Thursday, February 04, 2016

To begin:  I’m no one important.  As it is easy to see, I barely write on my own website, let alone anywhere impressive like Newsweek.  So who am I to question someone who does?  Nobody.  But yet I will, for myself, because I read an article this week that annoyed me so much that I decided to start writing here again.  I felt that compelled to rage into the abyss.

In the February 2, 2016, issue of Newsweek, there is an article titled “Hello From the Safe Side.”  In it, writer Kevin Maney argues: “Digital technology is killing great music in favor of familiar formulas.”  In fact, “technology is making sure that from now on we get a boatload of Adeles but never again the likes of David Bowie.”

Oh.  Really now?

The author quotes a fellow named Andy Gershon.  “Adele is selling a huge amount to soccer moms, but is it having an impact on the culture?  Not really . . . artists like David Bowie can’t get the momentum to have a career live David Bowie.”

I take issue with the “soccer mom” crap.  Several mothers I know—ones who drive minivans, shuttle their children to after-school activities, bake delicious vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, sugar-free, dairy-free cookies from scratch—like Bowie.  They like him without irony and without remorse for their childfree days and without apology to the men who apparently think they own Bowie.

Yet I know other mothers (those similarly inclined to watch tiny, horrible athletes because they love them) who like Adele.  Or probably Josh Groban (my particular brand of kryptonite).  That Gershon chap, and maybe Maney by extension, insults both Adele and her fans by implying that both are somehow less because of who they are.  Adele is less because soccer moms . . . or lets just say it—women . . . like her.  Women are less because obviously their tastes are so unsophisticated that they are easily duped into buying the same thing over and over again. 

Thus, Gershon says, there will never be another Bowie.  Because the stupid sheep out in the pasture want the sanguine, the bland, the commercial.  Streaming music offers all this and more to us sheep, so you can bet your mom jeans that all those edgy boys making the real music won’t see the light of day.  The culture will suffer because boundary-pushing acts won’t rise above the fray.  Because Adele.

Please.  Just stop.  The proliferation of instantly available content in many of the arts makes it difficult for anyone to have a huge, culture-shaping career other than a chosen few.  But hasn’t this long been the case?  The fact is that no one can be like Bowie because he was one of a kind.  I mean, the man pulled off Labyrinth.  Has anyone else pulled off Labyrinth?  Could they?  No.  And that’s neither Adele nor streaming music’s fault.  It’s because people like David Bowie just don’t come around that often. 

What the argument in this article turns out to be, then, is that real music (the music these men like) is too edgy to rise to prominence now.  Too ahead of its time. Too complicated and rich and cool and mind-bending that your mom just can’t understand you it. 

It couldn’t possibly be that Adele is popular because she works hard on her craft and showmanship and makes music that connects with people or speaks to them where they are in their lives.  It couldn’t possibly be that Taylor Swift sings from her heart and people like that.  It’s obviously because girls and women are dumb and just don’t get Bowie. 

If you quit writing because your books will never sell, you aren’t really a writer.  If a musician gives up because he thinks he won’t be rich, because the only people getting rich are Adele and Taylor Swift?  Then he isn't in it for real, either.  Now is the time where there is even more chance for artists to get discovered.  Make money and have the platform like David Bowie?  Maybe not.  But that’s not technology’s fault.  There just isn’t that many people who do that, ever. 

Gentlemen of the Newsweek article, feel free to join all the generations past who complain that these kids today don’t get your sound.  Just please leave the moms out of it next time. 

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