Expanding a bit on what Arkie said, and the general theme of "it ain't the technology so much as what you do with it" -
D'ya think maybe a lot of what is marketed as popular music these days is intended to be played on iPods or similar portable units? Or the "digital media hub" concept - your desktop computer with a couple of tiny speakers and maybe a subwoofer is your entire Entertainment Center.
You mix a recording to sound good on a particular type of sound system. If your target audience mostly has audiophile hi-fidelity playback equipment, you mix with a lot more dynamic range & subtlety. If your target audience is going to listen through those silly white "ear buds" that have pitiful bass response and only handle dynamics with the subtlety of a chainsaw, then you boost the bejeezus on the bass, run it all thorugh a compressor/limiter, and push the gain as high as you can.
So yes, most currently popular recordings DO sound like cr@p.
That, and the "democratization" of the recording industry (as mentioned above several times) which leads music distributors to stop paying the overhead of maintaining a quality recording studio. They let the "artists" crank out whatever they want in their computer rooms and focus their money on finding ways to convince The Market to consume whatever it is they're peddling. Music is a product, and the only true good is to maximize profit on that product.