Depends on the type of music but by and large I think a lot of the 80's pop and rock music has dated very badly because of the clinical production values of the that time. Sharp drum and bass sounds with too much synthesiser and technical effects.
I was so glad that there was a retro backlash in the 1990's and music became much more organic again. Of course there are exceptions. Dance music is the most obvious as that has become more electronically processed than ever before.
Generally speaking, 80s music was much better. Especially when one looks at the mainstream. The rock played on the radio during the 80s (Motley Crue, GNR, etc.) was actually rock music, as opposed to the "rock" played on the radio these days (Nickelback, 3 Days Grace). Both grunge and glam rock had strong scenes during the 80s, so there was a larger amount of variety. While the former didn't get popular during the 80s, it did exist. The pop music, although it had a fair amount of synthesizer, was not as autotuned as it is today. The artists were much stronger musically. Rap was actually tolerable during the 80s. Additionally, all of the major metal genres had been established by the end of the 80s (which is one of the things that draws me to the decade).
To begin with I was not really a fan of the mainstream music of the 80's. To me, much of it came across as superficial and it now sounds really dated.
But I also think the current state of top 40 radio is pretty dismal, and it is producing some of the worst music in the history of music.
So for me to answer this question I have to look beyond the mainstream.
For example, in the 90's I listened to a lot of grunge, industrial and other forms of alternative music. The roots of the alternative explosion of the 90's really stemmed from the underground rock movement of the 80's. Bands such as Sonic Youth, Pixies, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Dinosaur Jr where extremely influential. Also regardless of what you think of Rap music, the 80's was the time that hip hop started to emerge from the underground to the mainstream.
Concerning the current music landscape, there has been some really cool developments in connection with technology and the internet. Even though the major label are floundering, you could argue that it may be the best time in history to be an independent artist. There is far greater accessibility to music, and it is much easier for artist to distribute their music. This has resulted in two developments.
1) There is more good music available that ever before.
2) There is more bad music available than ever before.
Music has also become more sub divided than ever before. It is possible for an indie artist to be well known with in the influential music blog community but be ignored by the mainstream.
For example you have a band signed to an indie label, such as Arcade Fire, who debuts at #1 on billboard, sells out Madison Square Garden, but when they win the Grammy for best album, many people are now tweeting who the hell are they.
I don't want to say that today's music is better than the 80's, because I don't think enough time has elapsed to put things into a historical perspective. But I do think this is one of the most interesting and exciting times to be a music fan.
They are alike in that they are both heavily commercialized. But the biggest difference is that most singers in the 80s could actually sing. Today's pop singers cannot sing outside a very limited range and rely on performance and looks.
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