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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Try Having Some Fun

   Here's a right/wrong issue in music taste:  Artists who don't know how to have a good time are bummers and no one wants to buy that.  Audience taste favors music you can have a good time to.  That is the very essence of popular music...there is plenty of seriousness available in music before popular music existed.  One of the facts that all histories of popular music agree on is that it was fueled by groups of young people hanging out together and having a good time.  If an artist can't achieve that effect in one way or another, he or she is not going to be a popular artist.  If a critic chooses artists as subjects who can't gain this effect, the audience will not respect the critic's taste and the critical exercise becomes meaningless.

      The danger of success here in achieving the desired effect is expressed by the critical term "cheesy" or "inauthentic."  However, the assignment of those labels is itself tainted by the failure of critics to fully understand the structure of the environment from which they issue opinions.  Criticism of acts as either cheesy or inauthentic are often contradicted by the facts themselves.  For example, talking about inauthenticity at a sold out rock concert is misguided.  One might talk about inauthenticity as a reason for failing to secure an audience, but not as a problem for the successful artist, and this is because the sold out audience doesn't give a shit, they are present, and that is all that needs to be noted from a critical perspective.

    The artist's audience should never be taken for granted by a music critic.  Given the current situation of the larger 'music industry' the audience  the most interesting thing going on right now.  Like, where is the audience?  What happened to the audience?  The artists and the industry institutions are functioning in largely the same fashion, absent prior success.

    Music critics who attend successful rock concerts and can't themselves have a good time are themselves the problem.  If people go to a show, and it's sold out, and the REST OF THE AUDIENCE has a good time, then that is a successful artistic/cultural endeavor.  If artists perform at a live concert, and no one shows up to see it, that is a failure.  True, you can define success using methods other then "total attendance" but you can't define failure as ANYTHING BUT "failure to secure an audience for the event."  Thus, the critical role is not to nitpick success, but rather to explain failure.  A critic should be able to talk intelligently about the audience at a rock concert.  Resorting to cliche and common-place witticisms is insufficient.

       If a music critic is not prepared to directly confront artistic failure, then perhaps he or she is better suited in the field of public relations.  This article was spurred by common themes in music criticism that I commonly read in newspapers and on music blogs, it is not directed towards any specific article or review.


el chico islenyo said...

i generally agree with what you are saying here, but if the only measure of artistic success is the presence of an audience then there is no need for the critic whatsoever. just let the masses decide what is good. that doesn't lend itself to much independent thought. but maybe independent thought is farce.


i went a blessure grave show you pimped not too long ago. you seem to think they have some artistic merit, as do some ppl in BK. i really dug them. soda bar was embarrassingly butt-naked empty.

catdirt said...

i'm trying to direct my comments specifically to situations where music critics review live performances.

i think if a critic identifies an artist who doesn't presently have an audience and says "hey- this artist is worth listening to"- i mean that's not exactly 'letting the masses decide,' is it?

blessure grave- i actually promoted that show- i promoted several shows, all were pretty much abject failures, and i no longer promote shows myself anymore. but i don't think i've ever tried to misrepresent failure as success here, even for my own shows. there's nothing embarrassing about failure, it just is.

chico islenyo said...

no you are totally right on that.

but what about when an artist sells out an enormous venue, and a critic lambastes the artist as a commercial puppet...the music having no substance.

is that any different than what you are describing you have a problem with? or does it only apply to INDIE DIY-where the 'artistic merit' of something is always given the benefit of the doubt?

just curious what you think. i enjoy sold out shows. last friday's was a ton of fun.

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