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Pareles on simplistic hits

TAKE OF THE DAY: “The grand album-length statement and the rhapsodic, convoluted song lived on in 2010 releases by Arcade Fire, Titus Andronicus, Joanna Newsom, Erykah Badu, Ne-Yo and, dopey as some of his lyrics can be, Kanye West. But musicians like those come across now as holdouts and outright contrarians against the dominance of three-minute, two-idea tracks—of the pop song as little more than a sound effect and a sound bite. The pressures on musicians to keep things simple are obvious. What have become all-too-familiar 21st-century refrains—too much information, too little time and the diminished attention spans that result from trying to cope—have only grown more insistent through the decade. The recording technology of loops and samples encourages unimaginative producers to repeat something merely adequate for the length of a song rather than developing or enriching it. Playback from MP3s through cheap earbuds rewards the brittle and tinny, not the lush and subtle. And as sales of recorded music dwindle, the incentives only increase to write songs around nuggets and generic sentiments that can be repurposed as ad jingles, ring tones and soundtrack backgrounds.” —from Jon Pareles’ essay “Want a Hit Keep It Simple” in the N.Y. Times (1/3a)

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