Fans of blues music may scoff at what artists put forward as modern pop music today. The soulful, emotive crooning has been replaced by tinny beats and repetitive choruses. But some of the most pop-centric songs of today could be credited with being inspired by blues music. This could be the fast rhythm present in the songs, or it could be the heartfelt story that is being sung. So, are we experiencing a stealthy blues renaissance?
What Makes Music Bluesy?
Determining whether modern music has been influenced by blues can be difficult given how much musical styles evolve and progress. Developed in America in the mid-1800s by African Americans, blues music is based around the sounds, the narrative of the songs, and the snappy rhythm that is akin to spiritual chants and working songs. While the blues was huge in America and played across the south coast and the traditional dustbowl, it wasn’t until The Rolling Stones incorporated blues sounds into their music that it really became as popular in the UK.
Blues in Other Genres
The rhythm that is inherent in blues music has been incorporated into modern musical styles with the acoustic flicks of the guitar strings replaced by electronic sounds. For instance, modern-day hip hop is inspired by the tone and rhythm found in blues music. Elsewhere, jazz has been inspired by blues music, namely in the unconventional time signatures. The horns that make jazz music are also inspired by the twangs of the blues guitar.
The sounds of blues music can be traced back to African music and the drumbeats that perpetuate much of the music found across the continent. So, any musical style that has a similar sound can be seen to be tertiarily inspired by blues music or at least the inspiration for blues itself.
Modern artists can also be seen to have been influenced by the blues. John Mayer, for example, is often cited as a good example of a modern blues musician. Primarily focused on pop, Mayer’s eclectic nature regularly dips towards blues-style guitar riffs. His latest track, Last Train Home, is fairly bluesy in its crooning, guiatar-led composition. Less mainstream, yet still popular, Samantha Fish is a modern-day powerhouse of blues music itself. With younger artists pioneering a traditional blues music with modern accents, newer audiences will be able to appreciate the genre.
Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album Sour is influenced by the blues stylings of The White Stripes and Gwen Stefani’s No Doubt. Covertly using these artists as the basis for creating modern songs allows the genre’s music to exist in a new format and reach the TikTok generation. Lady Gaga created a blues album with Tony Bennett, titled Cheek to Cheek. Some blues songs are still popular enough to experience the cover treatment, such as Black Betty and House of the Rising Sun.
The Nostalgia Renaissance
Some may argue that the genre’s resurgence has come about as part of a wider influence of traditional concepts being reintroduced in modern ways. For instance, the Peloton has revolutionized both solo and group exercise. By taking the concept of the exercise bike and infusing it with a subscription to classes and tutorials, people can engage with the traditional mode of keeping fit in a modern way.
Moreover, as the options for live casino table games at Betway show, traditional casino games such as poker and roulette have been reoptimized for modern audiences with live versions. These versions allow players to see the dealer in real-time as the game unfolds, which invokes the tension and excitement intrinsic in the games. Elsewhere, books have been reimagined in a more accessible way, too. As audiobook services like Audible show us, lengthy volumes have been delivered in the form of live-streamed audio versions for busy readers who can listen to books on the go instead of having to carry books with them. While this won’t suit everyone, it has helped transform one of the oldest methods of entertainment.
Even in the world of business, telecoms companies like Zoom have made meetings more accessible and reimagined how people can communicate. While this isn’t new – Skype was around beforehand – the user interface and ease of use have helped change how we communicate. More broadly, smartphones in general and social media on them have changed how we run our interpersonal relationships, in many cases for the better.
Blues music may not be as popular among the mainstream as the resurgence of disco or even country music that we have experienced but this doesn’t mean the genre has had its day. The fact that so many modern artists are citing its influences for their musical styles or releasing records that are heavily inspired by blues music means that it will live on in the mainstream in a different format. As more commercial acclaim is achieved with these blues-influenced artists, we could then expect to see a full-scale renaissance. Music is a revolution and everything that was once popular will be popular again.