My bandmates and have discussed this topic at length, more often than not after a show with a few Bud Lights to help us think more clearly and really help the deep wisdom ooze to the surface. It's a fair question in my mind. Are the best songs already gone? Have the best one's already been written? There is an argument there for each side.
Consider the likes of Elton John, The Beatles, Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, etc. They had some really strong lyrics in some of those songs; in fact, there are actually university courses and currently a multi part documentary on Disney Plus, specifically about the Beatles and their process. Today, much of the writing is deemed by music critics of my era to be a bit lazy in some of the bigger commercial hits. My good friend said recently to his son, "Your generation doesn't have any music that will stand the test of time.".
I wonder if that will hold true, or if the likes of Hank Williams said the same thing. Did Elvis fans who bopped along to "You Aint Nothing but a Hound Dog" rave about the songwriting and tell their kids they wouldn't have any music that would last? Was Jerry Lee Lewis really tapping into the muse with Great Balls of Fire? We all know the song...goodness, gracious, you probably just sang that line out loud! I think the trouble is that people get caught up in comparing the music of the era's instead of just enjoying what is presented. Of course, most maturing adults are going to see fault in the music that is out today. How many kids and young adults are running out of their rooms asking their parents if they can please turn the stereo down so they can think? My feeling is not many.
Todays music may or may not stand the test of time. I would wager that there will be songs by the likes of Adele, Chris Stapleton, Eric Church, etc that are around at that time. I went to a Garth Brooks show in Ottawa a few years ago. He hadn't toured in 20 years. Hadn't put out any music for over a decade. There were twenty year old people there singing every word. The greats in country music past thought electric guitars were ruining the country music genre. Tradition was being thrown out. The kids that were singing along to Garth were not even born when he had initially stopped touring!
Personal preference aside, the music of today will have a heart beat in the future. I don't have a clue what that will look like, but there will be some hits that continue to grace us. I just read a quote about survival of the fittest and some of Darwins work. If the mutation works, and allows that species to live then that species will continue to evolve with that new mutation. Now I am not calling anyone a mutant, but what I am saying is that people will be influenced by the greats of the past, and will put their own flare on it. If people like that new "breed" then it will flourish and someone will put their own flare on that and so on. It isn't a disrespect of tradition...it could actually be considered respect for the old ways by building onto it. The DNA of the past is still there.
Maybe it's time as a songwriter to try something new? Maybe mutate a little myself? Or, I can continue to do what I personally enjoy and have a few people sing along with me. Currently, there is an audience that still loves the Brooks and Dunn era, but you don't hear Hank Williams on the radio much. Eventually, the music is going to evolve to the point that the O.G.(Term of today meaning original gangster, but I prefer to use it as Old Guy) is on the shelf. I do often wonder now though, how something like "Sunday Morning Coming Down" can be written by a single writer and some of the things that come out with four and five writers don't even get close to the same standard of lyricism. That's my own thought to ponder of course...I mean I haven't had a #1 radio hit in.....jeez how about that Elvis fella?