Back in the 70′s, Gene Simmons did this blood spitting thing for the rock group Kiss. It brought about a fair bit of lamenting at the time as to how horrible it was… but it worked as intended, going outrageous made his mark on the world, it sold a ton of records, and made him a boat load of money.
In the 80′s, Ozzy did this thing with a bat on stage…
Back in the pre-code days of Hollywood, many of the early talkies were pushing the sex envelope in a huge way, it was outrageous, and it sold lots of movie tickets.
Is it any wonder what we had a meat dress a few years back, or something totally bizaro a couple days ago?
Sex and shock sell… if there were no market, they wouldn’t. If the outrage was too great, the market would reject it, but it rarely does. Its no longer just an artist like Gene Simmons coming up with an idea, its high level market research driving ideas to appeal to a given demographic to maximize profit. In fact, I would not be surprised to find out that datamining is a significant driver…
Folks have been chatting about the evils of capitalism on steroids, sexual exploitation, declining morals, loss of community, extreme individualism, loss of Christian privilege / influence in society, self esteem going too far, artists selling out, the death of eros… and I sort of agree to a point with all of them, but I think the answer is something far more foundational.
Market driven art eventually rings hollow as the market will at some point see it for what it is, an emperor with no clothes, no meaning, just a means of efficient leveraging the actions of the masses… this being a primary driver of why interest in pop music generally declines with age. Its not so much us geezers crabbing about the music of the younger being a bunch of noise, as much as it is that BS detectors improve with age.
Some of the 70′s and 80′s music I played and grew up with blew chunks, some of the 30′s and 40′s music my Dad grew up with also did. Its the same today… a cohort of good music from each generation will survive and thrive over time on its own, another cohort, even if it blew chunks, will survive and thrive due to the memories attached to it, but huge sectors will die on the vine, and for good reason.
If you followed this far, you are probably thinking, why on earth is this on a church blog… Just replace the word music with church practices.
We may not have pastors taking a bite out of a bat in a sermon, but there are a few church practices in each generation that jump the shark. We also have a fair number of practices deriving their meaning via institutional memory rather than standing on their own.
The BS detector for each generation as they become more and more proficient with handling information overload becomes more sensitive. Is there any wonder that the target market for pop music has been trending younger and younger for years? If not for attached memories, there likely would be a pretty abrupt cutoff in the high school range…. not unlike what we see in church membership demographics.