Why is it that mainstream music seems to suck so much lately?
—Katherine, Birmingham, Alabama

Warning: By submitting this question, you insult not only the deserving, such as the Pussycat Dolls, Fergie andMandy Moore —you also drag in the Raconteurs, Beck, Jill Scott, the Shins and Thom Yorke. Thom Yorke! The wailing, keening, creepy-eyed oracle of our generation! Not cricket, as Lily Allen might say.

It's all a matter of taste, girl. I guarantee you that when Elvis Presley first came swiveling onto the scene, scads of people shook their heads and called their neighbors, asking who that clown thought he was.

That said, the creation of pop music has changed over the decades, in ways experts say could be stifling the creative spirit that seemed to bless past generations.

For example, says Colin Larkin, editor of the 10th volume of the Encyclopedia of Popular Music, record companies and producers have grown greedy. They have paid too much to too few "mega-artists," and no money is left for investment in new talent or long-term faith in a new artist.

"Nurturing is dead," he says. "If your debut album does not sell, you will not get the promo push for your second." There's also a chance you just don't dig the new sound, man. And by the new sound, I mean the hip-hop, you understand, the fabulously bouncy music that so often calls for thick ho's and personal marijuana bearers and music videos shot poolside. Nothing has influenced pop music more in the past decade than the hip-hop.

You know, Jay-Z feat. Fiddy feat. Missy Elliott feat. Ciara feat. Pharrell. And with the advent of hip-hop have come new rules in the structure of pop songs. Or a lack of rules, says Stephen Marcone, a music professor at William Patterson University in New Jersey.

"Hip-hop artists threw the standard song structure out the window," says Marcone, who is also an interim dean at the university's arts and communication college. "I remember the first time I saw Master P perform. I was wondering, Where is the verse? Where is the chorus? It's not there! They have reinvented the way people listen."

Indeed, I believe all of  Mariah Carey's melodies have been lost in the deep chasms of her cleavage. I haven't heard a real tune out of her in a decade.

My point: If you're a fan of the ol' A-B-B-A rhyme scheme of yore, the new century in music is going to look awfully useless to you.

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