Monday, February 16, 2015

ART...and sex...and Kanye...and Mylie...and McDonald's...

Watching the tribute to Stevie Wonder tonight, I was reminded, yet again, of the importance and reality of true and pure art. No, this ain’t some “old guy that hates everything new” type rant , but I would argue that due to the advances in technology, the tremendous expression of wealth and the allure of celebrity, we are inundated by an exponential amount of “white noise”, a sonic Matrix, if you will; “take the red pill and you’ll see and hear the true art in life, take the blue pill and all things the media feeds will make perfect sense…” Even among the current popular artists these deadly contaminates infect art. 
 Take Miley Cyrus for example. I can’t stand the “foam-finger, tounge-wagging, could-I-be-any-trashier? Miley”, but I have to admit, when she sings and lets the other crap go, she is a true talent. I heard her sing on the SNL tribute, doing a Paul Simon song and she crushed it. That’s an example of someone who has the talent and yet still feels they have to play the game. 
 I’m reminded of the movie This Is It; the tragic, slow-motion car wreck of Michael Jackson’s final days. While there is a lot to shake our heads at and tsk-tsk, there’s also the inarguable fact that even in a severely compromised state (as we’ve now heard ad-nauseam) MJ still was able to bring it. He hit his marks, hit the notes, made his cues and led the band. he was even making directorial directions. 
 It reminds me of the same feeling I had watching Mike Tyson being knocked out by Buster Douglas, Tyson’s on the mat, knocked out and he’s still crawling around finding his mouthpiece and getting it in his mouth because he knows “instinctively” that they won’t let him continue without it. He’s operating on that hardcore built in artistic instinct that has served artists for centuries. I feel that Michael Jackson was operating on pure built-in, ingrained instinct. He was raised up in the same Motown machine that gave us Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye & Diana Ross. Unfortunately, it’s why we see artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, etc. abusing drink or drugs, but still able to bring their amazing talent to the fore. The true art is HARD-WIRED.
 We, as humans, always recognize true art and admire and respect greatness. For an example I give you Prince; on the recent GRAMMY broadcast, current music royalty was represented. You had Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Beyonce, etc. BUT…Prince walks out to give an award, doesn’t open his mouth and receives a standing ovation! Greatness is recognized.
 Kanye West (thanks to the advice of his publicist and management team , I’m sure) tried to protest the awarding of a GRAMMY to Beck as an affront to art with the “neglect” of Beyonce. As I said, his move was more about his own promotion than any real regard for artistic integrity but even that reveals a lot about where we are as a culture; Kanye is either completely aware of what he’s doing and thereby giving art no true value or he’s completely unaware and is an example of the ignorance and ‘Matrix’ quality existence that permeates the current artistic landscape. 
 One more GRAMMY example; I really like the Hozier song, “Take Me To Church”. I think it’s a really cool song and I hope he has a lot more to bring to the air. That being said, once again the GRAMMY telecast reveals something. Annie Lennox gets up and does a duet with Hozier and lays waste to the place. No pyro, no vocal histrionics, no auto-tune. Just a straight up talented vocalist and performer doing what she does and killing it. 
 The thing about art is that in it’s purest form, it is completely un-reliant on commerce. You can draw a picture and put it in a drawer, you can sing at church or in your car, you can cook an amazing meal for your family, none of these will bring you a dime. That doesn’t make them less artistic or compromise the artistic qualities. You can make a sex tape and sell it for a million dollars or lip-sync (ala’ Milli Vanilli) and make money without ever scratching the surface of “art”. 
 So MY point, if I have one, is that it’s up to us as a culture, to put some kind of limits on what we will and will not tolerate in art. Van Gough didn’t get it, Mozart didn’t get it, Monet didn’t get it. I’m speaking of artistic respect and financial recognition, during their lifetime. Recognize and give credit where it’s due. Call BS on the stuff that’s obviously an opportunistic grab. 

 In the end, I equate it with food, sex and movies; I’m not saying never eat at McDonald’s, just never forget the difference between a McDonald’s hamburger and a really good steak with fresh vegetables; or, for my vegetarian friends, a frozen vegetarian dinner and a plate of freshly prepared, fresh vegetables; sex with a onetime hookup as opposed to sex with someone you’re in love with, music that you can read a book while listening to as opposed to music that gives you goosebumps, a movie that you can eat popcorn during as opposed to a movie that has you glued to your chair and feeling every emotion.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"You Can't Handle The Truth!"

GRAMMY RECAP: I really kind of dug the GRAMMYs last night. I LOVED Annie Lennox (one of my favorites), AC/DC was wreckin’ it, LOVED the Brandi Clark - Dwight Yoakum song! (Sturgill Simpson got NOTHING?!?), Buddy Guy got props (though not on TV…)The interesting thing was the conversations the next day; Kanye, Kanye, Kanye! (yes it’s a Brady Bunch reference)First, I should say that my personal opinion is that Kanye did what he did to create the controversy, conversation and press that he’s getting. “Good press, Bad press, as long as they spell your name right!” Kanye is the Rush Limbaugh of Rock & Roll; even he doesn’t believe EVERYTHING he says.
 Now the internet is lit up with Artists and fans responding in the negative. “Kick him in the …” well, you get the idea. My take, for what it’s worth, is that Kanye is (like most artists) insecure and desperate. I’m not jumping on the bandwagon to beat him up, I’m just trying to express my opinion of what he said. (Although he is married to a Kardashian, they can make a man want to be a woman!) To say that Beck, a multi-instrumentalist, who writes, records and produces his own work, who according to is credited as the sole composer of all 13 tracks of his GRAMMY winning record, should “respect artistry and give his award to Beyonce” who’s last album, according to credits 30 composers and producers, is like saying Derek Jeter should respect athletic talent and give his World Series ring to Hulk Hogan. The argument is ludicrous in and of itself so let’s take it off the table and analyze the underlying truth.  Kanye has released 8 records, (6 of which, I’d not heard of), Beck has released 12 records ( 9 of which I haven’t heard of). In their individual milieux, they are both valid. Kanye is a tremendous force in Rap/Hip-Hop and Beck is an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer. Kanye taking a verbal swing at Beck is like me talking smack about Mike Tyson; I can play guitar better than Mike Tyson but he can also kick my a**! (I can also play guitar better than Kanye, Beyonce, Jay-Z AND Beck but that’s beside the point:))…I’M JUST JOKING! 
 My point is; life is short, love is long, true art will survive and flourish, pretenders will fall by the wayside and whoever turned off Sir Paul McCartney’s mic and reduced him to being a rhythm guitarist for Rhianna and Kanye should be dipped in peanut butter and dropped in a pack of hungry, horny dogs!

 In closing, I’d like to paraphrase Col. Nathan R. Jessup USMC; “ Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guitars. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Ryan Seacrest? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Beck, and you curse Kanye West. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Beck’s win, while awesome, probably saved lives. And Kanye’s existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want Kanye on that stage, you need Kanye on that stage. We use words like art, integrity, musicianship. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent creating something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to someone who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very art that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up an instrument, and write a song. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.” #loudisgood