The Pros and Cons of Ear Candy
The Producer’s fear of boredom
The current generation of music makers suffer from a collective disease; a pathological fear of boring the listener. Producers have become almost singularly obsessed with cramming as much ear candy into their productions as possible.
Vocal effects are thrown liberally, generously, some might say, gratuitously left to right across the stereo field in an onslaught of pitch hiccups, stammered delays, and sneezing glitches. Songs are now a bewildering array of scattered melodic snatches; snippets of musical noise dispatched rapid-fire via streaming media to earbuds and phone speakers. Seemingly incapable of leaving well alone, producers smear ambient fizz, shifting waft, and wisp ethereal into every corner of their compositions.
And who can blame them? With social media demanding and draining our attention spans, our focus is evermore distracted and evermore diminished.
In the panic to cling onto the increasingly fickle ear of the listener, producers frantically subscribe to their own hastily self-imposed dogma; that of the first drop and the need to change up; second drop, change up again; the riser, the sub-drop, the reverse, the impact. Talisman enacted, in fetish-like superstition to ward off the specter of boredom.
In the era of the ‘YouTube Producer’, where ‘how to’ is so often given precedence over ‘why’, by lazy pseudo-experts, so universally professed and in turn, perpetrated is this belief, it paradoxically renders their collective works in unison, generic, and predictable.
When employed in good judgment to enhance the emotional and musical intent of the artist, ear candy serves to heighten and enrich the sensual involvement and experience of the listener. But without rhyme nor reason in reference to the peculiarities or idiosyncrasies specific to that of the song, its use becomes, at best, purely decorative and superficial, and at worst, a distraction.
There is, quite simply, only so much our brains can focus on at one time. The more of our attention drawn by the frivolous or irrelevant, the less remains for genuine engagement and real emotional investment.
Desperate to earn favor with the playlist gods, producers pursue increasingly consumable production, adorned with lavish lashings of opulent ear candy; and in doing so, make music so digestible; the act of listening barely requires any effort at all, let alone actual attention; the music little more than ‘sonic-nightlight’ or ‘mood ambiance’, an aural wallpaper; chewing gum for the ears, not sustenance for the soul.
And we wonder, we cry foul and consider ourselves the victim; we wonder, why people no longer care as much about music.