That Song is SO REAL! ... No. It's not.
The ILLUSION Episodes Part 2
MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #25
ALL ABOUT IT
Every artist gets there. For some, it’s a departure from their normal mode.For some, it IS their mode. For some, it’s a concession to age. For some, it’s a defiant statement of not being pigeonholed or thought of as less “serious”. You know the moment I’m talking about. When an artist writes & records that extra special “heartfelt confessional”, that song that reveals something truer and more personal about them.And I’m here to tell you it’s bullshit.
If you watched my podcast on Thursday, you’ll know that this is the second of several episodes I’m doing that deal with illusion in art, specifically in music. This one has to do with the idea that the WAY a song is crafted and recorded tells us something about its content.THIS … is an illusion. It’s one of many forms of trickery that all artists employ for effect.
I mentioned on Thursday that art IS artifice. That no matter how “true” a work is, it’s still crafted. The word “craft” itself is used all the time to indicated trickery.Think of “witchcraft”. When you “make up” a song, that song is “made up”, which can also mean it’s “not real”.So many words having to do with art also somehow mean “not true”. Even the word “create” means “form from nothing”. Nothing, meaning something not real.
Okay so let’s get back to the main point here, that how a song SOUNDS indicates how true or deep it is. This really is total and complete bullshit. I can tell you as both a listener and a creator that the style – or let’s even say genre – of a song is a full-on illusion. Do certain types of instrumentation better convey certain emotional intentions? Yes. Do artists hope to make listeners feel a certain way by how they produce their songs. Absolutely. Does that mean the lyrics in those songs have the same emotional content, or the same perceived level of depth, or the same intended “meaning”? No fucking way.
There are thousands of examples of songs that sound one way and have lyrics that go a completely different way. Or songs whose “deepness” goes as far as how they sound, and whose lyrics don’t nearly measure up – deliberately or not. The style of a song is its clothing. It's skin. It’s not the guts & bones. In fact, many artists get a real kick out of this kind of misdirection, this kind of illusion. For one, it’s fun to mess with people, to buck expectations, to surprise. For another, that juxtaposition adds a whole other level of meaning.
It forces the listener to … ACTUALLY LISTEN. To not be fooled by the surface.Lots of songs with amazing lyrics often get short shrift because they’re produced in a way that doesn’t immediately convey “deep meaning”. Pop songs. Rock songs. Dance songs. Power pop. Hard songs that hide sensitive lyrics, and vice versa. The surface judgments miss the truth, miss the real substance.
Sound familiar? We ruin our discourse, our ability to connect with each other, by judging people based on how they look or how they talk, instead of paying attention to what they’re doing or saying. How often have you heard someone with a certain accent or dialect and immediately dismissed them as dumb or incapable of meaningful conversation, or on the other side too cold, too proper, too intellectual? Or how often have you been fooled by someone’s appearance: assumed they’re rough or suspicious, or alternatively trustworthy and knowledgeable, based on how they dress or what their skin or facial features look like?
We all do it. It’s in all of us to snap judge based on appearances and verbal expression, whether that means we unfairly denigrate or lionize. What’s important – especially NOW – is that we are self-aware enough to first acknowledge this when it happens, and then MOVE ON AND BEYOND IT to really see and hear someone based on their true SUBSTANCE. To take a moment to reflect on what’s actually being said or done, not on what we think it looks like, or how our senses make us feel. The more we can STOP and LOOK and LISTEN, the more we’ll find those commonalities that a faster reaction will completely run over and miss. The more get past that false instinct of snap judgment, the more we will connect with people who we’ll find are way more like us than we ever could have known.