Thursday, February 23, 2012

R.E.M. - Drum and Bass

R.E.M. was an alternative rock band set up in 1980. Alternative rock is a sub genre of rock that formed in the 1980’s to categorize rock bands that had no specific style and stayed distinct from mainstream music. Many alternative bands only stayed popular around colleges and had underground concerts; eventually this style of music got the name of ‘college rock’. R.E.M. was the only alternative rock band that gained mainstream success, and many of their songs have remained popular up to the present day. Punk rock, mostly known from the 1970’s laid the groundwork for the genre of alternative rock, as a genre of independent, almost D.I.Y. bands. Alternative music therefore was never completely identifiable, until R.E.M. gained popularity for the music genre in the 1990’s after which alternative music became widely mainstream.
R.E.M. became famous for the style of music rather than the lyrics. Most of the lyrics were written with a laidback approach and were not always meant to make sense; one of the band members even called their earlier lyrics “nonsense”. In the late 1980’s, however, R.E.M. started writing political messages as lyrics and were even creating propaganda against the Soviet Union, in coalition with the CIA and organization called Radio Free Europe, which was set up in the 1950’s. One of the most famous songs as propaganda is ‘Radio Free Europe’.

“Beside defying media too fast
Instead of pushing palaces to fall
Put that, put that, put that before all
That this isn’t fortune at all.”
- R.E.M. ‘Radio Free Europe’

The general impact R.E.M. made in the 1980’s was on the birth of alternative music, which is still popular today. The representation they give of the 1980’s can be compared with the representation from ‘Less than Zero’, the ‘blank generation’. The nonsensical, meaningless, often hard to understand lyrics of R.E.M. coincide with the meaningless, and sometimes, nonsensical events described in the novel. R.E.M.’s fans, like most alternative rock bands, were mostly students at American colleges, showing their large impact on the youth culture. Their songs relate to many youth culture ideologies like freedom (from parents, religion etc) as well as happiness and love. An example of this being one of R.E.M.’s most popular songs ‘Shiny Happy People’.

At a first look, a comparison with a contemporary alternative music video would be the obvious. However, more strongly, R.E.M. and other alternative rock bands like The Pixies, were part of the revival of underground music, which originates from the 1960’s. Due to insufficient funds among colleges to have bands play, many bands performed in house parties and at communities. With minor exceptions like the rebellious underground music scenes in several states across the country, the underground music remained unknown to the mainstream music industry throughout the 80’s, which was exactly its purpose, to stay underground. However, underground music has a slightly different meaning nowadays. Today, underground is more a lifestyle rather than a group of unidentifiable genres.

Rather than having chosen a particular song, the sub genre of Drum and Bass as a whole will represent the contemporary thirty years from now. Drum and Bass has its roots in the 1980’s, relating back to Old School Jungle. A 21st century culture of an increasing nightlife made Drum and Bass mainstream rather than underground, which is the way in which R.E.M. started off. Drum and Bass, as well as many other sub genres of Electro Music, mark the start of a different music culture, which is less concerned with lyrics and more concerned with the music, and in particular the feeling the music gives you.

Even though R.E.M. and Drum and Bass are two completely different genres, in essence, R.E.M. and Drum and Bass both have the same audience (youth), and the same idea behind the music. This idea being that the music is not made to make money or to provoke a certain meaning, the music is for leisure, and therefore has remained underground before becoming mainstream.

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