What do you Mean…It Sounds Dated?

Jerry Lucky Commentary September 2011

Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2011 All Rights Reserved


Some time back I was reading a review in a popular music magazine and the reviewer made particular note of a

certain artist’s music sounding dated. Now I know I’ve written about this before, but once again it got me thinking…

what does that really mean? When you say something sounds dated what are you really saying?


If someone is making a new Surf music record…does that immediately make it sound dated? Or does it actually make it sound authentic? And that’s really the tipping point in this discussion. Are we really talking about a new piece of music sounding authentic to what it strives to project?


My trusty Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary lists this as the 3rd entry for the word Authentic: “made to be exactly the same as the original.” It also references aspects like true and accurate, but I want to stick with the above definition as it applies to music, specifically Progressive Rock music because you see I’m more of the opinion, that the closer you adhere to the defining elements of the genre style the more authentic it is.


It seems to me the more you try to change or mess with a genre style, the less authentic it becomes or you might say it becomes something else. To a degree this argument hinges on there actually being an established tradition to which a genre title or description can attach itself to. Here I would suggest that the Progressive Rock genre clearly became an established musical tradition through the mid-seventies.


Let’s apply the same principle to movies…if I try to make a Film Noire picture, but don’t adhere to the time honoured elements how does that translate into a Film Noire picture? I would suggest the same is true if we look at the different styles of painting; expressionism, cubism, surrealism etc. The work that you create be it in film, painting, writing and music should rightly adhere to the defining characteristics of that style or genre.


Now that’s not to say that the music, the film, the book or the painting that has been created outside of the genres accepted elements is of no value. It simply brings into question how valid that work is to sit within a certain genre style…if in fact you’ve gone out of your way to defy the genre convention.


So to bring the point back to the world of Progressive Rock music, contrary to what many critics, and by that I mean artists, fans and reviewers alike, would suggest that certain artist’s music is not progressive because it sounds “dated”, I would propose: given that they’ve taken the time to create a music that is more authentic to the genre’s established tradition makes their music a more legitimate Progressive Rock.   


Immediately I’m going to hear from some who will wail away saying something like: “but what if the genre convention is to “progress” or change.” Fair enough. I think that would have been a wonderful observation requiring a response in 1973 or even perhaps as late as 1976 but clearly by the late seventies the genre had become codified, an established tradition just like Reggae or Madrigals. So the whole “music has to progress” argument is a bit of a red-herring. It has already “progressed” to its established tradition. It doesn’t need to go anywhere else. And to suggest that it needs to progress misses the point. I mean, is there some kind of prize for making music that doesn’t like anything else? It’s not like a Progressive Rock tune is going to be hitting the top of the charts anytime soon. There is no contest here. No need for conniving one-up-man-ship. No need to belittle someone else’s music. No need to ridicule.  


So again…what does the term “dated” really mean? Frankly more than most musical genre’s we spend far too much time trying to categorize music in a way that is condescending at the least and mean-spirited in the worst. There are way too many people saying “My music is more progressive than your music.” What is this, a grade school playground? Make the music you hear in your heart. Make the music you love to listen to. Play that music…and enjoy it. At least that’s what I think.


Jerry Lucky