You know what I hate?

The Blues.

Yeah, that’s right.

I was in Borders earlier this evening, where they were playing some kind of “Best of the Blues” compilation CD, and it was making me ill with rage. It was seriously one of the most annoying things I’ve ever heard.
Since virtually every single blues song ever recorded has the same exact chord progression, it can’t really be regarded as a legitimate musical genre. It’s more like an infinitely huge collection of crappy variations on the same boring song. The only differences are the tempo, the annoying guitar/harmonica solos, and style of singing.

And what’s with those ‘upbeat’ blues songs? They’re the exact same thing, only more “peppy”, and usually feature a woman on vocals instead of some crusty old guy yelling his head off. To me, this is ten times more annoying, because of the paradoxical nature of it all. “Upbeat blues” is a freaking oxymoron. Every time I hear a jingle on the radio with music like that, I just about go off the road while madly slapping the stereo trying to switch to another station.
There was some TV commercial a few years back for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese that featured a group of kids singing “I’ve got the blues” in this style. I wanted to put my foot through the TV, I got so mad.

Now, I know that blues is widely regarded as a vitally important chapter in musical history, and that it bridged the gap between negro spirituals and what eventually became known as jazz. I understand that it provided much of the basis for early rock ‘n’ roll. I know all that stuff. What I still don’t get, though, is why people continue to regard the blues as a valid genre, worthy of continued exploration. Jazz compositions, for the most part, are different from one another. Jazz is interesting, dynamic, and quite exciting by comparison. Most rock and roll is, too. I can, and do, appreciate both. Blues, however, is all the same to me. There’s got to be something I’m missing.
At times people like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi have made the blues a little more interesting to me, yes… but that’s because they were incredible musicians who weren’t constrained by that genre – and brought lots of other interesting stuff into it.

I will grant you that what we call ‘blues’ may once have been a legitimate musical movement. Black folks in the deep south definitely had something real when they picked up guitars and set their sorrows to song. There was something extremely legit about that, but it spoiled the moment somebody decided to record and mass-produce the stuff to middle-class America. From that day on, thousands of people have been recording that same freaking song, adding their own stupid lyrics and obnoxious solos.
So I guess it’s “modern blues” that I really have a problem with, regardless of whether the performers are black or white.

One of the things I hate most is that today, the whole blues ‘scene’ is rife with middle-aged white guys who try to sound “real” by emulating the raspy, throaty sound of a poor, crusty old black man whose woman dun’ left ‘im. These self-described “bluesmen” have never been to the south, experienced poverty or suffering, and live in clean, respectable suburban housing tracts.
That doesn’t stop them, though. They show up on stage at outdoor blues festivals, brandishing their expensive Stratocasters and filling the summer air with extended wailing solos – while tanktop-clad moms and dads clap enthusiastically and wait in line for two more cups of Budweiser.

Yeah, that’s blues for you.

And I still hate it.