Bob Dylan: Modern Music Is Rubbish

Bob Dylan Modern Music Atrocious Rolling Stone Getting old is a lot of fun because you get to look back on the past and declare it all to be uniformly better than it is now even though there were no computers back then and everyone died of dysentery at the age of 36.

Bob Dylan is the latest old man to be exploiting this right. Even though he makes a lot of money broadcasting music from a radio studio up into space where it's bounced off a satellite back into a few million handheld digital devices, Bob Dylan has had it with technology. For example, in a new interview with Rolling Stone magazine Bob Dylan says that every piece of music made in the last 20 years has been "atrocious."

Bob Dylan has gone though something of a career renaissance over the last few years. His iconic curly hair, overworded songs and goosey harmonica noise has been re-evaluated as timeless, and Bob Dylan himself seems dangerously close to accepting the praise for once. Bob Dylan's memoirs sold millions of copies, Martin Scorsese made a cripplingly long Bob Dylan documentary, Bob Dylan now sells CDs exclusively through Starbucks and early Bob Dylan poems go for $78,000 at auction. And, thanks to all that, Bob Dylan is now such a star that he has his own radio show.

While Bob Dylan never gets more animated than making cryptic references to Blur during his radio show, he obviously relishes the chance of being The Voice Of A Generation every now and again. It's just a shame that it's now the generation that complains about immigrants, hoodies and how this all used to be fields. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan said:

"I don't know anybody who's made a record that sounds decent in the past 20 years, really. You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like … static… Even these songs probably sounded ten times better in the studio when we recorded 'em. CDs are small. There's no stature to it."

Goodness, we think Bob Dylan's really onto something here – music on CDs are bad because CDs are small. Why didn't we work it out earlier? It's exactly the same as the way that mobile phones aren't as good as they were 20 years ago because they're smaller now, and the way that Bob Dylan's poncey moustache looks so shit because it's quite small.

Now, part of us thinks that the only reason why Bob Dylan thinks small CDs are evil is because they're harder to pick up if you've got a touch of rheumatoid arthritis, and part of us thinks that the existence of Prince, Boards Of Canada and most hip-hop – to name but three – instantly disproves Bob Dylan's theory.

Of course, part of us also wants to take Bob Dylan by the hand, lead him to his comfy chair and tell him that a) nobody really buys CDs any more and b) he's made eight albums in the 20 years since all music instantly became terrible, but we don't really have the heart. 

Read more:

Bob Dylan Says Modern Recordings "Atrocious" – ABC

[story by Stuart Heritage] 


  1. Matt TeRonde says

    Nobody really knows what Bob is talking about, but that’s what
    makes him interesting. I’ve heard an awful lot of good music in
    the last 20 years, including a lot of stuff he’s done. So I wont
    get too excited about taking Bob literally. But the public always
    takes him literally, from this statement to his lyrics. I just figure,
    just like his lyrics, Bob is throwing out a banquet of ideas for us
    to feast on. Take what you want and discard the rest.

  2. Filip says

    Dylan didn’t say that modern music was atrocious.

    He said that the recording process destroyed the qualities of the sound, making it sound atrocious.

    It sounds bad on cd.

    “Dylan says modern recordings make music sound atrocious” is less catchy but a true headline.

  3. Christopher says

    For the most part, I agree w/Mr. Dylan. And, I think that perhaps you missed the point about CDs. Being “small” bespeaks of the fast-food nature of them. It’s easy to spit out poorly-made digital recordings of uninspired & badly arranged songs, performed by a marketable face and figure. The art of song & music writing is becoming an endangered species. This is what Dylan is speaking about.

    However, you are correct in pointing out his own “selling out” behaviors. It’s sad to think that perhaps the most prolific serious songwriter of our lifetime has to stoop to cheap sales techniques to be heard.

  4. DC says

    Bob is right, a digitized audio recording cannot beat the subtle nuances achieved via a vacuum-tube analog recording. The present digital technology won’t allow it. Sorry

  5. Lew says

    Why don’t people read what’s written. Stuart & others–he wasn’t talking about artists or songs, he was talking about the quality of sound recording. Please, get it right!

  6. sara says

    I heard an advance copy of his latest, and it’s atrocious. Even if it were on vinyl, it would still suck. He’s lost what he had in the beginning. He should know when to quit.

  7. says

    I think that a number of your commentors have already hit the nail on the head ( CD’s sampling rate, frequency range, etc. combined with the way most modern recordings are processed and compressed ) make CD’s a dubious “advance” in technology.

    But I think that the most interesting think that I have read coming from this “news” tidbit is RJ Eskow over on Huff-Po:

    You can read my response to his musical challenge here:

  8. VIc322 says

    Just one question, how does Mr Dylan record his music and how is it distributed? I’d wager to bet it digital. NUFF SAID!!

  9. Sam says

    Mr. Dylan is mostly right. CD standard digital music does a decent job of capturing the music fundamentals, but it does a bad job of capturing the harmonic structure of the music. The simpler and lower in volume the better the sound from CD’s. When CD digital music gets complex or loud it loses resolution – there are only so many bits to go around and loudness and complexity uses up the available bits (so to speak).

    Also, in the first ten years of digital music many mixer boards (i.e. Sony) were not actually capable of passing 16 bit signals and this resulted in digital truncation distortion. Many popular music sound engineers are also guilty of recording at a volume level that exceeds the digital limits – this overdrives the signal and also results in digital truncation distortion. In addition, NO mass market CD player was capable of actually performing at 16 bits with complex music until the mid-90’s – this also resulted in truncation distortion. And finally, many mass market CD/DVD players have been, and are still, plagued by sever jitter distortion – timing distortion. Jitter distortion IS the Achilles heel of digital music. Jitter causes the sampling points to be irregularly spaced when it reconstructs the sound wave form – a distorted wave form is the result. Both truncation distortion and jitter results in a hard, harsh, and bright sound.

  10. Captain Video says

    He is dead on. You cannot compare the recordings of the analogue era with the digital recordings designed to sound optimali in an MP3 player. Just listen to golden era vinyl recordings on a high end stereo and tell me I’m not right.

    Unfortunately, this trend is irreversible.

  11. Tim says

    Come writers and critics Who prophesize with your pen And keep your eyes wide The chance won’t come again
    And don’t speak too soon For the wheel’s still in spin And there’s no tellin’ who That it’s namin’.
    For the loser now Will be later to win For the times they are a-changin! :^)

  12. Edwin says

    To clear this up in my head:
    1. Bob Dylan records on analog tape which is converted into digital on CD’s or MP3’s
    -analog is a physical magnetic recording of waves onto tape that has a “warmer” or “more forgiving sound” for many reasons
    -digital is cut into binary code which is 0’s and 1’s that have tiny inaudible spaces between lines of code which give the sound less distortion (considered a warm sound in analog) and less room for error
    2. Modern Times is good.
    3. He is wisely elusive in his word choice, take what you will.
    4. Don’t be stupid

  13. Christian Moss says

    Lets get the story straight Rolling stone took what he meant out of context what he really meant was there has not been a decent song recorded in the last 20 years thanks to digital recording

  14. q says

    you git, he’s talkin’ about recording technology and the quality of distributed music and he is absolutely correct
    listen to your elders for once
    there is nothing elusive about anything he has ever said
    take off the headphones
    get the ipod outta yur arse
    thank you
    great site

  15. Jesper says

    A bit late on this one, but anyway.. -Your actually all wrong. Bob Dylan´s album “Modern times” and the one before called “Love and theft” was both recorded digitally using protools! So there you go..! If he is happy with that situation or is completely in the hands of his engineer Chris Shaw is a mystery though. What he is reffering to is the CD mastering with no dynamics and compressed sound. Maybe he was dissapointed with how Greg Calbi mastered it at Sterling?! Anyway I think he should go back to top of the line tape recorders like the Studer A80 Daniel Lenois recorded his grammy awarded album “Time out of mind” on. Listen to the first track “Love sick” and compare that to any of the tracks on his two latest albums, and you´ll know what I´m talking about. -Life!

  16. d says

    The writer of this article is a fucking idiot. Obviously has no knowledge of modern recording processes and how they destroy the dynamics of music in the studio.

  17. john solomn says

    What Dylan was referring to is the quality of modern-production, not the content.

    Engineers have been bitching about this for the last 10 odd years – google search “loudness wars” and you’ll get a fair idea.

    Dylan may be in fact old – but he is entirely correct. Modern cds are mastered now with a average rms volume of about -9 db. In laymans terns folks that means their is little if any dynamics left. Modern music gets compressed during tracking, then again in mixing, yet again in mastering … and of course again when it’s broadcast.

    The simple indisputable fact is: modern music is squashed beyond recognition from the artist’s original intent in order to accommodate a trend that was started by the AnR at labels. Rather than turn up the volume dial – they elected to start requesting mixes to be “hotter”. This was done under the false belief that a louder disk by a newer artist would be perceived as better than the competition. Like most things in the music business: perception isn’t always reality.

    The unfortunate side affect of allowing marketers rather than engineers to dictate technical trends is the crap we listen to now . Don’t believe me? Put in a disk from the 70’s or 80’s and follow it with a contemporary disk. Better yet, even both disks to the RMS levels with any commercial editing software and you get the picture – Modern music has zero dynamics while older stuff is pumping and thus: louder by default. Most disks now could just as easily be recorded in 8 bit with the exact same dynamic results.

    I could on with the explanation … but suffice it to say that Dylan is right.

  18. tan says

    to stuart part of me thinks your just a complete baffoon, and parts of me just thinks your one of those people trying to be poetically funny and fail miserablly, because you area baffoon.
    anyone who knows about MUSIC knows vinyl is better. Cd’s are a load of shit they have ruined music… all bands sound the friggin same nowadays, none of them stand up for anything they are all arse kissers like you my friends….
    what is this world commming to everything is taking a U-turn,

    although i also dont agree with the new vinyls, cause everything is recorded digitally in the studio, so whats the point the vinyl will sound terrible too….

    keep digital stuff for vision like movies…. music needs to be anolog,,,
    you wont understand cause you a fucking phony… bob dylan doesnt get to where he is by being thick and a dumb shit bitter jealous twat like you….
    cd’s are shit end of

  19. Aurel says

    fuck you man, Dylan’s a big great awesome noise, you’re just static shooting from a broken fat radio, go die on your internet blog coffin u aint going nowhere while he’ll forever rest in the stars

  20. Alice says

    At least with MP3 players and portable cd players, iphones, etc you can carry them in your pocket. Unlike record players the size of washing machines. LOL. I reallt couldn’t care less about wat this twerp says or about vinyl, it’s crap. Digital music is the way to go. Thank God!

  21. jack says

    I hate most modern music, everything is going downhill, everyones downloadig now nobody wants to actualy own music, the popular songs are just same old RnB rubbish and there are more and more terrible remixes of old actually good songs, i herd a remix of a beach boys song the other day and it was someone was using a nuematic drill in the background. But the worst thing is how commercial everything is now, these music competition shows are killing music, they are just churning out polished crap. furthermore, nobody actually cares about what they are witing anymore, lyrics are so obvious these days, im a singer/ songerwriter and i dont claim to be brilliant or anything but i would never have a chance off making it in the current music market, i place to much emphasis on my words in my songs and i dont want anything to do with simmon cowel so im stuffed. Dylan is a true great i believe he is the greatest songwriter and musician who has ever lived and i dont think anybody else can even come close to his genius, but thats my opinion, his words and music was so beatifully enginered. now i dont want to over generalise there has been some really good music in the last 20 years and there still are, however, the sad thing is the kind of music that is imaginative, poineint and reflects the thoughts of its generation is dying. All thats left to say is long live Dylan and his music

  22. Mr. Paraqua says

    Bob Dylan is correct. I just heard Pearl Jam on Austin City Limits. What total nonsense. Nothing going on except pretentiousness. Modern musicians have no ideas and an excess of technology has deluded them into thinking they can rig ideas into existence. Doesn’t work that way. Either you have something to say or you don’t. Rock covers up the fact that they have nothing to say with a lot of sheer noise, bullshit lyrics, and studded machoness. Hip hop covers their ass by baring the asses of others.

    Might get both of these acts laid, but musically they have no substance.

  23. alice says

    whoever wrote this article is infact abit of an idiot. Listen article writer ! Are u telling me that…justin beiber, katy perry, cheryl cole, kanye west, lady gaga, n-dubz, dizzee rascall and the jonas brothers ect are better than…bob dylan, prince, kate bush, ledd zepp, david bowie, tears for fears, joni mitchell, steeley dan, the police, ect…?? i rest my case :)

    U aint got a clue about real music. Music today does sound very wishey washey, hardly any of them play an instrument, non of the songs tell a decent story, non of them are unusual or emotional. Its the decade of blandness and if u disagree then u must be very bland and insipid yourself ! Bob is right and he knows it. All the past legends knows it. Prince knows it, kate bush knows it. They all bloody know it and people with actuall good musicall taste know it too. I feel sorry for the people who have such shit taste in music, such as yourself.

  24. thisarticlesucks says

    Coming from an 18 year old:

    Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd, James Brown, Bob Marley, Van Morrison, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, AC DC (hell, I could go all day), and many many many others are TEN THOUSAND TIMES BETTER than all modern music.

    Sure, there might be some underground stuff… If you look hard enough… However, the legends of the past are better than anything mainstream in the last ten years.

  25. mrfixit123 says


  26. me says

    Even if he was talking about the content, it is true in all aspects. Modern music is shit, music is dying, rock is dying, blues is dying, jazz is dying. Computer has almost completely sucked the soul out of music, all that’s left is techno which sounds like computer having diarrhea. Young people instead of looking up to Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, etc as influence look up to shit cunts like lady gaga, justin bieber, etc. MUSIC IS DEAD.

  27. Alex says

    It’s funny, I watched this years Grammys and Dylan was the worst performance in the show. He growled a hillbilly sounding song that was as stale as his dress senve backed by a farm yard band. I respect all music, new, old, different genres whatever. But for Dylan to comment on today’s music and then deliver that BS on the Grammys is the biggest joke ever. Guy can’t sing a note. Just growling. Senile idiot.

  28. dylanisgod says

    You oughta be ashamed of yourself, you drastically dumbfounded dinkhead. You need to respect your elders, Bob a part of the elder community and your just a young, dumb douchelicker. You have no right to be calling him down. You dumb crab eater. You should reach the limits that he has reached, did the things that he has done, met the people that he has met, experience the things that he has experienced…LIVE THE LIFE THAT HE AS LIVED. AND MAYBE YOU’D FRIGGEN KNOW A THING OR TWO ABOUT RESPECTING YOUR ELDERS. YOU UNEDUCATED CARPETMUNCHER. DYLAN IS GOD.

  29. says

    Fuck you, Stewbert Hertitage. Heritage my ass. you think youre an american? fuck yourself. Bob Dylan IS music. Music IS art, and nobody seems to think so. If people continue to neglect the record industry, nobody will have music to listen to besides their untalented friends playing acoustic because artists will be too busy working meaningless jobs to waste their time making records.
    I hope you die young.


    Dylan is 100% correct. stop being a douche and taking what people say out of context. Also, why don’t you listen to some real music for a change instead of today’s shit on the radio. Fool.