Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Are You Not Entertained?

Source: potholesinmyblog.com
Written by: SoulSupreme

I’m not sure if this is specific to hip-hop, but I’m beginning to really believe that certain people would rather critique music than just listen to it. They’re definitely more inclined to analyzing the music than appreciating it at face value or potentially what the said artist intended. It feels like the equivalent of fantasy football examining statistics versus the entertainment value of watching the real game. This is the general tone when I read album reviews or when I engage in discussions on new albums of late. Missing is the emotional connection, vibe or how the music makes you feel. Also missing is, “did you like the song?” It’s more about the, “Is this bringing NY back?” or “I wish Mos Def would make an album as good as Black On Both Sides.” And then there is the “It’s not better than this album” or the apples and oranges comparison. I hardly debate on critiquing music because mostly I find myself saying, “It’s not that deep” or “maybe it just wasn’t for you” or “it just was not my favorite.” Let that bitch breath! © Jay-Z. Some albums need to be digested over time and the initial reaction may not be the lasting impression. Have we become so indoctrinated that we need music to be something so great so soon? And if it isn’t, does that deem the music a failure?

A part of the problem is that many people listen with expectation rather than just enjoying or not enjoying the music. Expression is expression. Art can have an impact but that’s not the the sole intent. It’s for the artist to express whatever they’re feeling like sharing through a medium. Obviously, there is good music and bad music so reviews are needed to help sift through all of it and provide people with choices. However, if those critiques are based on an expectation of said artist I can’t really agree with that either. As a listener you should at least take in the music before tearing it apart because it didn’t live up to the preconceived notion already formed in your mind. To me great art can entertain and/or inform us but the two are not mutually exclusive. If an album has high entertainment value does it depreciate as art because it wasn’t as lyrical or informative in some way? The answer is no. People need to stop expecting music to make some grand statement. I’m pretty certain during the creative process artists are just creating; what it becomes after that is up for public perception. Therefore the statement is the end result not the art itself. When you listen with expectation there’s good likelihood you’ll be left disappointed.

Something else to consider in terms of critiquing music is the “substance versus style” opinion. This is the notion that music is maybe less credible if substance doesn’t outweigh style. Good style artistically can be just as compelling if it’s executed well. In hip-hop it’s the flow versus lyrics argument. Sa-Ra Creative Partners don’t really convey anything lyrically but stylistically and sonically it’s some of the best music being made regardless of genre. As a music lover, I get way too much enjoyment from music to be that heady about it. Substance is what I tend to gravitate towards but being entertained is just as vital. We’ve always had artists who have great style over substance whether it’s Missy Elliott, Slum Village, or Busta Rhymes. I don’t get why people have to break it down into such extremes: Classic or garbage. Black and white values are used to describe something very based in gray. How ironic? When I hear this type of commentary I hear Baatin’s verse from “Fall In Love” instantly; N*ggas fall in love with the music like it’s a hole. Put down your mic you lost your whole goal, you take it to seriously like it’s a gamble.

I wonder how much the access to production credits and so forth online plays into to these generalizations? Did we enjoy the music more when we knew less about it? Does dissecting the music change the fact you like or didn’t like a particular song? I don’t think so. I think it’s great to break down music constructively but I also think it’s valuable to have some connection/reaction to it without all the details swaying you one way or another. While music discussion is great, I often feel like the real questions is: Are you entertained?

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