what makes music 'timeless'?
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  1. #1

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    what makes music 'timeless'?

    ok so I'm procrastinating again, I have a really huge paper to write and I just can't bring myself to keep after it right now. my brain hurts.

    the 'what are you listening to' thread made me think of all the stuff I do and don't like. there's some music that never seems to get old. examples (for me) include stuff like BB King, Johnny Cash, Simon & Garfunkel, the Police, etc. oh and I listen to some classical stuff too like Beethoven and Rachmaninoff.

    so, what makes music 'timeless'? I listen to a lot of stuff that my parents hate (well of course), but there's stuff they like too. Mom had me burn her a spin class cd off some of my techno albums, and so on.

    reason I was thinking all this is I just had Goldfrapp - Ooh La La on and it's like some mad fusion of disco and techno and dark house and catchy as hell plus the female vocalist sounds like sex in a bottle. I bet a lot of people from all across the musical spectrum would kinda dig this, even if it's not their typical gig. plus even though that albums' been out like a month (maybe), I think this track has already been cut into a soda commercial. not that this is a good (or bad) thing, it just means it's catchy song (it is, go ahead, download it and I dare you not to do the hustle in your cubicle listening to it!)

    now timeless doesn't have to mean GOOD. I think we all know there's a lot of crap that still gets air decades later because for whatever reason it made an impression.

    talk amongst yourselves, i'm gonna go get more coffee.

  2. #2

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    this is kind of secondary, but it doesn't hurt - being ahead of its time e.g. dark side of the moon.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by weapons grade chaos
    now timeless doesn't have to mean GOOD. I think we all know there's a lot of crap that still gets air decades later because for whatever reason it made an impression.
    I disagree. Timeless DOES have to mean GOOD. Or maybe your definition of timeless is different than mine. We may disagree on what is good, but I definitely feel that most people agree on what music becomes "timeless." That's why it is timeless.

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    ok let me try to explain

    Quote Originally Posted by mohair_chair
    I disagree. Timeless DOES have to mean GOOD.
    and I disagree with that, look at how popular Tom Jones is!

    2 perfect examples: We Are The World. horrible, just horrible. perfect example of what happens to music when its written by a committee, but it was written for a particular reason and a lot of people think its tits, and its a cultural icon. it's 'timeless' by definition because it defines the 80's bands-for-charity era.

    and... my personal nominee for greatest crap song of all time? Nancy Sinatra - These Boots Are Made For Walking. c'mon people, she cant SING for the love of christ, which they conveniently cover up by using 2 monotone chords the entire song. but everyone knows it and it's kind of a pop classic icon.

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    if we are the world is timeless I would have heard it at least once in the last 15 years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Friction_Shifter
    if we are the world is timeless I would have heard it at least once in the last 15 years.
    ok so I admit that wasn't the best example ever but I hear it everytime I go to an 80's party or they talk about '20 years ago today' on the news or whatever.

  7. #7
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    I'm with Mohair, timeless means good.

    Time filters out all the stuff that was just mediocre but was new or different at the time it came out and everyone thought it was the rage. Sometime stuff never becomes popular until years after it's initial creation. Many classical pieces that were not popular when they were written are very popular now and have stood the test of time.

    Like in the other thread, someone said that the artsy fartsy people are listening to these obscure bands and claim they produce the best music that has ever been created.

    Well if a song doesn't get any mainstream attention then the majority of people would think it sucked.
    "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." --A. Einstein

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by weapons grade chaos
    and I disagree with that, look at how popular Tom Jones is!

    2 perfect examples: We Are The World. horrible, just horrible. perfect example of what happens to music when its written by a committee, but it was written for a particular reason and a lot of people think its tits, and its a cultural icon. it's 'timeless' by definition because it defines the 80's bands-for-charity era.

    and... my personal nominee for greatest crap song of all time? Nancy Sinatra - These Boots Are Made For Walking. c'mon people, she cant SING for the love of christ, which they conveniently cover up by using 2 monotone chords the entire song. but everyone knows it and it's kind of a pop classic icon.
    If you ever saw Tom Jones in concert, you would know why he is so popular. He's an entertainer and showman. I've seen him and he blows away a lot of much younger acts with his energy.

    These Boots Are Made For Walking is not a good song, but it is a fun song. When it comes on, it makes people happy. Whether you love it or love to hate it, you can't deny it is a fun song.

    So there you have it. Music that is fun and joyful tends to be timeless. Also, music that is sensual and romantic. And raw and dirty and angry and full of energy. In short, timeless music is the stuff that makes us really feel something, every time we hear it. That can be the pure overwhelming genius and beauty of "Thunder Road," the campy sing-along delight of "Summer Lovin'," or the silky sensual wonder of "The Way You Look Tonight." All good. All timeless in my book.

    I would not classify "We are the world" as timeless because it represents a very specific moment in time, which goes completely against the definition.

  9. #9
    Windrider (Stubborn)
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    To be timeless......

    music has to be......

    Genuine.....Nothing made up to be catchy will ever be timeless. It has to speak to the reality of the human condition.

    Memorable......it has to be destinctly memorable, either associated with specific events, or somehow realted to an age.

    Trancend generations......it has to be recognizable as good across many ages....Benny Goodman is timeless, The Temtations are timeless, Dylan is Timeless etc.

    Len



    "Evil....is the complete lack of Empathy!"

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  10. #10
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    Then how to we explain all those oldies stations that. . .

    play that [email protected] bubblegum pop of the 1960s?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by mohair_chair

    I would not classify "We are the world" as timeless because it represents a very specific moment in time, which goes completely against the definition.
    Is this always the case? I think about "Ohio" by N. Young and to me that is a timeless classic...even though it is about a specific moment in time...its themes are universal.
    In the time of battle you don't rise to the occasion you resort to the level of your conditioning...

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by mohair_chair
    I disagree. Timeless DOES have to mean GOOD. Or maybe your definition of timeless is different than mine. We may disagree on what is good, but I definitely feel that most people agree on what music becomes "timeless." That's why it is timeless.
    absolutely. quality of songwriting makes timeless music. be it country, soul or shameless romantic pop; if there is quality, it stays long after the singer's hairstyle goes out of fashion.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by thatsmybush
    Is this always the case? I think about "Ohio" by N. Young and to me that is a timeless classic...even though it is about a specific moment in time...its themes are universal.
    That song may be about a specific event in time, but it fits into the broader category of political/protest songs, many of which I feel are timeless. I'll bet a lot of people hear that song and have no idea what it is about or when it was made, but nevertheless, they understand it.

  14. #14
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    Man, to think...

    That I have always considered the theme to Smokey and the Bandit and Dukes of Hazzard were timeless.

    Man, I feel as if my interpretation of the universe has gone askew.....

    --Hijack Warning--

    the question is.... what is more memorable... timeless GOOD songs, or timeless BAD songs?

    Example:
    Macarana
    Achy Breaky Heart
    Hot Child in the City

    The list goes on...
    so sayeth the funk....

    Chris

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  15. #15

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    Timeless music has to be a little bit more than "good"--there's a character to it, something that scratches down a little deeper in the psyche, something that makes that permanent connection with the listener. I can think of lots of good music that brings me joy when I hear it after a long absence; timeless music is what I will actually seek out, again and again.

  16. #16
    Windrider (Stubborn)
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    Just because........

    Quote Originally Posted by funknuggets
    That I have always considered the theme to Smokey and the Bandit and Dukes of Hazzard were timeless.

    Man, I feel as if my interpretation of the universe has gone askew.....

    --Hijack Warning--

    the question is.... what is more memorable... timeless GOOD songs, or timeless BAD songs?

    Example:
    Macarana
    Achy Breaky Heart
    Hot Child in the City

    The list goes on...
    they stick in your head......that doesn't make them timeless..........If that were true, then the Roro-Router commercial jingle would be timeless!

    Timeless is about quality......ask your kids what old music they like & I guarantee you that you will get a list of (mostly) what you would consider timeless songs.

    Len



    "Evil....is the complete lack of Empathy!"

    ""We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. " Aristotle

    No one is as bad as the worst thing they have done & no one is as good as the best thing they have done.........think of that when you feel like you understand someone.

  17. #17

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    ugh, damn semantics

    ok, so when I said 'timeless'? maybe I should have said 'accessible' instead, like stuff you'll hear over and over again in references, advertising, and almost becomes like a cliche' icon kinda thing. whatever. you guys have pretty much got it tho, funknuggets is on track with what I was thinking.

    think about it. when you think of music that defines a genre, etc... it isn't always the best (technically) quality example. like for instance if you play word-association and say 'Sixties British Invasion', I bet the first thing that most people come up with is 'She Loves Me Yeah Yeah Yeah' from the Beatles. now okay they went on to make much better music, cuz even they claim they were still barely able to play their instruments at that point. point is that song has been elevated from a three-chord catchy pop song to the definitive icon of that era / genre.

  18. #18
    Palm trees & sunshine!
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    At it's base, the answer to the question is pretty simple: To be timeless, a song has to have components that will appeal regardless of the age of the listener. As with physical beauty, there are probably studies out there that list the most common musical components that appeal to the widest audience. (Hoo... anything?)

    I think very few songs fit into the timeless category.


    supervillain

  19. #19
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    Groups or individuals that create a unique sound produce timeless music. Most people could pick out a Springsteen, Stones, or The Who song just by listening to the first couple of cords. Not necessarily the song, but the artist. Someone like Madonna who constantly reinvents herself is a little more of a challenge. Movie soundtracks go a long way on this one as well by creating a visual image with the music. Music videos don't really do it.
    Retired sailor

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenB
    At it's base, the answer to the question is pretty simple: To be timeless, a song has to have components that will appeal regardless of the age of the listener. As with physical beauty, there are probably studies out there that list the most common musical components that appeal to the widest audience. (Hoo... anything?)

    I think very few songs fit into the timeless category.
    all your timeless are belong to J's.
    One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know.

  21. #21
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    Timeless=likeability

    A song's popularity is directly linked to it's likeability. I mean, if a song stops geting media play, it dies. If a song continues for generations to get play or sell albums, then it's timeless. Like songs used in commercials. Take George T-Goods "Bad to the Bone" timeless? Well yeah, because when it came out originally, it had mild radio playability. Now it's in a crapload of commercials and will be forever linked to a "tough guy" image. So it's classified as timeless due to the generational gap acceptance. Now, is it timeless because of it's absolute perfection? no. It aint the Beatles Abby road by any means. So there is a bit of a double standard open to interpretation. A lot like the athletic debate between Mike Vick and Lance.
    I want rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con-men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull-dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, sh**-kickers, and Methodists!

  22. #22
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    timeless means you can order dinner into a clown's mouth.
    One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know.

  23. #23
    Palm trees & sunshine!
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigbill
    Someone like Madonna who constantly reinvents herself is a little more of a challenge.
    That, IMO, is the genius of Madonna -- her sound, though constantly evolving, is still her sound. I don't know if I'd call her stuff timeless but she has put out some excellent music.

    I once read somewhere that one of the most recognizable guitar solos is the one at the end of Hotel California. Other songs, say Dust in the Wind by Kansas and More than Words by Extreme for example, defie logic in their longevity compared to other great songs by the same artists. Which version of Pretty Woman is more likely to stand the test of time, Roy Orbison's or Van Halen's? These are just songs of our generation. You don't hear many songs from the 50s or earlier on the radio or in pop culture any more. I can think of a few (Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby and some others) but not many more.

    Timelessness is a very exclusive club.

    Just some thoughts on the topic.


    supervillain

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenB
    Which version of Pretty Woman is more likely to stand the test of time, Roy Orbison's or Van Halen's?
    Roy's version will stand the test of time. Van Halen's cool, but they can't hang with Roy.

  25. #25
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    Timeless is public domain.

    Greensleeves is the ur-Timeless music.

    But what do I know.
    .
    Stout beers under trees, please.

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