"Nobody wants to hear that today" – has the musicianship in contemporary pop music become too simplistic? Duran Duran's John Taylor weighs in

John Taylor of Duran Duran performs at First Direct Arena on May 04, 2023 in Leeds, England
(Image credit: Andrew Benge/Redferns)

Pop music… it's easy to assume every generation seems to sneer at the tastes of the one that comes after them. But has pop music become more simplistic over time, and because of the kind of time we live in?  

John Taylor was a flagbearer for musicianship in pop during the '80s as part of Duran Duran, and he's rightly regarded as a great bass player – we know because you reminded us so a couple of years ago. But what does the John Taylor of 2023 think of the charts now? Scott's Bass Lessons asked him.

"I think the average listeners ears are becoming more attuned to ever-greater simplicity and every-greater economy in music," John began. 

Now, just to pause, there's a danger of elitism from musicians when these kind of past Vs preset debates kick-off. Simple doesn't necessarily mean inferior at all, but Taylor does make an interesting comparison to illustrate his point about musicianship and why it might have faded away more than it has in popular music…

"If you listen to Motown basslines, that incredible musicality that James Jamerson would bring to his parts. Nobody wants to hear that today. They just don't want to hear that, and I understand that because in a way we've got a lot going on, all of us. So to let a piece of music into our seriously overcrowded minds, it's got to cut to the chase."

Very much not an old pop man shouting at cloud scenario, then. And no, we can't believe John is 63 either!  But does he have a point about the way many people consume music in the midst of so much added 'noise' in the internet age? 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.