Until quite recently the English audience especially seemed to find it difficult in an ill-defined sort of way to enjoy an older performer producing a competent musical sound in the broadly ‘popular’ field.
Led mainly by America the music market has now become so fragmented that there is a niche customer base for just about any genre. In some areas being ‘mature’ for example, an almost insurmountable obstacle to paid circuit performance only a few years ago, now has novelty value in itself and if the performer can introduce any element of life experience into their work, this would present an element that clearly the younger performer would find difficult to emulate. Not that they would want to of course but it heightens the awareness that the audience is being presented with something a bit different, something with an extra facet.
There always used to be a kind of trans-sensory flux, a sort of high speed oscillation between the visible and the audible, created and then more firmly established through repetition by Commerce. Such is the investment in presenting certain musical packages to the masses, the mental images of rhythmic music and youth became all but synonymous. Where the subject material is romantic, one would not wish to conjure up images of the more mature, it would be simply unworkable. Profit driven – if as a commercial enterprise you aim to extract money from teenage girls’ purses, the image of the performer is every bit as important as the audible product.
Oddly, from my point of view anyway, I find nothing wrong with any of this. The ‘Boy Bands’ and seemingly endless streams of transient ‘heartthrobs’ have long since been immovably established as an efficient means of extracting this money from a significant section of the populous that has pocket money or equally disposable income, without any other financial commitments
Commerce is like a vacuum in reverse, equipped with an awareness of the potential and lots of money, it will pressure its way into all surrounding openings. Here are all these people with a bit of spare dosh and only a juvenile imagination to direct its expenditure. If it wasn’t for the Boy Bands and so on, the machinery of Commerce would without doubt have come up with something else.
‘Pop’ music, to me is, to those with whom it resonates, the sound of how it feels to be young, now, right now. Those aficionados carry that with them as they move on in time, and the newer stuff gets drawn into the outgoing product’s wake. Cool. However, the definition ‘pop’ is a bit all-covering. It’s a wide and increasingly diverse market with many different outlets. Jazz, Blues, and other more specialised fields, whilst not being considered ‘Classical’ are definitely popular but would not be described as ‘pop’. Then again, candy-floss and roast beef are not the same thing because you eat them; any more than differing genres of music are the same because they are all consumed through listening.
If you are involved in creative work you are beyond the reach of Time and Age. These parameters are transcended by your product, as an individual you even become less significant, not more; what counts is the product. In the same way that personal musical expression has to be preceded by loads of practice, many aspects of successful musical product are preceded by many years spent in pursuit of it.
Criticism based solely on age and aimed at non-classical mature musicians is these days more a reflection of the critic’s lack of depth in their perceptions than it is a valid concept.
If you are sensitive to the political correctness that shelters us currently from many aspects of reality, look away now. Might there be any insight to be gained from the fact that most of this sort of criticism, certainly that which I’ve heard and read, comes from those with very little else to offer?