Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"Serious" Art is Ruining Pop Music - Discuss

We may need to have this as a point of discussion (debate?) at our next gathering, but I wanted to share an article that really resonated with me.  For a while now I have been struggling with what feels like a loss of creative purity.  To me creative purity is art born from earnest not art that has been productized, strategized, or even made with an intention to be monetized.  When it comes to music, I am referring to music for the sake of creativity, not the pursuit of endorsement deals, Twitter followers, or downloads.  My favorite book ever, Ever, EVER (yes that is a tongue in cheek nod to an of the moment "artist") captured one era of pure creativity (that I'm obsessed with BTW...) amazingly well and has an example of what seems missing today in the music world.  In 'Just Kids' Patti Smith tells a story of Kris Kristofferson and Janis Joplin sitting on the floor in a room of the Chelsea Hotel as "Bobby McGee" rose not from from their production team but but grew from six strings and a creative purity (and OK, yes, probably a bottle of bourbon but you get the idea).   

Back to the article though... it focuses on the recent trend of packaging music as/with high art and how it has not really panned out.  For the musicians it just comes across as pretentious and for the artist, the music is not a resource for deepening our sense of love or spontaneity to their art-forms.  Can I get a "I know, right?!" ? I mean riddle me this Lady Gaga - the release of ARTPOP is apparently meant to inspire me to run down to H&M for some off price fashion, get behind the wheel of a re-designed Kia, DVR SNL, and amidst all these relatively down-market marketing opportunities have me associate you with high-art?  And Hova, come on! Barney's, the 40/40 Club with its golden bats and bubbly, Picasso?  I get it, you got out of the projects but putting yourself on a gilded pedestal and proclaiming yourself as being high-art carries more an air of arrogance than demonstrating any appreciation for or understanding of creative purity.     

I don't know that the comments on Kanye resonate for me, but check the article out and in addition to the next UMCHofF debates, maybe we can opine on creative purity too.

Here's the link: http://thebea.st/Ia6s3k


  1. So many issues:
    - Creative purity or integrity or authenticity and how it is affected (not effected, right? I can never remember) by influences outside the artist?
    - “High Art” vs “Pop Music”
    - Is Kanye doing something right that Lady Gaga and Jay-Z are doing wrong?
    - Something I see as behind the whole idea of creative purity -- What responsibility does the artist have toward the audience? Or is their responsibility only toward themselves and their vision?

    I have a ton of opinions, but I find they consistently contradict each other.

    To a certain extent I think it unfair to compare Janis Joplin and Kris Kristofferson to the same standards as Lady Gaga and Jay-Z. Janis and Kris were never as popular, seen, followed, and cared about by as many people, as Gaga and Jay-Z. Popularity, today at least, means having your image, songs, movement and daily behaviors deseminated to the world at large every minute of everyday. No one works in a vacuum, but really successful (meaning they are financially successful) pop artists cannot get away from outside influences. The second they get away from public scrutiny these days they are forgotten. If your not in the news at least once a week, then your next song is seen as an attempted comeback. So they make themselves be in the news all the time. I feel Gaga is acting kind of desperate to stay in the news. She seems like she’s trying to up the ante in competition with Miley Cyrus. Which she really shouldn’t do, but in her position must be hard to avoid.

    Also, most musicians are seen as creatively pure when they are not popular. Then impure when they are. And then seen as being pure again, but only in retrospect.

    I think the high art dilemma is too general. Gaga and Hova didn’t make a mistake trying to connect with fine art. They just chose the wrong artists. Jeffrey Koons is going to cheapen and kitschify whatever he comes in contact with. That’s his thing. And Picasso isn’t contemporary; he’s modern. Modern is yesterday’s news. Sonic Youth has used album covers by Mike Kelly, Gerard Richter and Richard Prince, all contemporary and all doing something that SY actually connected with. Destroyer did a song about Kara Walker. Well, I don’t know what it’s about actually, but it has her in the title. Katy Perry used LaChapelle not for his “High Art” status but for his surface/kitschy schtick. They both make work with a high-sheen, disposable quality - a bubblegum pop song.

    I said too much. I haven’t said enough. I want to talk more.

  2. You know what? Now that I think of it Kanye used George Condo for his My Beautiful Nightmare album cover. Condo is "famous" but not Koons or Hirst famous. He makes ugly things. But not ugly like Hirst. Hirst is ugly to shock. Condo is just ugly. Also Hirst is about the money that ugly can bring in. Same as Koons to a certain extent. Blame Warhol, although since Warhol was first he can be seen as ground-breaking and therefore following his vision. The others are just coat tail riders.

    Replacements had Robert Longo for the TIM album. He was contemporary at the time. I remember it making me like both Longo and the Replacements more than I already did.

  3. Okay, Jim got off topic. It’s a thing he does.

    Where I work, artists bring in work they created because of some creative impulse they had, some idea they wanted to explore. I take the work with the intention of selling it so that the artist can make money to create more and the gallery can money to stay in business and sell art in the future for artists so they can go out and continue to make more art.

    To sell.

    With this circular chain of events it would be hard for the artist to remain “pure” in their creative intentions. They would be very tempted to make art that sells rather than art that is challenging or confusing or pushes their work into exciting, but maybe difficult or ugly directions. Artists need to make a living like any one else. Musicians, too.

    I know a lot of artists who sell pretty well, they survive on their art, some make a lot of money, and they try not to be swayed by the money. Sometimes they succeed and make something special. Sometimes no one wants the special thing because it is too different, but sometimes people love it and can’t get enough and the artist find a whole new thing.

    I know other artist who make no money or very little. They do things they hope will sell. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. They try not to let it influence them too much. But it’s hard.

    Most artists/musicians do not have it easy, because they don’t really know what their work will look like. They only know what it ended up looking like. And they have to make it first, before they know if anyone will like it. so they could invest a lot of time, money, blood, sweat and tears and end up making something that everyone thinks is crap and we never hear from them again.

    You should just make your music/art for yourself. Hide it away in your home and never let anyone else experience it. Die alone and penniless. Let the people who clean out your place decide if your were a genius or a crackpot.


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