Where Has The Performance Gone?

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Are the free-flowing, unrestrained, trip-inducing days of music over? They seem to have been exchanged for something rather more bland and conservative, where songs are pumped out of dingy, grey office blocks all following the same set of instructions. Whatever happened to the daring, the dressing-up, the teenage rebellion, the drama and the theatre of music? 

My music library is dominated by artists of days passed, musicians who appeared on Top of the Pops or The Old Grey Whistle Test sporting wild hair and wilder makeup, and costumes that looked like they'd been beamed straight from another galaxy. The likes of Roxy Music, The Tubes, Jethro Tull et al provided a performance masterclass where convention meant nothing. There was a performance-dictated aesthetic, where David Bowie and Bryan Ferry ruled, an old-fashioned air of glamour, pose and performance was put on.

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What happened? Where did the art of performance go? Today’s music scene seems to be all about being “real” and "down to earth", in both the lyrics and the visuals. They want to be themselves and send out a message that says "I'm just like you" and that's how they sell records - people identify with them. 
Sure, all of these artists have onstage personae to a point, but that extra level of artifice is totally absent. Where’s the drama and the style? Have we lost the art of pretentious performance?

Previous generations expected their singers to project something more, they were there to look up to and idolise: Sinatra, Piaf, Davis Jr
 all had characters they put on for a show; it was cabaret, the world of showbiz and theatre.

There are some artists with some air of stage persona; BeyoncĂ© dons her alter-ego Sasha Fierce as she struts around the stage, and Daft Punk wear huge robotic helmets - which does seem as though they're a little shy. There is even still a whiff of theatre from the likes of Kanye West or Robbie Williams, not forgetting the art-vixens Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj who theatricalise their shows. But these people are exceptions which is precisely the reason why they stand out. They are known for being unusual or perhaps freakish but what they are doing wouldn't be called particularly outlandish in the 70s.

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To find true theatre in music, the only reliable place to go has been metal. Ever since Alice Cooper, metal acts have thrived on a theatrical style and presentation that fans have come to demand - from Kiss to Gwar, Marilyn Manson to Lordi, Iron Maiden to Slipknot, theatre is expected and provided.

Maybe pop stars of now could do well to start taking lessons from their metal counterparts. Even at 68, Alice Cooper is still getting decapitated live on stage in front of an audience of thousands. Truly uncommon entertainment.

We need more larger-than-life characters in modern music, not only does it create a much more interesting visual but it produces more experimental and creative music. We need it b
efore we all die of boredom.

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  1. I really think that music that comes out now is really boring. Whenever the radio is on and it plays new music i feel a bit down because there is no life or originality in it x

  2. I have to admit I much prefer listening to older music now than newer music on the radio - it just seems so boring in comparison x