Some songs are like wildfire. They spread quickly and fiercely but as soon as the dried bushes run out, they die out as suddenly as they had sprung unbidden, then leave little evidence to chronicle its passing. Like the pervasive novelty songs that invaded the Filipino's way of life down to the last willing child able to rhythmically contort his torso to the cheers of wildly approving relatives. Ocho-ocho may have hooked all Filipinos for a time but, thankfully, not for all time.
Then there are songs that flow continuously like cool water springs and stay pure and fresh throughout the seasons and years. Nourishing and everlasting. Songs that don't tarnish with the aging of their artist. Like the stinging poetry of Morrisey, the piercing timbre of Robert Smith's voice, or the quiet tension of Coldplay's modern classics.
There's a difference to these two extremes. One is time-stamped. The other is timeless. Most songs however are spread somewhere in between.
But what makes the difference? Between a one-month monstrous hit and a generation's defining album? I may have found an answer from a simple idea put forward by Gabby Alipe during one of our late night sessions at C-24. His band, Urbandub, is in the middle of studio production for their third album. In between tagays of beer held in cheap and disposable plastic cups, Gabby would expound to me his goals for his band's music: that for it to be of any importance, it has to be crafted as art and not as entertainment.
So it is personal and self-fulfilling art as opposed to music written to please an audience. A struggle artists continually grapple with.
The beauty of this simple idea is that it explains much of what our current music scene is going through. Another upheaval. Movements are dying out and new ones are emerging. Boy bands are history, rap metal crumbling in rust and novelty songs are now anathema.
There have been pioneers, yes. Musical geniuses birthing movements and even genres. True artists they are. Sadly, those who come in their heels most often only follow to exploit the whetted appetites of a new and growing audience not of their making. And ironically, it is they who slowly kill that movement which they seek to exploit.
Pioneers make their music not caring if they have an audience to begin with. Their musical honesty is rewarded with the audience coming to them like ants drawn to freshly spilt sugar. But then comes the mimickers and the coattail riders, who see the audience as a new market to exploit. Quickly, imitation bands spring up like wild mushrooms and sooner than later, you now have a whole genre full of bands that sound so alike you can hardly distinguish one from the other. Sounds familiar doesn't it. To me it sounds sick. To me it sounds sad.
It's no wonder then that now we have bands that have hit songs and with questionable songwriting talent if at all. Crafting music as entertainment and relying on proven formulas and in some cases, even outright plagiarism, ripping off song parts to craft a Frankenstein whole. But they sell, and they sell fast which is all that matters to them. Well, if anything, at least we know they'll soon die out quickly, like wildfire - frantic and aimless.
The lesson lost on many of the record executives and all-knowing talent managers, I surmise, is that making music should come ahead of making money. That is if they want their talent to last longer than they can say passé. Of course, if quick bucks are to be made in that short burst of fad, who's to argue their acute business instincts. But then again, businessmen don't make for good musicians do they?