The sound of popular music can be clearly compared to other forms of seasonal commodities such as clothing fashion and hairstyles.
Much as bell-bottoms, the hula-hoop, and whitewall tires have become fashion statements associated with certain times past, “the sound” of most records will in later times provide a key identifier in time stamping that music.
Like fashion, some of these sounds periodically re-emerge; some become an ongoing fabric of music production, while others are never heard of again.
We live in a time of interchangeable parts; music is in an advanced state of industrialization, where mass produced components are used and reused in everything.
The 1990s was the re-decade of reissue, review, reflection, reuse, repurpose, and reprocess. Déjà vu was the prevailing vu for most of the population. The vast reissue on CD of long-lost catalogs has allowed all previous decades to be available in our time.
Today’s record producers have the texture, style and tone of all previous decades to draw upon. Many records today have some production aspect or sound taken from the past – the sound of nostalgia. Songs and fragments of songs from the past in the latest music stimulate the recollection of countless personal histories.
As in any other commodity/consumer paradigms, consumerism and commercialism drive this thirst for new sounds. The predominately young music consumer seems to have a never-ending appetite for what is new from the music industry because it defines them as different from their older sister, their younger brother, their parents, all other generations.
Unlike the fashion industry, where styles are seldom worn past their season until a generation later when they may be rediscovered, greatest hits collections and classic albums from every period remain part of the active playlist of life.
In fact, the greatest hits of any year will be on the market by mid-year and blasting from every radio during end-of-summer long weekends. These recordings form sonic postcard collections of memories good and bad.
Before records were invented and technology’s impact on music production, musical passages and phrases, a good story, a singer’s performance, and a memorable chorus were the primary identifiers of a pop song. They remain important, but these “hooks” now include “the sound”.