As a caveat to my previous post, which upon re-reading seems pretty thin and basically an excuse to talk about Billy Joel (weird), I do think there are ways of judging, critically, an artist’s overall worth over and above the visceral, first-time-emotional kick (hell, even the cheap emotional kick upon repeated listenings). Thematic heft, complicated, unexpected musical arrangement, even the juxtaposition of of a light thematic motif mixed with heavier musical accomponiment can be proof of a more seriuos intent.
Also, there is the body of work an artist presents. Smokey Robinson is a more profound artist than, say, El Debarge largely due to the volume of good songs produced, even though a toe-to-toe rumble between “Rhythm of the Night” and “Tears of a Clown” may yield a surprising decision. Smokey remained within a certain musical and lyrical tradition, but mined that tradition for all it’s worth, borrowing and achieving a depth that comes through in the songs themselves.
Of course, such considerations can lead a magazine like Rolling Stone to rank verifiable turds like last year’s Springsteen and U2 albums as the top two albums of the year. The flip side, that cooler-than-you pose can make claims just as dubious (TV on the Radio? Animal Collective? Shit, Radiohead since OK Computer?)
I guess I just want to try to figure out how to justify the candy-coated calories. Perhaps the secret lies in basic self-delusion. When Billy Joel comes on, I will tell myself it’s Bruce Springsteen. When I hear Ed Sheeran, it’s now Bruno Mars. Train is still Train; not sure how to deal with that…how about James Bay? James Blunt is now Linda Ronstadt.
Here’s the joke–it all sounds the same. Do what you have to do. I don’t believe that because music moves me too much and too much effort is put into making it move people like me. So I’ll do what I have to so can listen to as much as possible.
Shhh. It sounds the same though…