Music Teacher's Helper Blog

In every form of art there is competition, or a need to prove something to the world, and maybe for some this is achieved by winning awards, going as far as to say winning a Grammy. But is this really that important? does it meassure how good an artist is or how popular? and how much has the standards for winning awards has have changed over the years.

Benefits of Winning Awards

One of the benefits of winning an award is that the winner gets money as a reward. This can be good because even though the money can be used for anything they want, it’s an obvious choice to use it as a way to push their musical career.

However this may just be something goode when it comes to a fairly new artist, in this case money is needed in order to start projects, video productions, tours, music equipment, and much more, but for an artist that is already very famous this may not be the goal.

Another good thing that can come out as a result of winning is of course more popularity and status in the industry. Again there is the fact that some musicians may benefit from this a lot more than others, still, it’s a guaranteed way to stay relevant.

Of course there is also the honor of winning the award. Some events such as the Grammys are considered to be one of the biggest awards in the industry and it certainly is a big moment for any musician.

The Grammys

The Grammy Awards had its first ceremony in 1959 and had 28 awards. As the years passed by the amount of awards increased due to more music genres being recognized such as rock in 1980 and rap in 1989.

In the year 2000 the first Latin Grammy awards were celebrated.

Nominations for the 2021 Grammy awards were announced recently and they include Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Dua Lipa, however one artist wasn’t nominated despite having the biggest selling album of 2020 in the US, The Weeknd.

He said in his twitter account:

“The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”

The head of the Recording Academy responded with:

awards

“We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathise with what he’s feeling,” said Harvey Mason Jr.

“Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists. To be clear, voting in all categories ended well before The Weeknd’s performance at the Super Bowl was announced, so in no way could it have affected the nomination process.”

It’s not the first time that the Grammys have been called out by artists, in 2016 Frank Ocean declined having his music in the Grammys by saying that: “doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down.”

Drake also spoke against the awards by saying that the category in which he won, wasn’t the right one for the song which was the hit “Hotline Bling” and was attributed to Hip Hop.

On the other hand, Iggy Pop was finally recognized with an award by the grammys, by winning the lifetime awards.

When asked about it he said:

No. I was surprised. I was doing some voiceover work and was a little … grumpy already, and my manager said, “The head of the Grammys insists on speaking to you personally on the telephone.” I thought, “I don’t want to. Nothing good will come of it.” But as it turned out, that was a nice thing, and I was quite surprised. I thought, “Well, there must be a bit of a sea change going on.

Of course it’s hard to satisfy everyone but it’s also hard to deny the changes in the kind of artists the ceremony used to have in so little time.

It’s interesting to see how it affects different artists and how it may or may not influence in their career at the moment. Either way winning an award will have a lot of consecuences in a musicians career.

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Music has always been an important part of every human being, and in one way or another, people get to experience music and melodies in their lives. However one of the most important technological breakthroughs in history was the invention of portable music whiche meant, having music with you as if you were listening to your oun soundtrack. The feeling of being in a movie or making the simplest things in life more enjoyable was not a little thing for humanity.

The Sony Walkman

The real first big step towards portable music was the Sony Walkman which was released in 1979.

This moment in history was described in a Time article:

The Walkman wasn’t a giant leap forward in engineering: magnetic cassette technology had been around since 1963, when the Netherlands-based electronics firm Philips first created it for use by secretaries and journalists. Sony, who by that point had become experts in bringing well-designed, miniaturized electronics to market (they debuted their first transistor radio in 1955), made a series of moderately successful portable cassette recorders.

But the introduction of pre-recorded music tapes in the late 1960s opened a whole new market. People still chose to listen to vinyl records over cassettes at home, but the compact size of tapes made them more conducive to car stereos and mobility than vinyl or 8-tracks. On July 1, 1979, Sony Corp. introduced the Sony Walkman TPS-L2, a 14 ounce, blue-and-silver, portable cassette player with chunky buttons, headphones and a leather case. It even had a second earphone jack so that two people could listen in at once.

All the device needed now was a name. Originally the Walkman was introduced in the U.S. as the “Sound-About” and in the UK as the “Stowaway,” but coming up with new, uncopyrighted names in every country it was marketed in proved costly; Sony eventually decided on “Walkman” as a play on the Sony Pressman, a mono cassette recorder the first Walkman prototype was based on. First released in Japan, it was a massive hit: while Sony predicted it would only sell about 5,000 units a month, the Walkman sold upwards of 50,000 in the first two months. Sony wasn’t the first company to introduce portable audio: the first-ever portable transistor radio, the index card-sized Regency TR-1, debuted in 1954. But the Walkman’s unprecedented combination of portability (it ran on two AA batteries) and privacy (it featured a headphone jack but no external speaker) made it the ideal product for thousands of consumers looking for a compact portable stereo that they could take with them anywhere. The TPS-L2 was introduced in the U.S. in June 1980”.

In many ways the Sony Walkman remains to be one of the biggest revolutions in technology and music in history with its very small design and great audio quality. It was about having the music you wanted anywhere you wanted, and that was mindblowing.

CD players

Eventually, almost everyone moved to the CD format, but it was a bit uncomfortable in a way due to its size, but still, audio fidelity was better than casette tapes.

One step forward in every way but it’s portable capabillities, with the discman being the closest thing to, carry a music playr with you when it came to CDs.

MP3, ipod

While having a discman was technically the most up to date music player, it wasn’t as revolutionary or portable as the Sony Walkman.

This made the Walkman a very reliable device until mp3 players came into our lives.

It wasn’t until 1998 that the world’s first MP3 player, the MPMan F10, was developed by a South Korean company called SaeHan Information Systems. While it was a very groundbreaking first attempt, the idea of having a small device with your favorite songs in digital format, was not made popular until the release of the iPod which was in 2001.

In way, the mp3 player did all the same things the Sony Walkman did but now in digital format and with a lot more room for music. The iPod did all of this beautifully with a great interface and futuristic design.

Cellphones (Smartphones)

For a bit more than 10 years an mp3 player was a must have, until smartphones and streaming platforms became so much popular.

Nowadays cellphones are able to perform an incredible amount of tasks, working as a small computed in the palm of your hands, and of course, one of these tasks is being a portable music device.

With apps such as Apple music, Spotify and Deezer, one of the easiest ways to bring music with you is just to install the right app, plug in your headphones and start listening wherever you want.

Of course this usually means that you need to stay connected to the internet and many people actually prefer this access to unlimited amounts of music but through the internet, rather than building a library of music just like the ipod did.

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As musicians we are always amazed by the possibilities of merging different influences and finding new inspirations to develop different and fresh sounds. A good example of this result of making something new by mixing different genres is city pop.

City pop is a genre of music that originated in Japan around the 70s and became wildly popular around the 80s

Late 70s Japan

In order to understand the audience and the general feel of city pop we have to understand the context in which it was born. Maybe, some genres don’t necessarily need this sort of explanation but city pop does.

As its name implies, this type of music wanted to make the listener feel the city life in the best way possible, and it was the perfect time for that. Japan was reaching an economic peak , and technological advancement didn’t stop surprising people with arcades and the sony walkman.

At the same time, sounds from the west were “invading” Japan with new wave, jazz fusion, blues, and rockabilly.

According to Yosuke Kitazawa, trhere was a thirst for celebration and a very active nightlife, he says:

The public spent lavishly on imported wine and liquor, luxury clothing, art, and international travel. Japanese nightlife, from flashy restaurants and hostess bars to glitzy bars and discotheques, was second to none. Japan needed a soundtrack for this new lifestyle, and city pop was born.

It also inspired many visual artists such as Hiroshi Nagai, who found a way to mix pop art with American ads and surrealism. These sort of art eventually also inspired the graphic design for Sonic the Hedgehog’s Green Hill Zone.

80s Japan

The 80s was the golden age of city pop, which started with Yamashita Tatsur?’s single “Ride on Time”. From there on city pop got into the mainstream, as the sound of the city.

It became almost a cultural movement in Japan, and everyone was involved with city pop one way or another, and artists such as Yazawa Eikichi and Inoue Y?sui who were more along the lines of rock and folk, were also getting into the trend.

Women in City Pop

City pop had a big influence on women in Japan, not only from a musical perspective but as a way to express the fact that women also enjoy the same nightlife as men.

In a way this genre brought a new era when it comes to gender equality even though it came from a place of leisure.

To this days some of the biggest city pop hits are sang by women.

Singers like Hitohmi Tohyama and Junko Ohashi sang about the inner workings of their bedrooms as they addressed risque and sometimes taboo subjects like one-night stands and the pursuit of men. While most Japanese love songs hesitate to express emotions directly, this allusion to physical relationships encouraged women to take an active role in their own sexuality.

Plastic Love and City Pop Revival

The youtube algorithm sometimes takes us to very weird recommendations, videos that we don’t really know why they are for us, one of these videos was Mariya Takeuchi’s Plastic Love.

This started a new fascination for the genre in the 2010s which made it even more international.

This was also due to the vaporwave and future funk boom, which are heavily influenced by the sounds of the 80s. Artists going into these new genres went back to music that felt appropriate to have as an inspiration or sample. That’s how everyone just kept stumbling with city pop.

According to vice.com

Sample-heavy Internet genres like vaporwave and future funk soon rose to prominence, offering a hyper-commercialized take on 80s pop as fantastical and escapist as they were critical of the empty promises of capitalism. For these online communities, old city pop records would serve as a massive visual and sonic touchstone.

It’s still fresh, full of energy and contradictory as it feels both nostalgic and modern, but that is just what makes it so special.

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