Paula Cole

Where have all the cowboys gone? A great guilty pleasure song from the 1990s and also an interesting interpretation of the music industry. It seems anyone these days can get a record contract. You do not need talent, a voice, strong lyrics ... all you really need is an 'image' and the opportunity to sell yourself (but that's an different entry all together). Hell, I could be a county music star with some help from an excellent lyricist and auto-tune.

My argument is this: I know for a FACT that there are plenty of artists and groups who do still care about the music, the message, the lyrics but they are hidden gems that require mining and a map to find.

Some of my favorite artists many people have never heard of -- so how do you get talent to go mainstream without selling out? Is it possible to become famous and stay connected to who you are? Take Green Day for example: their latest album is a far-cry from Dookie. Evolving as an artist is important, but when does evolving stop and selling-out begin?

I understand the powerhouses in the music industry are interested in profit but how refreshing it would be to see a shift and bring the focus back to the music, instead of the sludge that is barely tolerable on the radio waves these days.

Avril Lavigne wanted to be a country singer and was formed into a faux-punk-rocker to sell albums. Imagine what sort of impression she could have left if she was able to live her passion instead of putting on heavy eyeliner and fishnet stockings. True, her persona and 'talents' made her a household name, at least for awhile, but at what cost?

Is it still possibly to make a impression by being yourself, sticking to your guns and not taking no for an answer? The loss of genuine talent is already being felt by yours truly.

I sat around July 4th listening to folk music and wishing I grew up in the 60s and 70s, when music seemed to mean something. There is part of me that still believes the world can change with a strong voice, a guitar, and something to say. Am I am that naive to continue to see music as a tool? Has our generation somehow lost our ability to reach the masses through lyrics and music? Will we be remembered for getting 'Tipsy'?