By Meghan Aslin
Artwork by Abbie Ryan
Why are our favorite bands changing themselves to sound more pop?
If you’ve been listening to the radio lately, you’ve probably noticed the striking fact that some of your favorite bands don’t sound the same anymore. To gain more listeners, many bands undergo a change in their sound. Some of the most notorious include Maroon 5, U2, Fleetwood Mac, Coldplay, Taylor Swift. Why though? Why do our favorite bands leave their distinct sounds to adopt a style of pop?
In this day and age, charge-free music platforms such as Spotify, Pandora, and Google Play are running the music business. They take away from the radio, which is sadly being slowly driven out. Any user of these has almost every song ever released at their fingertips — only one click away from a listen. Of course, Spotify has to make money somehow, and they do so by profiting off of users who choose to go Premium. For a monthly payment of $9.99, the premium user can listen to ad-free music and download playlists. Between advertising and paying the artists their well deserved royalties, the money that Spotify has to pay to artists for each stream drops tremendously. When it comes down to plays, a song on Spotify is only estimated to bring in the profit of about 0.008 cents; contrastingly, a song on the radio generates close to 0.03 cents per play.
For artists, there are cons and pros for allowing charge-free music platforms to stream their music. It allows artists who are new to the music business to gain awareness from listeners; however, for big artists that have already been discovered, it can be a ripoff. Taylor Swift caused controversy when she succeeded in not allowing Spotify to stream her 2014 album 1989. Swift claimed “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.” In saying this, she poses a reasonable and understandable argument. She has worked hard to reach her current status both in fame and fortune and wants to receive both credit and recognition for that.
With so much surveillance from the public, most artists have let this pressure of wanting to receive the most plays and streams affect their music. The newest trend of unnecessary vocal runs and electronic sounds has snuck into our favorite bands’ new music. I personally am a die hard fan of U2. The inspiring and quite attractive swagger of Bono and The Edge are enough to make me a devoted fan. I excitedly attended their concert a couple years ago and threw many an air punch alongside the other middle-aged mothers and fathers of the crowd. To say the least, it only fired my passionate love for them even more. But, after the past year or so, I have started to feel betrayed. They have completely changed their sound that we first heard in their most acclaimed albums: “The Joshua Tree,” “Rattle and Hum,” “War,” and “The Unforgettable Fire.” Sadly, with their newest releases, they’ve lost that spark that they so famously had and have received severe criticism in exchange. Some criticize in saying that they have purposefully left the “U2 feel” of their music in order to gain more relevance in the late 90s and early 2000s, and in some ways they are correct. In 1994, they released an album that was bluntly titled “Pop.” From there, a downhill spiral of the pop takes over U2’s music. Even in the last two years, U2 has been featured in the Kendrick Lamar hit, XXX. This song involves electronic and traditional “DJ” music that is very foreign to U2. The reasoning behind their abrupt change over the timeline of only 10 years is uncertain, but I believe that U2 embraced their pop takeover. Devoted fans like me will always be there with an open heart for my favorite bands, but the majority of listeners will not be as forgiving.
Honestly, I do not think that there is a lack of originality among artists today. Some of the strongest voices that the world has seen have come out of the past twenty years: Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran and Amy Winehouse. Because of the obvious successes in recent years, the only logical things that are making the artists change their minds are their values. Do they care more about making money or the music that they are making? Support your favorite artists and bands. Instead of constantly using Spotify and other charge-free music platforms to listen to music, you can resort back to the radio. With fans supporting, maybe we can stop this pop wave from taking over all of our favorite bands and their distinct sounds.