Michelle Branch and the state of music

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 10, 2003, 11:43 PM | comments: 0

I can't even begin to describe how dissatisfied I've been with music in the past year or two. Things have been bad in radio, generally speaking, but the darkest day was when "The End, Cleveland's New Rock Alternative" went dark and was flipped to some other format.

What the industry called "alternative" at the time was kind of a CHR (that's "contemporary hits radio," or top 40, for those of you not in radio) for people that didn't like to stick to one type of music. There was some cross-over with top 40, adult contemporary (AC), "rock" and other formats. It was cool that you could hear No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Jewel, Filter, Garbage and whacked out shit like the Bloodhound Gang all in the same place.

Since then there's this "extreme radio" dick rock bullshit that I absolutely can't stand. If it doesn't have a penis and yells at you, they don't play it. That's the format guideline. I can't stand the Limp Cornsmack bands and all of the clones.

I recently realized that what we called "alternative" in the second half of the 90's still exists, it's just fragmented all over the damn place. So I decided it was time to take a chance on something I might not have purchased if I was locked into this negative format mindset. I bought Michelle Branch.

I figured since she writes her own shit, plays the guitar and doesn't sound like the electronic dance Britney-wannabe stuff (which has its place to, mind you), I'd give her a shot. Turns out, she reminds me a lot vocally of Jewel, but perhaps with a harder sound. Her lyrics kind of reflect her age, but that's OK, since she's not even 20 yet. I think we haven't seen her full writing or vocal capability yet, so it should be fun to watch her grow up.

Of course, this leaves me feeling dirty and bad for some reason, and it has everything to do with the packaging of music. Branch is packaged as CHR/AC fluff. Five years ago (if she wasn't 14!) she'd be squarely placed in the alternative realm. She has a song called "Drop In The Ocean" that has this great, almost Peter Gabriel-esque texture to it that I totally dig. I hope to see more from her soon.

So I'm coming to terms with it, and hope that the music industry gets its head out of its ass so as not to cause me these feelings of embarassment. I've gotta go find more of this stuff that has been miscategorized.


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