Stale Loaves, Gamey Fish, and Feeding More than Five-Thousand

How exactly does one appeal to the masses of humanity?  What’s the secret recipe to make culture go pop?  Is it a common ingredient, a hermetic principle, or what?  I mean, it can’t be all that complex; just look at the people who’ve accomplished it.  In this week’s “In  a Real World, This Would Be Happening,” I want to attack the glamor of being the name on everyone’s lips.  Let’s see what the experts have to say.

Andy Warhol

“In the future everybody will be world-famous for fifteen minutes,” said the man, and boy was he right.  If you haven’t been world-famous yet, then you haven’t wanted to.  Andy Warhol learned how to do it more than three decades before Internet fame was available.  His magic trick involved taking images most people were already familiar with and painting them numerous times on a single canvas.  He raped popular culture, using everything from movie stills to canned soup labels, and when people decried him as a charlatan, a fake painter, he laughingly agreed with his detractors, saying that his paintings had absolutely no artistic value, that art itself had no value, and that an artist is someone who makes things people don’t need.  He said finally, “I’ve decided something: commercial things really do stink.  As soon as it becomes commercial for a mass market, it really stinks.”

I’ve learned this, too, but it’s only recently that I’ve begun to suspect that perhaps this is more than a simple opinion, that perhaps widespread acclaim really does harm a thing.  However, not all things seem susceptible to this form of corruption, only works of art.  I say so for the simple reason that non-artistic things like tools and such are used by everyone in proportion to their usefulness.  Nobody uses washboards anymore, because washing machines are much more efficient.  Everyone uses wheels to move things around, because wheels are exquisite at rolling.  In fact, they are experts.

But wouldn’t it be cool to use a washboard to clean clothes in the sink?  It kinda would, yeah, but our crappy modern clothes wouldn’t stand up to the scrubbing.  And wouldn’t it be chic to have a working bicycle with square wheels?  You bet.  Jean Paul Gaultier would have his brand stamped on one overnight if it were possible, and then he’d charge $15,000 for it, and you know what?  It’d sell.  So it seems that living contrary to popular culture has artistic merit.  Andy figured it out as a painter in the 1950s and made an entire career out of thumbing his nose at the rest of the artistic community, merely rendering silly commercial icons and symbols into fine art, and now he’s revered as one of the most important artists of all time (though not with art history intellectualites).  He’s the biggest pop-culture painter in the history of pop art.  In fact, he’s sometimes called the father of it.  Goddamn, irony can really make me smirk.

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde

Oscar Wilde said the same thing Andy did, that “All art is really quite useless,” and also that, “The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.”  Well done, Sir, well said indeed, but what signifies good art if it is all useless?  The number of its admirers could gauge the quality of our art for us, couldn’t it?

Marketing giants sure want it that way.  They would have us believe that popularity is the barometer by which all art should be measured, but not because they have a solid, philosophical reason or honest, subjective opinion on the matter, but rather because they do want to sell as many of their products as possible, and since any one product is going to look and act precisely the same as the others once we get them home, advertisers want it to be a sign of quality that we all have one, rather than evidence that we haven’t been thinking on our own.  They say that Britney Spears is a genius; they say you can tell by the millions of albums she’s sold.

On the other hand, making money is a rather obvious purpose, a typically modern use for a thing, wouldn’t you say?  And if Britney is useful to the corporations, then Oscar says she is not art.  What about Andy, though?  Andy said to the media once, “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”  Yeah, but Andy painted Campbell’s soup cans and laughed at his buyers to the media.  His joke on the art world was his true art.  His lifestyle was his true art.  His paintings were like the stage magician’s wand, which when waved about would distract the audience from what the other hand was doing — namely, anything it (he) wanted.

Wilde’s “intense admiration”

The other half of Oscar’s quote could be true, though.  What if excellent art could be measured not by the number of its admirers, but by the intensity of its fans’ admiration?  It’s possible.  If it were true, the corporations sure wouldn’t like for it to get out.  Could you imagine?  Imagine legions of soccer moms and old ladies taking down their Thomas Kinkade paintings and re-framing various images they found at the local bazaar, and why?  Because they like the way they look hanging there on the wall, that’s why, and because nobody anywhere else has got one.  It’s unique.  It’s unique, and for some reason, that’s a good thing, but you sure can’t sell it.  It’s hard to manufacture unique.

I’m not here to figure out exactly what makes good art, though.  That was Aristotle’s thing (the nature of quality, I mean) and he never really nailed it down; I’m arrogant, but not so conceited that I think I’m going to define it in a Wednesday morning web log.  I wanted to find out what it takes to produce mass appeal, and so far I’ve only figured out that people have been fooled into buying things based on their popularity.  This is not going to work.  Quickly, let’s go, let’s go.

Jackson Pollock

This is Jackson Pollock’s work.  It’s called “Galaxy,” and I think that’s fitting.  It looks — something like that.  There are two immediate reactions to a Pollock piece.  Sometimes people say, “Say, that’s a pretty thing,” and other times they say, “Hell, I could do that.”  You know what?  It’s true.  Even a 4 yr. old can do it.  They can do it and make thousands upon thousands of dollars.  This approaches an answer to our problem, which was, how does one go about garnering mass appeal?  How does one snare the positive attention of millions of common people?  The answer lies in a suggestion.  I’m putting it in bold so it stands out to my casual readers.

What if people are commonly of bad taste, whereby corporations sell things of bad taste to satisfy an enormous consumer demand?

Were it true, then it would cause a tailspin of poor taste and reprehensible artistic values after a decade or so.  Consumers would allow marketing geniuses to tell them that mediocre artists produce works of enduring quality.  The public would come to believe that every new thing that everyone purchased had intrinsic benefits because everyone had purchased one.  That’d make selling things to the people even easier, because excellent things are much more rare than commonplace things; it’d be far simpler to convince people that auto-tune makes a song more fashionable than talented vocalists can, whereby great singers wouldn’t have to be found in great supply; it’d be much more straightforward to make splatter paintings more fashionable than, say, expressionism or pre-Rafaelite art, because then big business could have toddlers create a steady stream of high-demand products, pre-framed and ready for their place on the living room wall; it’d be a cinch to sell children’s books to full-grown adults if the adults were convinced that adults everywhere were already reading them.

The real cover of Harry Potter VII, and the pretend cover for adults.

On this last score, one wonders, “Is it necessarily so that great children’s books are poor literature for a man or woman?”  It’s a fair and fine question.  I think that if the reader’s comprehension of the literature is at a child’s level, then children’s books are perfectly appropriate to help him or her learn to read books which deal with mature ideas and circumstances, books written with magnificent poetry and masterful turns of wit and cleverness.  Is it too harsh of me to suggest that adults who read children’s books should be ashamed of themselves unless their reading comprehension is at a child’s level?  Nope.  Here, look: Rowling’s publisher released a second edition of Harry Potter VII, one with a big-boy grownup cover on it, so that mature fans wouldn’t have to be embarrassed for reading baby books in public.  If they’re ashamed of themselves, why should I go easy on them?

Alright, then, we have seen that corporations produce second-rate, mock-up, or ill-suited art for the ignorant masses, and that they manufacture ignorance to boost sales.  Rowling’s people know Harry Potter is not suitable for adult reading, so they facilitate the retardation of adult literacy by disguising consumers’ laziness as a respectable literary endeavor.  Fine.  I believe now that I have an answer.

In order to appeal to the masses of humanity, one need only produce something as near as possible to what most people are already interested in.  The largest number of people is the most homogeneous; the largest number of people is the most average and mediocre; the largest number of people is the most unsurprising, the most unoriginal, the most lacking in ingenuity.  In other words, in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator, one need not trouble oneself; one need only have something truly unimpressive to offer — and the truly unimpressive are sure to snatch it up.

Can it be said that mass appeal actually harms an otherwise quality work of art, then?  Certainly.  Many great works of art stunned and offended audiences because they were innovative and ingenious.  If everyone had accepted the punk rockers, the movement would have been dismantled.  If all the Thomas Kinkaid sort of fans had suddenly found an interest in dadaism, the dadaists would have had to try something else.  If the people who dress unfashionably suddenly donned Gucci and Prada, guess which designers wouldn’t get invited to the next show in Milan.  Can it be said that popularity actually harms art?  Why not, when things like fine art, influential music, and classic literature are continually thrown over for cheap, flash-in-the-pan imitations?  If the people of mediocre taste, values, and education find something irresistible in a certain thing, then the art itself becomes an accomplice.  It’s guilty by association.

This brings us to the final irony, and to me, the funniest.  I’ll let our pop-culture authority close this chapter by elucidating:

“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest.”

-Andy Warhol

Have It Big: a Varied and Vociferous Vocabulary

The F-Bomb: persona non grata.

The last time I remember being slapped by my father, I had spoken out-of-turn to him at the dinner table.  I was thirteen or so.  The conversation went something like this:

“Damn.”

“What did you say?”

“I said damn.  Sorry.”

“That’s too bad,” he said.  “I thought you had a bigger vocabulary than that.”

I was going through a phase at the time.

“So,” I said, “if I took that word out, my vocabulary would get bigger?”

Wham!  I hadn’t seen it coming, even though a blind man could have, and it hurt.  He didn’t answer my question and I didn’t ask him why he hit me.  It was a concealed incident like a covert military action in a third-world country.  It was neatly concealed.  It was politely concealed.  And the question posed to my father, to my society, slipped into quiet obscurity like a sailor’s fumbled cigarette.

It’s a question I still pose to certain people — a very certain sort of person who disdains some words because they are considered bad, immoral, or vulgar, yet has retained the capacity for reasonable discourse.  So far, nobody’s done anything but agree with me that using fewer words must result in a smaller vocabulary, but strangely, no one’s ever argued to me that the resulting vocabulary, while smaller, is still better somehow.  Certain people must believe so.  No one’s ever told me so, and for a long time I wondered why.  This week’s “In a Real World This Would Be Happening” discusses the causes of small vocabularies through the history of cussing, rails against the wagers of the war on words, and champions that holy grail of English, the Largest Vocabulary.

With no further ado, let’s get the fuck on with it, shall we?

BibleSTUDY_000

Rich people don't need real jobs.

Throughout history there have been people who decide how you need to talk in order to look cool for the rich pricks in power.  This verbal prejudice trickles down to socialite fashion fucks, magazine-cover types who also decide you need to mimic the way the rich pricks talk to look fashionable.  Let’s have a look.

*        *        *

We don’t have to go all the way back to 3,000 BC like we did in last week’s piece.  No, the good words versus bad words war wasn’t in full swing until Latin became a language known only to the clergy, pictured with their favorite books above.  In medieval Europe the churchies had control of the Western world’s knowledge and money.  Nobody but the rich could afford the time necessary to read, or to learn to read for that matter, so the only people who had any education outside their family trade were churchies, most Catholic.

Well the Catholic church had decided that Latin was the Holy Language, so these rich bastards hoarded all the sciences, maths, philosophies, histories and what-not and made sure that they had perfect control over it by speaking and writing in Latin, a language nobody but churchies could understand.  In England and France the language was that of the indigenous people, the common speech, and the Largest Vocabulary of the common people included all the same “bad” words we use today, like arse, cock, cunt, et cetera.

Of course the churchies had need for alluding to these grand specifics of anatomy just like anyone else, and they used their own ecclesiastic lingo to describe them, ergo: anus, penis, vagina, from the Latin.  This trend continues today, as anyone can see.  What can get a person sued for saying aloud at his or her workplace in Anglo-Saxon is perfectly fine in Latin.  You can tell your boss to self-fornicate.  It’s fun.  People get a kick out of it.  Try telling him to fuck himself, though, and you’ll get fired for speaking such vulgar language.

Oh, that reminds me.  That so-called “vulgar language”?  Yeah, ‘vulgar’ comes from vulgaris.  It’s Latin for ‘common’.  So the next time some old bat tells you the movie had too much vulgar language for her liking, just remember: she’s echoing the disdain of rich bitches who found last year’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” too provincial! filthy! so — so — so common!

72 names! God is HUNG.

Now one of my favorite inconsistencies concerning the church’s war against the Largest Vocabulary is the name of the Judao-Christian god, who goes by the ingenious name, God.  In the early days of worship, the only word that was a sin to speak was the Holy Unspeakable Name of God, so you had to say the Holy Unspeakable Name of God, or HUNG, for short.  Of course, the Jews have 72 holy names for God, all of which come from their holy books, and I don’t think they are all bad to say — just HUNG.  Why?  Because it would be vain to try and label an omnipresent being like a god.  That’s why Moses commanded his crew to stop using his Lord’s name in vain: naming God was logically impossible to do, and diminutive — therefore blasphemous — to try.

But churchies today use “God” all the time, calling him by name just as if he were “Mike” or “Bill” or “Bob.”  Churchies today have reams of other words you shouldn’t use and topics you shouldn’t talk about, though, and preachers warn congregations against reading from strange doctrines and fraternizing with non-believers, effectively censoring all manner of information but their own single-minded, near-sighted interpretations of a single text, their Bible, which is already a selection of books from a much larger selection of books, thus censoring the largest portion of Hebrew thought and theology before the churchies even get started censoring everything else.

The next time you take shit from some self-righteous religious zealot, ask them what it means to “take the Lord’s name in vain,” and while you’re at it, ask them what God is.  When they regurgitate the line that God is love, tell them, “Nope!  God is HUNG,” and revel in your superior Sunday school skillz.

Russian snobs: voulez-vous coucher avec moi?

Following in the footsteps of the medieval churchies were the aristocracies of the 19th century.  At that time the richies had moved from Latin to French as their code language, because the population of France in the sixteen-hundreds had been the largest in Europe, which had its lasting political effects.  To be fashionable, one affected une air de francais, so one was expected to speak in French.  Once again, if you weren’t in the know, then you weren’t allowed into the party, so we get such endlessly annoying historical crap as the great Russian dynasties speaking French to one another in books like Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and at diplomatic foo-foo balls such as the one pictured above.  Of course, in neither language did these fuckfaces take advantage of the Largest Vocabulary.

Can you imagine going to a party and getting snubbed when all the fashion fucks start speaking in a different fucking language from a different fucking continent?  Ah bien, très désolé (gee, I’m sorry).  Vous êtes un bâtard (you are a bastard).  Baisez-vous (fuck you).

God I feel so cool when I speak French.

Modern codebook of secret handshakes and passwords. Shhh!

But the 17th century had other lasting affects, too, such as the development of etiquette in France.  This is another damned password used to separate the aristocrats from the common people (vulgar people, don’t forget).  The French courtiers had absolutely nothing to do but amuse themselves in those days, and they amused themselves mainly with drinking, fucking, and making up complicated little fads to differentiate themselves from the middle and lower classes.  Once again and of course, they did not use their Largest Vocabulary.

“Look!  Bertrand’s wearing his ruffles agog!”

“Dear me, can one wear ruffles — agog?”

“Indeed!  Oh, I quite like it.  I think I shall turn my bourdalou buckle to one side.”

“But Marie, simply all of Paris is wearing them to one side — hadn’t you heard?  Oh, it’s positively how it’s done this season.”

“And you never thought to tell me?  How gauche!”

“Well I–”

“Hmph!”

“Well!”

Marie has been wronged, for sure.  I mean, how is anyone supposed to look cool without a friend on the inside to alert one to sudden changes in the language of fashion and the fashionable language?  I mean, look at these secret signals:

The blade of the butter knife is to be turned inward and closest to the plate on a folded napkin.  A man’s shoes are to be matched to his belt and briefcase, his tie matched to his handkerchief which is also a patterned, folded napkin.  A woman’s heels are matched to her purse and hat band, and she must have her initials sewn onto a lacy handkerchief so that she may snare cute, rich, fashion-fuck boys by the well-timed drop of a monogrammed folded napkin.  Hundreds and hundreds of little passwords, and any tiny slip would give a vulgar person away as a poor bastard from no wealthy upbringing at all.

Today, these passwords include firm handshakes, the car-salesman eye-contact contest, and the utterance of corporate lingo like “proactive,” “touch base,” and “on the same page.”  But the real victims are teenagers, trendy little dickheads and posh little cunts.  They don’t even know how pathetic their fashion-groveling looks to nerds, dweebs, geeks and weirdos who don’t fit in and don’t want to, who don’t vote for homecoming queen, want to be cheerleaders, or try to look like the cutey pies on the cover of Sixteen magazine.  Sad, sad, sad.  What do you think: nature, or nurture?  Either way, it’s a shitty way to treat the offspring of humanity, mindfucking them like that, even if it is just the backlash of 600 years worth of class warfare.

No. Really.

The stinking relation between fashion and censorship is only a matter of degree.  Some words and discussion topics are unfashionable enough in wealthy circles that these jerk-offs can actually look cooler to their friends by banning certain words and themes from society.  Tipper Gore made the Parent Music Resource Center in 1985 because she thought Prince sang about sex too openly, something the Catholic church made uncool hundreds of fucking years ago.

She’s responsible for the “Tipper Sticker,” that insulting little rectangle of hate that says, “PARENTAL ADVISORY — EXPLICIT LYRICS,” which is now a music industry standard.  Last I heard, Walmart doesn’t even carry music with the Tipper sticker on it, and I know my mom used to throw away my cassettes and records if the local youth minister told her they were of the devil.

The war on the Largest Vocabulary steals our fucking music, goddamnit.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s reason enough to want to cuss as much as I can fit into a cohesive conversation.  You know what I want to do?  I wanna make a sticker that says, “CONSUMER ADVISORY — INSIPID LYRICS,” and plaster them all over the pop industry, all over the country music industry, slap one on every worthless, safe little Miley Cyrus album produced for blonde daughters and make the independent record stores boycott them.

But of course the boycott wouldn’t be necessary, because those stores don’t carry that nonsense.  I guess their clientele’s too — highbrow?  Elite?  You bet your fuckin’ ass.  That’s the kind of knowledge money can’t buy.

Hooray! Hooray for cussin'!

Words have meaning dictated by context; everyone knows that.  Out of context, they’re like nails without a hammer, like paints previous to their painting.  To get excited over words because they are “cussing” is to show ignorance of, or disrespect for, denotation.  Cussing is just an American Mid-Western mispronunciation of cursing, not a group of unspeakable words.  “Fuck you” is not a curse cast upon someone’s head like some hick pagan voodoo juju.  “Fuck you” is not cussing.  “Fuck you” is an open threat thrown right into your enemy’s face, the way we like it.

So join the ranks of the fully vocabulated!  Use euphemisms in making fun of aristocracy, and vulgarisms in defending Democracy!  Embrace neologisms and thicken that dictionary up.  Slang is fun!  Ever notice how the people who get offended by the words you use are people you wouldn’t want to talk to anyway?  Fuck that medieval bullshit!  Drive their linguistic prejudices back into the Victorian Age where they’re still fashionable.  Defend porn as the front line of free speech, attack censorship and disinformation in all their forms, and never, ever, ever forget the most important principle, the most invaluable precept of all. . .

Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

Sincerely and Utterly,

-BothEyesShut

Music You Have No Right to Listen To

It has come to my attention that many music listeners do not possess the faculties to know that their newest favorite album is utter shit.  After six decades of massive marketing and thought-control on the part of record companies, I do not blame these victims for having atrophied taste, though.  Fans of pop-country listen to nothing but pop-country for the same reason people in Texas eat nothing but fast food: one adapts to one’s environment.  I am not like the scores of political theorists who distinguish problems without suggesting solutions, however.  I am here to aid thou, o’ suffering multitude, so if you or someone you love listens to musicians of the following ilk, this diagnosis will conduct the patient on the road to a gentle recovery.  And remember!  Silence is often preferable, especially to your innocent neighbor.  Signs of musical transgression may include:

1. Rip-Off Artistry

They stole more than their image.

They stole more than their image.

This is a band called Jet who’s been accused of ripping off everyone from The Beatles to Herman’s Hermits.  The old conversation has two main viewpoints, that either it doesn’t matter where a band’s inspiration comes from because the music always has at least one unique attribute, or that music is homogenous enough without musicians using the same structures and chord progressions.  There are so many examples of this that I hardly need bother, but I do remember when Bad Religion was the only punk band with a three-part harmony and T-Pain was the only rapper to use autotune, for instance.

Did Coldplay rip off Joe Satriani?  Yeah — but he’s not the only one.  Popular artists have a hard time producing unique sounds while retaining their popularity.  George Harrison stole “My Sweet Lord” from The Chiffons almost bar-by-bar and was successfully sued, and everybody knows Elvis raped and pillaged southern black performers like a bulimic vampire bat.  This is not homage; it’s laziness.  If you have two bands in your collection that sound exactly the same, pick the originator and throw the other one out, or one day you’ll end up like one of those poor sons of bitches who have Papa Roach, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot side-by-side in their CD changer and can’t understand why nobody will ride in the car with them.

2. Meticulous Band-Wide Grooming of Image

Books have covers for a reason.

Books have covers for a reason.

One of the easiest ways for record companies to steal from you is to sell a predictable product and pretend it’s brand-new.  McDonald’s makes sure every quarter pounder tastes exactly the same as the last.  If your band looks as if their image is more important to them than the content of their music, then they’re probably selling records based on how much they look like the people who are buying the album, which in this case is you.  Ever notice how country music fans show off their love of Clint Black by wearing cowboy hats, buckles, and boots?  The day I see a modern emo band dressed up to play a rodeo, or a country music star in guyliner, I’ll start thinking of them as artists rather than fashion models.

Do yourself a favor.  Get on the internet and look for the ugliest bastards in music you can find.  I guarantee they have talents outside wardrobe.  Now, is it possible to make your music more interesting by alienating your fan base and taking a remarkably different image?  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you the emo Garth Brooks — in nineteen ninety-nine.  Suck it, Criss Angel.

Now lets see My Chemical Romance dressed like the Oak Ridge Boys.

Now let's see My Chemical Romance dressed like the Oak Ridge Boys.

3. Burnouts

There comes a time, ladies and gentlemen.  Anyone who’s seen Dick Dale play recently can tell you, that elderly fellow will be playing his old Fender Strat long after they put him in the ground, so we can’t say that age is the indicator.  Science has not yet identified what causes a band to churn out a stinking pile of busywork rather than their usual rocking tunes, but the weeping dying whines of a used-up musician is easily marked.

A has-been shouldn’t sound like a wanna-be.  It’s pathetic.

When a captain’s unfit for command, he’s relieved of duty; why do record companies let these undignified wretches continue to undermine a career of fine music?  Oh.  Right.  Below is the only suitable pic for this section.

Metallica, the fourth Indiana Jones movie of metal bands.

Metallica, the fourth Indiana Jones movie of metal bands.

4. Gimmick Bands

Hey, can we make a million dollars without writing any significant music?  Of course we can!  Let’s write reggae versions of classical music and play it live on kazoos while dressed as dinosaurs.  It’ll be awesome!

Remember when the White Stripes came out and everyone was talking about them?  Remember what everyone was parroting?  That’s right, they only had drums and a guitar.  Two people!  Isn’t that neat-o?  How about a band who wears a bunch of horror masks taken from Clive Barker comic books?  Or — I know — let’s dress up like clowns!  Wait, wait, I’ve got it.  How about a band that does lounge covers of punk songs, or punk versions of sitcom themes, or disco versions of John Williams’ orchestra compositions?

Just hold the fuck on.  I have an idea.  How about you knock off the concept art and try playing music for a change?  It was cute for a song or two, but it’s not fucking funny anymore.

The funny thing is, they aren't supposed to be funny.

5. Bands With No Taste At all

I have a theory that in matters of literature, style is the most important quality to achieve a desired effect.  Likewise, in matters of music I believe that taste is the chief concern.  Figuring out exactly what good taste consists of is just as impossible as explaining why one should rather prefer a backyard BBQ burger to a Big Mac.  You can’t just say the ingredients are of a higher quality.  That means nothing.  Bands like the Velvet Underground proved that your music doesn’t need to be complex, and bands like the Sex Pistols proved you don’t even have to know how to play your instruments.  But you do have to have taste.

Meaningful lyrics, spot-on instrumentation and fantastic engineering won’t make a bird’s piss of a difference if your music isn’t written and performed by people with good god-damned taste.  Look at all the fucked-up covers of Beatles songs people have done if you need a reference.  Or, alternately, just feast your eyes on the poster children of bad taste below.  They didn’t even have the sense to name their band something unrelated to their jobs at Starbucks.  Wouldn’t it suck to have to admit you played in this band when people asked you?  Fuh-huck.

Thanks for choosing Starbucks; heres your nickle back.

"Thanks for choosing Starbucks; here's your nickle back."

6. Pointless, Shallow Lyrics

OK, I’ll admit that music’s first priority is not to communicate something meaningful, but that doesn’t excuse lines like, “bleed it out, dig it deeper just to throw it away,” (Linkin Park) which literally mean nothing because that ambiguous pronoun it is never actually discussed.  What is it?  Why bleed it out?  And how many things can you dig deeper as well as bleed out or throw away?  This shit isn’t even grammatically correct enough to translate into the language it’s sung in.

Or how about this beauty from Apocalyptica: “I try to make it through my life, in my way, there’s you / I try to make it through these lies, and that’s all I do.”  At least these guys are from Finland so their English is their second language, but I’ll bet you anything that they’re actually more proficient at poetry than Linkin Park is and that their chorus, “This I swear / I don’t care, I don’t care,” is just laziness on their part.  You notice how much shitty music seems to result from simple laziness?  Why the hell are band members so lazy?  Must be the drugs.

Dig it deeper, bro. Or on second thought, just throw it away.

7. Single Masquerading as an Album

This is sheer folly.  Everybody has that one friend who runs out to get the new CD by that Johnny-come-lately artist because he or she just loves the new single on the top 40 chart.  Everyone has a song they like by a band they are not a fan of, but it takes a particular kind of music listener to listen to an entire album simply because it has one or two songs on it that strikes one’s fancy.  These people invariably mention at some point that, “This whole album’s pretty good, actually,” which it never is, or “I like this group; I bet they’ve got lots of other good stuff,” which they almost certainly don’t unless the listener is newly acquainted to an older band.

The term one-hit wonder is in this category, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with one-hit wonders if the song is good.  There are plenty of awesome singles by OHWs.  It is not OK, however, to force other people to listen to Kelly Clarkson’s entire album because “Since You’ve Been Gone” is pretty awesome.  Or Shaggy’s album.  Or Snow’s album.  What?  You don’t remember Snow’s “Informer?”  It’s in the same decaying stack of CDs as your Shaggy album.

Lookie Boom-Boom Down.

Lookie Boom-Boom Down.

And those are the main reasons, though more could certainly be extrapolated upon when one considers the vast ocean of shit that one must slog through to find even a tea-kettle of quality.  I’m sure musicians are hard at work finding new and innovative ways to suck at music all over the world right now in fact, but most of the horror is contained within these seven categories so I’m not going to waste our time going over the details.  Details require magnification, and if there’s anything I’d rather not magnify, it’s a band in the company of these talentless pretenders.

So please, take time to research a little listening fodder.  It goes in your ear and lodges in your brain, after all.  Would it kill you to Google something like, “most underrated bands of the 70s,” “short history of [your favorite genre] music,” or “talented and influential music artists” before you click and buy from iTunes?  I mean, it’s way easier to find the best music from the past than it is to find it from the present — nobody remembers worthless rock.  Stop making me listen to your lemmingcore at six billion decibels as you drive around in your car with all the windows open.  Who knows?  Maybe even your love life will improve.

With Great Incense,

-BothEyesShut

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