Music one can easily dance to dominates the charts, and, admittedly, many fans know the rhythm of their favorite tracks better than the words. This, however, has almost always been the case. It’s not that nobody has anything important to say anymore, just that, right now, we aren’t listening hard enough.
For exmple, Bob Dylan’s popularity came at a time when people were more willing to listen, but it isn’t like club music disappeared entirely. Even in the midst of Blood on the Tracks, one of Dylan’s more popular records, disco was thriving as a genre. Just as there will always be dance-worthy tunes, there will always be artists producing tracks with compelling lyrics.
The difference lies in the mainstream culture of the time. During the revolution of the 60's, listeners were looking for something more than what the Top 40 told them was hot. The songs that had a message quickly became popular, and as this fan base grew in numbers, so did record sales. The result is that the Billboard Charts reflected this phenomena, and musicians with something to say were more apt to rank higher.
Perhaps part of the reason for the present shift in tastes is the intense media saturation. At no other point in history have we been so interconnected -- able to communicate with everybody, online, from anywhere in the world. Ideas and stories are shared in the blink of an eye and the quantity of it all is mind-boggling.
Maybe I'm part of the old generation, who are just so tired from listening to everything already being shoved at them, that they just need a distraction now and then. Music is the easiest to dismiss and if the words are being tuned out, there really isn’t much of a point to listen if you can’t dance to it.
I know not everyone ignores good songwriting. But with the constant blaring of the internet, television and movies there are too many things to divert our attention. Still, some people are out there, tuned in and listening, and there will always be artists recording songs to satiate this niche. Sacrificing quality songwriting over mass media demands. It's sad but true, but here is hoping that future artists will steer away from the lure of today's "demand" and bring back the days where the songs matter and artists stood for something other than the brand or product that they represent.