As I was growing up, the big deal was convenience. Everything from food to gadgetry of all kinds were focused on getting easier and quicker to use. Back when my mom was a teenager, fast food was something you had once in a very great while – like a treat. Her mom spent great amounts of time in the kitchen preparing meals for the family. Then my mom had her own family, found herself in need of getting a job and bringing in a second income for the family – and those things along with a deep hatred of the kitchen somehow got us to having tons of “convenience food”. TV dinners were very much a part of my growing up (I hated them with a passion), as were many, MANY kinds of frozen foods. I think my mom actually kissed our microwave more than once. Somehow from there, fast food became a staple as I continued to grow up and get out on my own. Likely because I inherited my mother’s dislike for cooking. However, as the years went on and I had children of my own, I’ve turned that curve, and most of our meals are home cooked again. I order my produce from an organic farm that delivers, and yes, my children eat vegetables. Mostly. Fascinating how the tides have turned back from trying to eat fast and furious to taking our time and enjoying real quality – and of course, knowing that this way is far healthier hasn’t hurt the concept, either.
Gadgetry though, seems to have stayed on the path of convenience. We have computers that are the size of cell phones now (and smaller), we have GPS equipment that tell us exactly where to go and how to get there, our refrigerators not only have TV’s right in the door so we have something to stare at during dinner (rather than each other), but you can program your fridge to even tell you what’s missing – why get up and make a list when the fridge can do it for you? Snail mail is practically a thing of the past, everything can get to you electronically now, and theoretically you really don’t have to leave your house for much – you can order anything and everything online and have it delivered. Then of course, there’s music. Stores like Tower Records, and the Wherehouse have been gone for years. Vinyl became CD, and CD became MP3.
Many consider MP3’s to be the “Fast Food” of music. You can download the files in the blink of an eye and be on your way. It’s fast, convenient and still does the job, just like eating at a fast food restaurant. It’s enjoyable because it’s practically instant and you really don’t even have to leave your house in order to own the latest and greatest. Is it really satisfying our needs though?
For me, MP3’s feel very synthetic, very plastic and even very one dimensional; and very much like the salty french fries I used to crave from In-N-Out. Given the fact that for many years, fast food was a staple for me, I loved those fries. I loved that I didn’t have to wait long for them, but as time wore on and I ate them more often; well, first of all my blood pressure took a huge hit, as did my waistline over the years. Then, I was completely sick of them. (along with any fast food!) More often than not these days I really just want to have a salad (and not that salad from a fast food place – I don’t know what it is about those, but they always taste like plastic to me!), or some roasted or grilled chicken, some fish, or even a great petite sized steak. Yes, I sometimes miss the convenience, but I feel so much better, I look a lot better, and I know I’m a lot healthier without that steady diet of crap. I kind of think that MP3’s are that same way, and I’m wondering when we’ll begin to turn that corner back towards real quality in music…both in the quality of the end product AND in the quality of the artists.