By Hans Ebert
There’s been a whole lotta shaking and tweeting going on in the past few weeks, and now that the social media genie is well and truly out of the bottle forever screaming, “Feed me”, the more that music is relegated to a nondescript cameo role while celebritydom is elevated to an obscene level of importance that often makes the mediocre or the tiresome assume hugely overrated roles as the grand wizards of our times.
Social media and everything else technology has given us are wonderful additions and tools to advance our daily lives, and make everything much easier than ever before- including the art of creating. And music is art. Where the problem arises is when “easier” becomes “too easy”, and we suddenly find ourselves trying to be heard over each other with everyone either repeating the same thing, or battle lines being drawn with a murder of crows flapping their wings, but not knowing where they’re heading for winter.
While all this nothingness is being played out on ubiquitous and long-in-the-tooth television shows and everything taking centre stage on social media, incredibly talented musicians like, for example, James Bay and Tori Kelly, along with their work and performances, never ever receive the importance and, damn it, the respect they deserve.
All the art and creativity that could have its time to stand out and shine like a crazy diamond is allowed to be hijacked by “performers” like Kanye West. Manipulation has become a new art form, and the more outrageous and downright stupid everything is, the bigger the con becomes, and easier is the manipulation process. The herd mentality takes over and all the simpleton sheep join in and reproduce at a feverish and alarming pitch with no thought of the consequences. It’s just all about having a say and being heard.
Once upon a time, the music world had bona fide performers- entertainers like Chuck Berry, Sammy Davis Jr, Jacky Wilson, James Brown, Michael Jackson etc etc who were a combination of gifted talent and magic with that ability to mesmerise their audiences. Mesmerise and manipulate are two very different things.
He might believe he does, but someone like Kanye West doesn’t come within even sniffing distance of any of these greats and also not-so-greats. At best, he’s an average Rapper whose best work is behind him- Love Lockdown, Gold Digger and a couple of other tracks. This lack of relevance is compensated for these days by a tiresome neediness to tell the world that the Ego has landed while insisting on pummelling his social media flock about how his greatness must be acknowledged. Please, bitch. Enough already.
This is the perplexing and soul-destroying state of the world today- to accept without questioning, and to refuse to see through the plastic fantastic of social media that’s gone totally off the rails. It’s where bottom feeders of the world unite in this particular House Of Cards where they can be so easily used and discarded.
Genuine music fans are outnumbered by spies and fakirs and fakers in their midst. And whereas the Beatles packed it in when their shows became bigger and they could no longer hear themselves sing and play, today, bigger means better to hide the pock marks. It’s like Little Red Riding Hood asking why Grandmother had such big teeth, but, these days, unafraid of the consequences.
Bigger not only hides so many things, it allows in the scammers, the carefully potted plants to take their places from where they can create enough diversions so that glaring examples of mediocrity are glossed over and erased through enough trolls screaming together about something else of absolutely no relevance.
At the Grammys yesterday, sure there were technical problems with the sound. But let’s not give Adele a Get Out Of Jail Free card. Her performance was erratic with her singing completely out of tune on a very vapid song.
Adele, darling, you were singing in the wrong key. That’s just fucking unforgivable- especially when there would have been plenty of rehearsal time to get your act together. But judging by the standing ovation for a performance that would had a lounge singer in a hotel lounge hauled off stage, Adele, another of those untouchables was forgiven. Another appearance on SNL beckons along with more Carpool Karaoke with that laughing British fool James Gorden. Anything to erase memories of a shocking performance on, apparently, “music’s biggest night”. Really? Seriously? Why? How?
There was a brief mention about how artists receive a tiny percentage of a nickel when their music is streamed and how this must be stopped by some industry executive, but how? More importantly, it’s the music industry that is to blame for this sorry state of affairs, so this sudden display of sanctimonious bullshit was just annoying.
Musicians were pimped out and are still being pimped out. Play the game or get to the end of the queue, or go grab your worthless 15 minutes of fame on The Voice, where no one has gone on to any kind of real success. Wait: No one except for that idiot Blake Shelton who’s somehow ended up with Gwen Stefani, and is marketing this gift from heaven for all its worth in a different type of fakery in the music business.
As for Lady Adele, the voice of the common people, well, she received a standing ovation for her cringeworthy performance just as Kanye West received a standing ovation led by his then “good friend” Taylor Swift, for over ten minutes of self-indulgent gibbering at the MTV Music Video Awards, just as a bloated Beyoncé hijacked the Super Bowl Half Time show from the horribly bland and very white Coldplay to promote the great racial divide that exists in America. Receiving standing ovations have become meaningless.
What has any of this shuck and jive to do with music? Nothing. It has everything to do with business and power and those who tow the line and don’t make waves. This passiveness and being so politely malleable allows mediocrity to wander in along with passive members of their paid-for cheering squads.
There’s a long list of these two-bit players- a protected species, but easy to see through despite the camouflaging- Meghan Trainor, Demi Lovato, Lorde, she’s not moved since “Royals”, Selena Gomes, the opportunist that has always been Lady Gaga- why did that “tribute” to Bowie remind me of Liza Minelli in Vegas? Because it stunk, maybe?- the very boring Sam Smith, this year’s Ricky Gervais model in James Gorden- is Carpool Karaoke REALLY that entertaining or funny?- the Kardashians, Pit Bull…the list is endless. Pit Bull brings the Grammys to a close? Huh?
Taylor Swift? She’s a carefully coiffured, red-lipped firebrand- a very ambitious young woman who has chartered an extremely savvy musical course for herself despite unexceptional songs and a very average whitebread voice, but compensated for by huge dollops of saccharine infested Niceties and the big business mafia behind this golden goose. Vegas and retirement and huge money awaits. Hell, Taylor Swift could well end up owning Vegas. And Apple.
Is anything about Taylor Swift actually real? One very much doubts it looking at those feigned looks of golly-gee- MOI?- surprised expressions at every awards shows, listening to those meticulously crafted speeches guaranteed to lead to a carefully choreographed line of standing ovations, and all those well-mapped out “wars” with Spotify and Apple Music. This was and is all show BUSINESS in its truest most manipulative form that has given the world a Safety Approved Product. It’s a Game Of Thrones and Taylor Swift is sitting on it and is invincible. To her credit, she had a game plan, she stuck to it, she won and now holds all the Ground Control, Major Tom.
Will Taylor Swift be remembered for her music like Carole King or Joni Mitchell still are? Of course not. Like Beyoncé, she will be remembered for her clothes, her makeup, for whatever “causes” she and Team Taylor choose to carefully embrace, her carefully chosen BFFs who desperately need her to be relevant, and how she became the new Bono. Tomorrow she’ll probably have an audience with the Pope about World Peace.
It’s nothing personal, it’s all about the bass of business. It’s nothing to do with what James Bay and Tori Kelly and Hozier and Alabama Shakes and Jessie Glynne, the great Bonnie Raitt, and so many others do- which is make music- ONLY live and breathe to make music like Miles and Ray Charles and Ella and Billie Holliday and Les Paul, Chet Atkins and every great musician who has come and gone and all those still hanging in there despite the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.
Sadly, all this music is always swallowed up by that man-eating plant needing its fix of greed and power that’s all part of today’s entertainment world and which works hand-in-hand with every big industry out there today. Occupy Wall Street and Occupy The Grammys are not far removed at all.
Come on, people, as Grace Slick sang, Feed your head. But also open your eyes and ears and take in who and what’s real, and discard everything that’s so very fake. It’s the only way we’re going to get music back to where it belongs, JoJo, and make it matter again.