Dedicated songwriters who craft intelligent, perceptive songs—but are frustrated by record companies’ growing emphasis on “hit today-gone tomorrow” throwaway pop music—have found a new ally in 87-year-old Tony Bennett.
The 17-time Grammy-winning jazz singer has always nurtured the art of literate songwriting, but is dismayed by the state of popular music today.
Bennett has been making records since 1951 and has recorded songs by some of the greatest songwriters of all time. He has built a 60-year career on classic songs from the Great American Songbook—he calls them “the silver lining songs”—but he is dismissive of the quality of many of today’s melodies and lyrics.
“The songs that are written today, most of them are terrible,” Bennett recently told BBC Radio 4. “It’s a very bad period, musically, throughout the world for popular music.”
But Bennett doesn’t think it is necessarily the artists and producers who are at fault for not cutting better-quality songs. He blames money-hungry labels for setting much lower standards instead of backing songs that will stand the test of time. He believes record company bosses have become obsessed with making sure their releases generate money quickly.
The legendary singer also accuses record labels of ‘dumbing down’ by refusing to release music that will engage listeners on an intellectual level.
“They think the public is ignorant, so their attitude is, ‘Don’t give them anything intelligent, because it won’t sell’,” said Bennett.
He added: “I grew up in an era where the record companies just sold records to everybody, and the whole family bought songs. Today, record companies are failing because they are putting their accent just on the young, and I think that’s rather silly. They’re missing out on thousands of people that would love to buy records but they don’t buy them because they don’t have a lasting quality.”
And here’s Tony Bennett and the late Amy Winehouse showing just what he means by songs that can stand the test of time. ‘Body and Soul’ was written 74 years ago, with music by Johnny Green and lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton.
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“How [Not] To Write A Hit Song! – 101 Common Mistakes To Avoid If You Want Songwriting Success” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, UK paperback and as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iTunes Store (Books/Arts & Entertainment/Music) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.