27 April 2005

Rock criticism as fandom

A fan began his review of a recent album by saying that to truely [sic] appreciate this album, you must understand everything about it. I've got a problem with this.

You can't blame fans for gushing about what they love. Interesting stories or odd facts about those people we respect humanizes them and adds a certain harmless familiarity to the relationship. Lists of pop stars' favorite things in Teen Tiger Beat may seem obsessive and youthful, but the urge to read these lists is not much different than reading biographies of more historically relevant individuals. To know that Sibelius had synaesthesia is as useful as knowing that Lindsay Lohan's favorite color is pink.

However, it's flawed to try to inject legitimacy into a person's art based on biographical information. These facts may help us attempt to understand the intentions of the artist, but they say little if anything about the quality of the art. What I often hear is not simply stories being passed around for their interest, but interesting stories used to lend importance to artwork. The fan I quoted above finished the review by saying that the background stories show how the band creates art in the form of modern rock. It's a fuzzy sentence, but it's also one that echoes the adulation I've heard before--why not just say "this illustrates their process of writing music." Some great artists are very boring and some poor ones fascinating.

Are these fans just enjoying a good anecdote, or are they attempting to indirectly bolster the art of the object of their affections? To state the obvious: there seems to be a Warholian obsession with personality over product. This has some relevance to the complicated subject of cover songs that I wrestled with previously (and that began here then thoughtfully continued here). If personality can have equal importance to product, then a different personality remaking a song could be removing the most important part.

[ posted by sstrader on 27 April 2005 at 10:57:05 AM in Music ]