I am surprised that some people are still shocked by major-label artists not writing their own songs. I thought the veil had been completely taken off with shows like American Idol. By now, I thought it was obvious that you don’t need to know a lick of music theory to be a big star.

This is not to suggest that the artists selling millions of records are not without talent. Some can definitely sing, some can write, some do ensure that their butt stays tight as a banker’s smile for the next music video. Even with the most vapid and talentless of singers has to have some level of commitment, be it to body image, learning dance moves, making public appearances and keeping an appropriate image, or actually singing. Let’s face it, when we say “artist” we’re only talking about the people behind the microphone. American Idol does not feature instrumentalists (at least from what I’ve seen).

Why all the shock at singing stars not writing their own material? If you found out that your favorite artist did not write his own song, is the CD going to land in the trash? Will you run over their entire catalog with a steamroller? (Remember, even if your favorite artist is singing on the album, their voice may have undergone pitch correction and other tune doctoring.)

My next question is: Why is all the anger directed towards the artist? Why is it not directed at the record company? Take a few minutes to read Steve Albini’s excellent article “The Problem with Music”. It should have really been called, “The Problem with Major Label Music”. I think more honest practices are still employed on the outskirts of the music/CD industry. If you were an artist, looked at these numbers, wouldn’t you want to hedge your bets by getting a proven hit-maker on your side? If getting a certain producer might get you a few more radio-plays, why not hire him on. Artistic integrity is a beautiful thing, but people have to eat.

The mainstream music industry is all about image. No one is making a hit song without a video. Popular songs today usually fall in one of five categories:

1. Listen to what I’m going to do tonight.
2. So-and-so broke my heart.
3. I’ve got lots of money/fame/beauty so everyone wants to screw me.
4. Everything sucks and that makes me sad.
5. God bless somebody/something.

Our big stars look good in bikinis. Even in a band, there is one star.

I’m not attempting to say, “All mainstream music stinks. It’s a sham. People should listen to real music made by [fill in blank].” My suggestion is to lighten up. Understand that your popular music is a carefully crafted product that may be more false that it appears on the surface. The hits of Artist A may be written by the same people that wrote the hits for Artist B. There is very little integrity in any part of the music industry, mainstream and independent alike.

Still angry? Still saying, “The person who wrote the music should be making the big money, going to the awards shows, getting all the fame.” I pose you this question: Do you really think Cee-lo Green would have made a big hit out of the song he penned, Don’t Cha?