Darkness appears to have descended upon the world of pop music. Following the embarrassing debacle of the 2013 MTV Music Awards and other staged attempts to shock audiences employed by major artists in recent months, the music industry once again appears to be teetering on the verge of collapse. As the increasingly desperate antics of pop artists and their record labels further alienate audiences, it is no longer clear what direction mainstream music will take. But if history proves anything, it is at that exact point of emptiness and uncertainty when the seed of the next big era is planted. By most indications, this seed will not come from any of the emerging experimental pop artists whose commendable risk-taking is too much of a moving target and fails to yield anything accessible to broader audiences.
It’s even less likely to come from any of the emerging teen pop artists whose out-sourced lyrics and music represent the most tiresome aspects of the status quo. This seed must embody qualities that have long been missing from pop music, such as honesty, creativity and integrity. However, it must also appeal to modern sensibilities, adhere to the highest production standards and produce music that is both familiar and new- an enduring staple of any successful pop act. Enter Millennium. If any seed could possess these qualities, it would certainly be pop music’s newest anti-hero, an emerging group out of Los Angeles, California with a big future.
Exactly what ideas come to mind when you hear the word Millennium? Futuristic? Trend-setting? Cutting-edge? Perhaps the word invokes images of the ancient world and its timeless ideals passed down through the ages. In the case of this group, you would be correct on all counts. There is an intriguing tension between the old and new worlds in Millennium making them hard to discern and, at the same time, hard to dismiss. Their image alone is a striking combination of Cleopatra meets Riddick. Their music runs the gamut from hard-hitting electronic dance to pop rock, funk and reggae. Yet all of their songs have a timeless melodic quality with the potential to win over mainstream audiences. Who is Millennium and what makes them so different?
Millennium consists of singer/songwriters Stryker and Sapphire, both classically trained musicians with a lifelong love of music. Stryker and Sapphire are not teenage rubber people singing about things they couldn’t possibly understand nor have any connection to. Both possess some life experience and have something to say about it through their music. As a result, their songs convey unmistakable integrity, going against the grain of today’s pop music in a major way. The duo is also backed by Brad Dawson on drums, Gaku Murata on guitar, Nathan York on bass, and Fred Smith on keys.
There is nothing superficial about the look and sound of this group. Stryker is as sensitive, complicated and temperamental as his image conveys, and Sapphire is as sweet, sassy and unpredictable as her image would lead you to believe. However, beyond their distinctive style is their equally distinctive sound. According to one music industry executive, ‘Millennium is pop culture at its best’ – a group that can create great songs in almost any genre, whether it’s rock, dance, reggae, funk or acoustic. However, what actually sets Millennium apart in a crowded industry is their soul. No, I’m not referring to the American Idol version of soul, where a singer passionately belts out someone else’s song. Millennium’s definition of soul lies at the heart of how they create music- by writing, composing, recording and producing all of their own songs in their own home. This purist approach opens up a direct, uninterrupted channel between the life of the artist and the life of the audience. The difference between this approach and the production-chain approach currently used by most pop artists cannot be overstated. While this may sound like a harsh indictment of music industry practices of the past decade, it certainly explains the current crisis in pop music. It also explains why a group like Millennium may be uniquely qualified to bridge the chasm between old and new and usher in a new wave of music.
Change is an inevitable part of life and nowhere is this more evident than in pop music, where the shelf life of a typical song has shrunk to about one month. This is the natural consequence of continuing to manufacture music with no artistic soul. In the current system, whatever beauty and inspiration that was initially captured in the mind of the songwriter gets diluted and lost through the chain of other songwriters, singers, composers, producers, mixers and mastering engineers. It’s a small wonder why music today has become little more than background to people’s lives. Beneath the precision-manufactured, shrink-wrapped pop puppets, there is nothing human for audiences to connect with. Worse, there is nothing to fall in love with. Anyone skeptical of this need only visit YouTube to check out who attends concerts by great artists of the 70’s and 80’s (who, incidentally, haven’t had a song played on radio in over 30 years). The answer: Stadiums full of loving fans who share a real, lifelong bond with the artist. Now, fast-forward 30 years and consider who do you think is going to attend the Stephan Moccio/Sacha Skarbek /Maureen Anne McDonald/Dr. Luke/Circuit/Larry Rudolph/Miley Cyrus production team concert? Yes, it’s okay to laugh. We both know such a fiasco would never even materialize. But the point is clear. Change is inevitable, but the qualities of artistic honesty, creativity and integrity hold their value well through decades, centuries and even millennia.
Millennium has already released a couple of provocative singles from their upcoming debut album entitled ‘Fusion’, which is due to be released next year. The album is definitely worth the early attention it’s garnering. Anyone wishing to hear what pop music of the future sounds like could easily start here, where artistic integrity and great songwriting meet cutting-edge acoustic and electronic production. The radical, yet timeless, image and sound of this group make them one to watch in 2014. To learn more about Millennium and its members, visit www.WhoIsMillennium.com.