones (He Stopped Loving Her Today), Dolly Parton (Coat of Many Colors), Willie Nelson (Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain), Marty Robbins (Streets of El Paso),Johnny Cash (Folsom Prison Blues, Ring of Fire, and just about anything else he ever sang). This is the most truly American music, amalgamating elements of the Ozarks and Appalachia, Texas and Tejano, Cajun and rock and gospel.

  23. Good rock music still exists. I’d recommend Dawes for their thought provoking lyrics and California folk rock sound. Dawes and other bands like them are relegated to mostly small town radio stations that play the AAA Adult Album Alternative format. Here’s a sampling of the lyrics in Free as We Wanna Be.

    There’s proof that they’ve been following me
    But I won’t throw ’em off the scent
    There’s proof now that my life is not my own
    Which I’ve done nothing to prevent

    We’re as free
    As we wanna be
    We’re as free
    As we wanna be

    And when the dream becomes a nightmare
    And when the hardware meets the software
    We’ll see how ugly this can get
    ‘Cause if the basis of our grievance
    Doesn’t outweigh the convenience
    Then they already won the bet

  24. Bob Dylan’s lyrics along with others from his generation created the drug infused acceptance, sex in lyrics acceptance, and drug use acceptance. Even Elvis died taking a crap from doing to many drugs, and only like to screw virgins. Don’t like today’s music don’t listen to it, right?

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