I have a belief that music is reflective of our society and culture. I’ve been tossing around an idea lately and I’m curious what you think – have you noticed that there’s a severe lack of melody in current songwriting? Ballads are in short supply and it seems that the popular song structure fluctuates between a handful of notes – all in the same octave.
OK I’m talking musician talk. Turn on the radio to your top 40 station. I know. It hurts me too. Just indulge me this once. My bet is all that you’ll need to hear is part of 1 song. Turn off the radio and hum what you just heard. If you find that you’re pretty much not changing your pitch (or not that much), you’ve encountered a song with a lack of melody.
Now, for my music theory friends, YES a melody can be anything - even if it is just 3 notes repeated over and over with little duration of any of the notes. But even my music theory friends would scoff at melodies like those on top 40 radio today.
What has happened to melody – and why?
To me, melody is that part of music that pierces the heart and the soul. It is the part of music that makes you cry or sing out for joy. Melody, to me, is emotion.
And I do not feel that surprised that it is lacking in top 40 music. We are in a recession – on the face of a depression. Have we grown numb to our problems? Have we lived in a materialistic realm that has focused on the acquisition of things so long that we cannot bear to give them up? Have we lost a sense of ourselves that we no longer want to feel that which lasts forever?
What lasts? A job can go away. A car. A house. A table. A living room set. This is happening all around us. And we continue to stay numb.
My sister, Hilary Sloan, wrote a BEAUTIFUL song that I intend to record on the next album. It’s called “Some Things They Can’t Take Away”. She recorded it on her first album, Images from Hard Luck Town .
“You’ve been looking for work now for such a long time.
Once again, they cut off the telephone line.
What you had for supper was the same yesterday.
The landlord keeps knockin and there’s no way to pay.
I’ve noticed that you haven’t laughed in awhile.
You’ve done some hard time that’s taken your smile.
It’s just getting harder to get through the day,
But some things they can’t take away.
Hold on to the little that’s left of your pride.
Keep it close to you deep down inside.
And remember there’s one who will love you always
Some things they can’t take away.”
That is not all of the song, but you get the idea. This is an anthem for our times. And guess what? It has a beautiful melody.