In case you didn’t already notice it from the army of bulldozers clawing mercilessly at the cultural landscape, today’s giddy feeding frenzy is pretty much the perfect storm as far as the great minds behind Global Release day are concerned. A day on which one song by one artist can generate more conversation than a thousand underground musicians. This is event culture: music as commodity. It’s exciting, like a new coke flavour.
A world in which newer is always equated with better, and newest therefore always means best. A world in which national TV hosts tell you how excited they are to introduce the next fabulous special guest and their fantastic new single (and you’re going on tour, aren’t you? Tell us about that, why don’t you) even though the hyperbole is completely redundant because the PR and booking system has been calculated to within a fraction of a degree on the clapometer, such that you know the audience (and the audience of millions at home - how exciting is this!) will match their seal-claps (unpaid) to the smile of the presenter (paid) and star (2% extra sales per degree of whiteness).
It’s a hit from me!
Well that’s going to be massive. Of course it is, when the system demands and designs massive hits. When the soundtrack for mainstream cultural events must contain nothing but known, bankable quantities. That one you like is on Graham Norton again Mum! Before a song is released, it is set to become the soundtrack of the summer. According to its creators and their friends, who just happen to be taste-makers-in-chief.
And then the backlash. God! The inevitable, soul-sucking backlash. Can’t sing, can’t write. Talentless. Overhyped. Cynical posts on blogs everywhere (ahem).
So wrong, so much of the time, and nothing more than a conscious and very deliberate rejection of the premise, the setup: a refusal to be told. But understandable: when critical appreciation is non-existent, or irrelevant at best, you can’t simply add a voice to the discussion. How do you introduce considered opinion into vacuity? Why bother? So hey, why not just write about it anyway, and if you can’t in truthful honesty say something good, stick to the facts and ask your readers what they think. That way you can still be part of the conversation (phew!) while distancing yourself from the noise. Better to be inside the tent, pissing out, eh? Is it me, or is it really crowded in here, and why does outside look just like a slightly bigger tent?
Ah. But, you say, what happens when the star releases something disappointing?
Talk to me about how that happens. Too many people have too much invested, directly and indirectly, in a successful release. Remember, newer always means better. Not only that, but sometimes when it’s not good, it’s better than that: it’s good enough. If expectations were lower, it would be released differently. There is no hope here, only dread certainty. The certainty of millions of units, and the certainty that you will be listening in the days and weeks to come, no matter what.