Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Not Bad Is The New Amazing: An Obsession, Part 6
I will admit that my fascination with the overhyping of mediocre music has become an obsession. I try to put the subject to bed, but that damn baby will not go to sleep.
Last week, my friend Michael called to discuss Leon Bridges, an artist he cares about as little as I do. After a few minutes of mutual venting over the ludicrous Sam Cooke references, Michael calmly offered his closing thought.
"I wonder how many people would love Leon Bridges if they had to buy it and not stream it."
This immediately took me back, way back.
I was buying records at a very early age. Like some of you, I bought "Sgt. Pepper" while The Beatles were still a band. But I wasn't allowed to listen to it until I did my math homework. If I wanted to hear the new Rolling Stones record, I had to save two weeks allowance to purchase it and if that Stones album happened to be "Goat's Head Soup," I would cry that the only record I was able to purchase that month only had 5 good songs on it. ONLY 5 good songs. (I've grown fond of "Goat's Head Soup" over the years, but that's only because "Dirty Work" and "Voodoo Lounge" exist.) Still, I stayed with it, listening to every note, crushed, knowing it'd be a year minimum before Mick & Keith would release something else.
When you invest time and money into something, anything really...a meal, a vacation, a record...you suddenly become more critical. Reservations three weeks in advance for that new steak house with the fab wine list and the meal that's going to cost you three bills is more important than the quick burger off of Route 202 in Danbury when you're starving. That Merlot just may get sent back. The burger though, wasn't bad. I mean, you were hungry and you never really have to go back to that joint again. Nobody's sending back a chicken sandwich from Wendy's.
1971, you bought a record, you unwrapped it, you caressed it. You read the lyrics and the liner notes and the band credits. You listened and if you loved it, you listened again and again, sometimes with friends. If you didn't love it, you still listened. You just filed it away more quickly, and still, you'd come back to it, as if it miraculously grew a few more good tunes.
2015, you read about five new bands and dial'em all up. You give'em a test drive, maybe a minute here, thirty seconds there. "Hmmm...not bad." What are your favorite songs? "I like #2, #4 and that one with the choir." In 1971, we knew the length of every song on "Sticky Fingers." Nobody ever referred to "Bitch" as "#6."
As I said in the earlier post from June 16th on Leon Bridges, I hold nothing against him. It's not his fault. The man has some talent. But I do wonder how great his debut would sound if all those "not bads" actually dropped $15 for it. I guess you could argue that the $15 bucks would make it better. I fell into that trap many times, unwilling to admit I hated what I just paid for. I also wonder how great the Leon Bridges debut would be if that was the only record you bought or listened to in a week.
This isn't really about Leon Bridges. Or the Alabama Shakes. Or any of the artists I haven't warmed up to. It's about all of them and more. It's easy to hand out 4 star reviews when you've got nothing invested in it, and occasionally, not even the 38 minutes to listen to something in its entirety. It's about quality control and not being so easily satisfied.
Then again, who am I to tell you what to listen to? I listen to a lot of crap myself and genuinely love it. But it can't be just me who is fed up with "not bad" being the new "amazing."