The following developed out of an online discussion, elsewhere. I wondered what others thought about the subject, so I'm blogging it here.
It's funny how there's a virtually infinite number of ways to combine musical notes into a song, yet only a select few styles and genres dominate popular music at any given time. Until the advent of free (or pirated) .MP3 music files, I used to think the limited variety of popular music was due to record labels and radio stations pushing groups and artists that fit a formulaic mold determined by perceived trends. But with everybody (for a decade now) downloading any song they wish, we're finding that popularity still conforms to existing genres.
Much of American culture has been exported (and emulated) around the world via our music. Blues, jazz, rock and roll, country western, motown, rap, gospel, etc. Why does our music hold such sway in other cultures? This might be a good thing for American music companies but I don't think it's good for original, innovative, music.
I've felt, for quite a while now, that popular music needs an infusion of new and unique creative influences. Musical stagnation has been increasing for decades. Have you noticed how the practice of "covering" older songs (or parts of them) has grown over recent years? It's as if artists are finding it more and more difficult to create original material.
Maybe it's the audience and not the performers who are in a rut. Perhaps there's a world of great music out there that goes unnoticed because the audience is conditioned to favor existing musical formulas. Trends are normally short-lived and in constant flux . . . I don't know that we can say there's anything really trendy about popular music any more. Or maybe I'm just getting old.