Saturday, November 19, 2011

Music, and how we're killing it.

Slowly but surely, our music industry is dying. I'm hoping the latter can be remedied. That it will not be like life. Where death is inevitable. A rather morbid start to my posting this time around, but if that can help convey the severity of the situation, then morbid it shall be. Music is all around us. There are moments in our lives where music serves as a memory trigger. School days, family time, relationships, weddings, jobs and the list goes on. Sometimes driving through a certain part of town can be linked to a certain song we once heard while passing through it. So music plays an important part in our lives. And yet here we are today, killing it. What brought this posting on? Perhaps it's last week's AIM. Many on the inside are saddened by what the AIM has come to. Change of hands. Attempts to spike up ratings. The inevitable influence of technology. The world as we know it is changing, so why not music, some say. In some instances, change is good. But not if it is at the expense of sheer talent. 

How do I know the music industry in Malaysia is suffering a slow death? The moment Najwa Latif stepped onto the AIM stage to belt out her song Cinta Muka Buku. AIM is a prestigious affair, where talent should grace the stage. The likes of Anita Sarawak, Sheila Majid, Jamal Abdillah etc. However the new organizers of AIM saw it fit to invite a 16 year old who could not sing to save her life to perform at the awards show. Why? Because she got many hits on her YouTube video. Because our trigger happy public who happen to be very accepting and forgiving thought that this 16 year old deserved to be recognized as an artiste. In what right is she an artiste? If we still relied on A&R managers like we used to in the old days, Najwa Latif would not even be seeing the shadow of a microphone much less record a song. But today, everyone is an A&R manager, today everyone is a talent scout. Today record companies have been rendered useless because of its elimination as the middleman in bringing sheer talent to the public. Today the public decides. If the public says Najwa Latif should be recognized, then she shall be recognized. But for what? For being a cutesy little school girl who can somewhat play the guitar and when she opens her mouth, sound comes out. Some may say I'm being harsh towards a kid. But this is me, I call a spade what it is. I don't see the need to be nice just because she is young. I don't see the need to say nice things about her when I sure as hell can't find anything nice to say about her singing. Fact of the matter is that she can't sing. Maybe if she attends vocal school, maybe in a couple more years, I don't know, maybe then she may have something to offer. But even that is hard to tell because from what I can hear now, she truly can't sing. Malaysian audience aren't the only apologetic and accepting ones. Even America fell prey to Bieber Fever. Cute teenagers are probably the in thing these days. Forget about talent. Just focus on their cute smiles and that's it. A singer is born. 

It is sad how the industry is losing the shine it used to have. Music was so good back in the day. And some of these new singers do realize that, hence their attempt to duplicate it. Apparently Zee Avi managed to replicate the 70s in her recent performance. That doesn't make her own it, that's what I think. I truly and honestly do not understand what is the obsession with singers these days who sing with voices that sound so lazy and sleepy and nasaly. It's like they're not even trying. Zee Avi is one example. Yuna, Najwa Latif are other examples of this same style of singing. Why do we even give them the time of day? To say that "Hey, we're moving forward"? Or "Hey I'm in it with the youngsters"? 

There is also an unhealthy bug of rearranging that seems to be going around lately. To me that is just another word for mutilating. And that brings me to another moment that made me realize the cancer in the industry is spreading. The public's acceptance of desecration. I almost cried when I heard the crowd cheer when Azlan & The Typewriter sang their rendition of P.Ramlee's Jeritan Batinku. If it was up to me, Azlan, together with his crappy typewriter would have been arrested for doing what he did to that song. It's not just a song. It's a masterpiece. By a legendary artiste. And Azlan mangled it up beyond recognition and people lap it up. What is the world coming to? How can we not be mortified that Azlan wrecked a work of art? I may be making a bold statement here, but I believe it is true: Those who can say that they enjoy Azlan's version of Jeritan Batinku were never true fans of P.Ramlee. I'm not being judgmental, just realistic. Because no true fan of P.Ramlee can tolerate that bloodbath of a rendition. Strong words, but I am a true blue fan of P.Ramlee. So sue me! For if it was in my hands, I would sue the pants off of Azlan for inflicting the horror of his rendition of Jeritan Batinku upon the world. If he wanted to mess a song up, why couldn't he have just messed up his own song? Instead of taking what belongs to someone else and mangling it up?

Yes the industry is dying. Unless we do something about it, it will continue to suffer a slow and painful death. A death that will be felt by those who understand what music is. Music is not the influx of reality shows giving birth to ten reality stars each month. Music is not some idiot copy pasting other people's songs and trying to give an alleged breath of fresh air to it. Music is not what the sms votes are saying. Or what the Like button on YouTube says. Music comes from the heart. Not the need to chase for ratings. Music comes from the soul. Enough with the reality shows. Shouldn't it be obvious by now that reality shows aren't the best way for finding singing talents in Malaysia? None of the finalists of these reality shows, not even those who finally emerge as winners can even be remotely linked to talent. All they have is the ability to win the public over with their personalities, looks, fashion sense, love lives etc. And the public is kind enough to spend their money on sms votes to make sure these people emerge as winners. And for what? To further degrade the industry. 

I say return the power back to the record companies. Back to the talent scouts. Back to the A&R managers. Back to those who have the ability to evaluate what is talent and what is utter rubbish. It may be hard to fight the advancement of technology and the information superhighway, but it can be done. I have to believe that it can be done otherwise I'll have to accept that the industry is truly dying. And I refuse to believe that. Because I know many people who are the heart and soul of our music industry and I believe that they can still salvage it. Take the power out of the public's hands. No more sms voting. That's the way it was and that's the way it should be. It did not take sms votes to give us P.Ramlee, Saloma, Ahmad Jais, Jamal Abdillah etc. And the reality-based artistes of today can't even hold a candle to these stars. So I shall stand by my conviction, death to sms voting, or it's death to the music industry as we know it.


  1. Excellent overview.

  2. I dont really see what others see in Najwa either but her song is quite catchy. Maybe that's why there are hypes about her.

    But yuna has different standard. I dont think she sounds lazy when she sings. It's calming and easy to my ears actually. she is indeed talented and really, if you think she sounds lazy then all jazz singers are because they sing like that too. lol