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Episode 41 — How Depressing Entertainment Became the Norm

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Have you noticed that all the great series of television's current renaissance are darker than the devil's taint with a suntan? You've got Game of Thrones, where every likable character dies horribly and sociopathy is cruise control for success. There's True Detective, a show were any given screengrab would fit in the dictionary alongside the definition of "bleak". Hell, the critically-acclaimed series with the happiest ending we've seen recently was Breaking Bad. What does that say about us?


Cracked editors Jack O'Brien, Dan O'Brien and Michael Swaim asked this question on today's podcast. Whether you're looking at television or movies, soul-crushing sadness seems to be the new norm. Your show just won't draw in a modern audience unless it's got an antihero. Has something shifted in our culture? Can we blame this on 9/11? Or, has the darkness we used to put in our novels and saddest music just finally bled out into film and TV? Either way, it's pretty weird that the Coen brothers started their careers mocking nihilists, then went on to make No Country for Old Men, the nihilist ... ist film ever made. Throw on your headphones and click play above.

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It's 1:55am and I can't believe I signed up just to implore you guys to actually listen to Ain't It Fun. As a 34 year old human male, I love it.

It's the most subversive high charting single in a long time. Plus it kind of sounds like Miami Sound Machine.


This has been my favorite podcast for a while now and I felt compelled to tell you to give it a proper listen because I think you Crackers will enjoy it.

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Hey guys,

Long time fan writing for the first time. As an Indie musician I found your segment about music in this podcast very interesting. I'm constantly keeping tabs on the industry and reading books about the history of rock & pop music and I think I have some answers for you about why top 40 has no edge or darkness:


1 - Alternative/Indie Rock Stations Make No Money

It's a fact that station owners believe that Alternative/Indie Rock fans are extremely opposed to commercials and are anti-corporate, so they don't find it a good investment which leads to there being much less gritty or innovative music on the radio.


2 - Pop Still Sells

Little girls and tweens still buy music and they like lite, fluffy pop music. Anything about love or songs performed by their favorite Disney/Nickalodeon/reality music competition stars. They have no tastes of their own yet and mommy and daddy will buy them anything.


3 - All The Majors Sell Soup

Around the end of the 90's when the industry was still a couple of billion dollar operation a bunch of conglomerates swooped in and bought up the majors expecting it to be great investments. They believed they could run these companies like all the soup, sneaker, and etc companies they owned and applied those tactics to music. They let go of most of the creative types who had lots of experience in scouting, production, and artist development which has led to teams of the same 5-10 people writing a lot of the songs for most of the artists. It was like taking a machine that spray paints 300 cars a day and expecting it to paint the Mona Lisa. It just doesn't work the same... and sometimes it just doesn't work at all.


4 - The Economy and Consolidation of Power

In the 80's and before, the majors were known for not taking chances on new styles of music, but they had the budgets to promote big acts and buy smaller. The indie labels had smaller budgets, but took more chances on new artists and genres, so that helped them in the long run. Fast forward to now and just about all the indies are owned by the majors or deal with and through them greatly. No one has the budgets they once had, so taking risks is a thing the past.


It's really hard to discover anything of real quality or innovation because there is so much working against it. There is a great disparity because either you have very experimental, rough around the edges music being made, but lacks that finishing touch or time to actually get to a state of real quality through practice and honing of skills and on the other end you have cookie cutter music that is written by 5 people trying so desperately to create songs that are as bland as possible to reach the largest target audience that has no taste of their own anyway.


I'd compare it to the Disco/mid 70's era. You've got a lot of pop music that is light and fluffy that doesn't really mean very much that's there to make people dance and don't have an album's worth of songs, but only a stray single here and there. The same can be said for indie stuff as well. A lot of rock in the 70's was soft and "corporate". Rock and indie rock of today tries to be too dancy and electronic which just comes off desperate and a little amatuerish. In the end, there's no edge because there are very few who are making a statement or trying to go beyond their skills to reach new heights and if they are they aren't getting the backing and helping hand that they need for guidance.

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