The Future

"La Sortie de l'opéra en l'an 2000" or "Leaving the Opera in the year 2000" by Albert Robida.

I’m here to talk to you about The Future. Not “the future,” with its promises of six-figure salaries and daunting dinners with in-laws, but The Future, with its awesome spaceships and laser-powered cyborg pets and arbitrary capitalization. This is a future that’s been 20 years away for the past half-century, and I for one can’t wait for it to arrive, as predicted, in the distant futuristic reality of the year 2032.

What’s different in The Future? Well, lots of things: Skynet causes computers to crash and delete unsaved research papers intentionally in an attempt to exterminate humanity (hence the phrase “Blue Screen of Death”), rather than these things just happening all the time for some other reason; and women’s hair styles include Princess Leia donut ears, “V for Vendetta” shaved heads, and Queen Amidala three-foot semicircle updos. Today, though, we’re going to focus on music.

Music has been evolving since the first caveman tapped his foot to a rhythm later plagiarized in Queen’s “Under Pressure,” and it naturally always will (and that beat will continue to be plagiarized). In The Future, despite science fiction’s affinity for retro-chic 8-bit sounds, music will be as nauseatingly diverse as you might imagine, with genres spanning everything from punk/jazz fusions to walruscore drone-hop death pop. (And, of course, Galactic Public Radio will be the last outpost for classical music that remains unexcitingly and unalterably classical.)

And who will be creating this music? Angsty white kids, for one (some things never change). But they’ll be stealing the genres from the black (and “darker-skinned robot”) artists that predate them by a generation or so, as well as the musically-inclined sapient walruses of the day. (Some things never change.) Most importantly, the creation of this music will be a logical extension of today’s music industry; already we’ve gone from songs being sung to songs being Auto-Tuned, so it’s clear the pop icons of The Future (my guesses: a cryogenically resurrected Michael Jackson, a rapper named Ken Tucky, and U2) will do little more than lip-sync in the recording studio while the music generates itself. This is sad but still an overall gain, since by 2032, musicians, especially Mr. Tucky, will probably lack the fundamental musical ability and creativity to produce anything even remotely resembling a simple melody (notable exceptions being U2 and those walruses).

These pieces will of course be available to the average Anakin in a variety of different media (memory-sensory implants, anyone?). DRM restrictions will prevent thinking about a song too frequently or too joyfully, and all of the major record labels will work together to ensure that songs be distributed in the least efficient method possible (postal delivery of tangled cassette tape, anyone?) to protect their patented and trademarked copyright to be publicly hated.

It’s hard not to be excited for these new developments in this multibillion-credit industry. But even as music continues to change, we’ll still hold some traditions dear. Music will still get charmingly more sexually explicit by the generation. Lady Gaga will still remain an advocate for sexual liberation, showing up at extravagant award shows in dresses made out of placentas. And when Thanksgiving rolls around, we can all get ready for another season of holiday music classics and desperate covers of holiday music classics. Imagine a 37-year-old Justin Bieber performing “Last Christmas” as a creepy duet with a bosomy walrus that’s way out of his league. Just don’t imagine it too frequently or too joyfully.

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