By Nikita Deb
If you go back 12 years, every popular singer, composer and lyricist that entered the mainstream was from a completely new generation. I don’t think there was a generation jump of this kind before 2005. But, of course, it is a cycle. In terms of technology, I don’t see much change because 12 years back things like programming were already in place. One big change that has happened is the phenomenon of a certain trend holding your attention for two-three years and then vanishing away. Films before 2005 would have a varied soundtrack. They would have fun tracks and romantic tracks, and there would be lots of happy music. Every film’s soundtrack belonged to that particular film (you could distinguish one from the other). It wasn’t so much about trying to make a musical. You had certain voices that went with certain actors. A lot of norms that existed back then don’t exist now. Now, a singer doesn’t need to have a voice that matches the actor or the genre of the film. The genre of the song does not have to be the same as that of the film. A perfect example is a ‘Ladki beautiful kar gayi chull’, where you are talking about very international music, where you would assume that there would be guys from the hinterlands of Haryana dancing to the song. But, no, [on the contrary] you have very hip and cool, today’s kind of people dancing to the track. Such things wouldn’t happen back then. There was a little more logical reasoning to the music. A club song would be shot in a club. Now, there is a certain amount of insecurity in terms of a hit song. There are no situational songs today. And, even if there are, they are not promoted. It’s only when you see the film that you say ‘oh wow this song is really nice’.
Promotional songs started coming in the last 12 years. Then came the trend of rehashing old songs. Today, it is not important to match the theme of the song to the lyrics or to the mood. Nowadays, even vocal matching is not required. The personality of the voice and the range don’t need to match that of the actor’s. There are also a few go-to people when you need a hit. Arijit (Singh) se gawa do gaana hit hojayega (let Arijit sing the song and it will be a hit). Before that there was Rahat Fateh (Ali Khan). Each one had their day. They would say, “Go to Himesh Reshammiya and he will give you a catchy club song.” There was a Rahat phase, a Mika phase, an Arijit phase. How can you forget there was a huge Honey Singh phase that came and went. Then there was the Badshah phase; I am sensing that’s dying out. You can call it the Honey Singh/Badshah phase. I think Badshah just tried to extend the Honey Singh phase. Earlier, when there was a Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan and KK [phase], there was space for everyone. It wasn’t like a Sonu Nigam could only sing sad songs. We all got the chance to sing all kinds of songs.
Today, of course, there is Arijit, who is singing everything and the new kids are all singing like him. So, you never get to know who they are. You think that’s Arijit on a different day. They all sort of gasp for breath in between lines. They start every line with the groan. And, they don’t want to open their mouth. They sing from their nose and in the same way. Those fun romantic songs are just gone. The fun is gone out of romance; there is only misery in it now. There is so much intensity. They are heavy and the track sounds like the last song a man has sung before he fell. ‘Bolna mahi bolna’ (Kapoor & Sons; 2016) nahi bologe toh matlab abhi khatam hogaye, is an example of a heavy song. Why such intensity and quivering? But, that’s the new thing. It sounds like there is a lot of expression. So, yes, the definition of expression has also changed to an extent. Most of the girls these days have a masculine voice which is nice and different.
Nowadays, all the songs are sung on the same scale. Once they set a scale they don’t want to take any odd note. They don’t want anything tricky. So, it’s easy to sing and process. Even processing is now a big thing. When you autotune, and you don’t use the same scale of the note, it’s difficult to autotune. That’s another problem. And, because every song is on the same scale, you can do a medley. You can start with one song and just keep singing. You just take an A minor and you can sing all the songs. We can hardly hear the girls anymore. They might have one track, that too a sad item song, where the voice is so heavily treated that you don’t even know who is singing it.
Duets are passé
These days, songs are not equally divided. A girl will have one line, that too in some low octave, where she sounds almost like a male. You will rarely feel the chemistry between a male and female voice in a song. The man is singing on a higher octave and the girl is singing on a lower one. If you look at ‘Gerua’ (Dilwale; 2015), you hardly hear the girl because she is singing the same bridge line in the whole song. It was supposed to be a romantic old-world duet that was meant to bring back the Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol magic. But, you only hear the male voice almost in the entire song. So, it is becoming a little unfair to the girls. We have such wonderful voices that hardly get to sing. Before 2005, there was technology, but that was just to enhance the thing. Now, we have become slaves to technology. Almost all the programmers have become composers. That’s another trend. Guys who were programmers earlier have now become full-fledged composers, who can produce their own things. All that they want from you is for you to be a good programmer. These are the new rung of composers. The Pritams and the Vishal Shekhars were anyway present before 2005.
By Nikita Deb