Is music timeless, or strapped to time?

in music •  last year

His music "will not stand the test of time," claims Emily Jupp...but what does that even mean?

Music critics are the most absurd invention of the past century. I don't know the exact history of music critics or how long they have been mulling about spouting their hot air about the nearest artist, but it seems recent as far as a career is concerned. I'm sure there were negative nellies walking around the humble village shaming their neighbor's artistry as long as there has been a village idiot (interchangeable?) and nothing better to do, but the modern critic has morphed into a suppressor of innovation....which is what artistry is primarily about.

I was recently interested in a musician in the Indie Pop scene named Jack Garratt who's music I happen to like, and while I was researching his management contact, I came across an article entitled "Jack Garratt: Be prepared for year of blandness" and thought I would take a look, since personally I found that a number of the tracks I heard had exciting and well procured sounds.

Critic Emily Jupp's main points:
"If you were paying proper attention [in his live performance] to the sound, you would have noticed that his singing was off-key and out of time, too."

"His songs won't stand the test of time, they aren't powerful or moving but that's okay because that isn't what music is about any more. Now it's about finding someone inoffensive" ... "Take a listen, then go away, make a cup of tea and see if you can recall a single lyric or hum any of the tunes. Didn't think so. "

Modern music is a "quest for blandness" that would have thought "David Bowie was too big a risk"

"The kind of stuff that can be bashed out in a studio in a day to a regular formula. "

(You can read the article here if you like)

My inspiration to write this post is not to defend Jack Garratt and claim he is anything close to a musical genius, but to show the faults of the critic. As a musician, I am playing a music critics's critic!

First off, the reason I was contacting his management was in complete agreement with the problems with his live singing. I am a vocal trainer by trade, and I heard the problems with his studio work not translating to his live performance. This is very common with young musicians, unfortunately, due to the quick attention new artists get with the internet instead of years of deep cultivation and training while rising to stardom. To be successful in today's industry you have to spend 85% of your time working social media, allocating only 14.7% of your time on writing recording producing and performing your music, and 0.3%-0.0% of your time cultivating your musicianship/and craft. The pressures of the viral music internet scene are nearly insurmountable and the chance to develop vocal knowledge and health--a long term process--falls by the wayside for "fifteen minutes of fame" that they try to stretch into a career.

I digress, I will save my vocal expertise for another post.

I agree with her that the modern music industry goes with formula and rarely takes on people trying to stretch the pop formula, which I would actually argue Jack Garratt attempts to do in some of his songs. I would also allow the rest of her harsh article because she is entitled to her own tastes and opinions. What I take issue on with this lady, however, is her statement about standing the test of time, and whether it could be bashed out in the studio in a day.

First off, there are some crappy pop songs that are not on the Indy scene that could be bashed out in a day. Those songs are utter crap and I would dismiss Jack Garratt's music entirely if it fit that description. His lyrics, while a tad unfocused because he is a millennial in a crazy world does have enough thought in it that requires some contemplation and time to feel out. The melodies, phrasing, and lyrics are nuanced enough to demonstrate an interest in capturing a moment, and his production obviously takes a lot of time to map out orchestrate and mix. But this "test of time" shit?!

What does that even mean to stand the test of time? Will someone like the melody in the future? Will they remember it? Does the content have mystical relevance that can transcend generational differences? Is that even the function of good music?

I like a good pop song. Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder are two of my greatest heroes. However I like innvoative music to challenge my perceptions, or exciting yet predictable music to get sweaty dancing to, or brainwave entrainment and hertz precision music to alter my state into one of tranquility or alertness or meditation.

Does a flower stand the test of time? Does its existence have relevance or profound beauty if no one ever sees it?

Do people only hum beautifully orchestrated melodies, or just what merely gets lodged in their head? Nothing stands the test of time if it isn't continually hyped and remastered. Lyrics lose their relevance after being highly relevant for three generations even. Thoughts are fleeting. Beyond that, a beautiful lyric from Pink Floyd will be just as confounding and confusing a century from now as the entirety of Shakespeare's work, because even prose has context. I happen to hum Jack Garratt's good song choruses when I step away if I haven't shifted to other music.

Not too long ago I put out an album aiming to be pop-accessible while innovative and unconventional at the same time. I thought it was really successful and I love every minute of it, but I did learn a thing or two. The biggest lesson is: people remember and hum a three second kitsch in a song more than the crafted verse or chorus. Kitsch and simplicity is what gets lodged in the brain. I experimented with putting a "whoa-oh-oh" in a song, for example, and that is what people get stuck on and sing the rest of the day after listening. Stevie Wonder, a man who wrote one of the largest volume of hits in anyone's career, wrote two of my favorite songs that are nearly impossible to sing after you walk away and have a cup of tea. I am a professional musician and I had to practice to be able to successfully hum Stevie's "Looking For Another Pure Love" walking down the street a cappella, and from memory.

and likewise trying to sing his hit "I Can't Help It" made popular by Michael Jackson

Clearly, good music isn't meant to be committed to memory to be of quality and beauty. Plus you can only have so many songs like Madonna's "Material Girl" that are both simple and catchy without getting extremely redundant. So what is music meant to do? In answer, the great Buddha in true form would silently lift and point to a flower without a word.

People's music didn't get critiqued even right after hitting the charts in the olden days, and not only that, their music had to be hyped for a long time with repeated radio play before they were big enough to fill a major venue. They had A LOT of time on their hands to train their voice, their performance, their musicianship, and anything else before performing that people today neglect to remember. Sure some of the best albums of all time like "Dark Side Of The Moon" took more than a year to produce because record companies actually invested in their acts to make the best recording possible since there was value in selling a recording back then, and the technology wasn't as quick as today. Yet, even the greatest songs in the world were sometimes knocked out in a single day which neither delegitimizes or diminishes the quality of those songs. As a songwriter I can say sometimes i have sat down at the piano and channeled my best work out of nowhere in one sitting. Other times, I would get parts of a song and wait to see (sometimes months) when the rest of it wanted to come out. Music composition is a birthing process and some labors or quick, or sometimes complications arise and the labor lasts for days ,or the baby comes out late or premature. Is the baby any less of a wonder based on its birthing time?

Perhaps the true and unrealized purpose of a critic is to help make babies more awesome by offering constructive criticism, and acknowledging that the music industry is exposing premature artists because of current technology. People like seeing imperfect products or artistry in process, as youtube attests. If music critics have any worth, they should help these musicians gaining attention in their process rather than calling them shit when there is SOMETHING there. When there is zero potential and the music has no redeemable qualities, by all means call it shit because maybe someone needs to tell them to make music a private hobby, but Jack Garratt isn't THAT shitty by any stretch of the imagination. I advise music critics to make their articles worth reading by being thoughtful rather than dismissive. I agree David Bowie was a great musician, but no one was dangling Rachmaninoff, or George Gershwin over his head when he was developing and performing his work, or calling him an inferior knock-off of Miles Davis Which is how similar Bowie's psychedelic rock music is to Garratt's Neo Soul Pop. Constructive criticism is really taken to heart by critiqued musicians, (especially when they are young/new) so make those words count....don't just make the "word count" of your editors.

And that's all I have to say about that.

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