Finding good music that also sounds good can be a challenge. Let’s forget about high-resolution for the moment and just consider the issue of connecting with an artist or a piece of music. It used to be that music discovery happened because you heard a song on the radio…at least that’s how it worked for me. If you liked the tune, you’d purchase either a 45-RPM single or the entire album. I never purchased singles. If an artist managed to get my attention, then I’d spring for the vinyl LP.
But things are very different today. I’ve heard that YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music are the go to places to “discover” new music. Radio is still important but losing ground to the streaming world.
I discovered a new artist today. Although, I realize now that I’m very late to learn about Ed Sheeran, a UK singer/songwriter that has videos on YouTube that have eclipsed 147 million views (that one was associated with the most recent installment of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”) and has been nominated for the “Best New Artist” Grammy. You can click here to add your view to this tune.
In a world that is dominated by tracks that have either been written, produced, and engineered by Max Martin (if you don’t know who he is, do a little research. He’s responsible for a major percentage of the commercial/pop hits on the radio) or inspired by his style of production. Think Taylor Swift in the current iteration. A bunch of heavy beat-laced tunes with thick, synthesized textures, built around very repetitive…but catchy…melodies. The fidelity of these recordings is terrible…all loud all the time. They have to be to keep up with the competition. I get it.
But along comes a young guy that actually writes from the heart, can sing and play at the same time, and hasn’t yet bought into what Joni Mitchell famously called the “hit making machine”. He’s a 21st century James Taylor in some ways. The story I heard on the radio yesterday as I drove to school mentioned that his big hit “Thinking Out Loud” was co-written before he was a big deal with a lady friend. It seems she had fallen off the radar and was struggling in her own career. She asked Ed to include “Thinking Out Loud” on his album. Miracles do happen. The song is a runaway hit, he paid off her mortgage, and she’s traveling the world on her portion of the songwriter royalties. That’s pretty cool. And the song is gorgeous…if somewhat overproduced for my taste.
Other videos show this young artist simply singing and playing. Like James Taylor and John Gorka, if a singer/songwriter can make magic happen with just a song, their voice, and a guitar to accompany them, I’m all in.
My bet is that Warner Brothers will chart a path for Ed Sheeran similar to Adele…and the magic of this emerging artist will be lost. I hope not.