Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Greyson Chance

We knew him a few months ago as "The Lady Gaga Kid." He popped up as if he were a viral hit, only to be revealed as yet another manufactured spectacle. And here he is again, completely manufactured, coached and oblivious:

I can't imagine this is really a future star here. His plucky demeanor and smile betray a kind of cluelessness - it's cute when you're ten, but he's worn out that welcome mat. Truth is, there's not a kernel of authenticity in him, but he's not mature enough to know that.

I don't know why we tolerate this - it borders on child abuse. We're being presented this individual as if somehow he's arrived - fully realized and ready to take on the world. He isn't. He couldn't be. Does he think he's going to have the respect of others in the music business? Even worse, do his handlers believe this? Sure, he's got some heavy hitters in his corner, but to what end? And who's his audience? Seriously, who's bought a Greyson Chance concert ticket?

Chance was vaulted into the YouTube consciousness on the back of a *very* selectively edited video of what appeared to be a coordinated concert effort (not the "hey some kid plays piano at his school" it was pushed as). It got some attention, including the (desperate herself) Ellen Degeneres, and allegedly, Lady Gaga's management team.

I want Greyson Chance to succeed, I really do, because it would mean the system can indeed be short circuited for the right amount of talent. And that's a lie we all need to believe.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Return of Albini

Steve Albini has a new interview in GQ Magazine. Worth a read. Salient excerpts:

"Everyone said that radio would kill live music and kill the existing music industry because people wouldn't leave their houses because radio would bring the ballroom to them. It had exactly the opposite effect—it made people much more interested in music. The same thing happened with the Internet—people said access to music on the Internet was going to kill the music industry. What it killed was the record industry. The music industry—bands, concerts, things like that are doing great. The live concert experience is a valuable thing now."

"This is a terrific time to be in a band. Every band has access to the entire world by default.
An awful lot of bands that had no audience in their first incarnation were able to revive their careers and have a second lap. It's so exceedingly rare that somebody gets more than one bite at an apple like that. I think it's fantastic."

"There's a perversion of normal ethical standards, indulged and encouraged by a music industry that feels more important the more it is removed from regular life. For those of us in Shellac and the other bands we admire, being in a band is just part of normal, regular life. You don't act like an asshole when you go to the barber. So why act like an asshole when you're in a band?"
I succumb to the occasional "I'm an artist therefore I get to behave differently." Happens to the best of us.

All very salient observations.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Charlie Hopper on songwriting in Nashville

"After class I would drive to the Bluebird, a little bar in Nashville where songwriting successes perform—midway into one of their verses you can usually feel the whole audience sort of slip into realizing they know this song from the radio, sort of like when your car shifts from first to second gear: if you're paying attention, you can feel it.

Especially when you're sitting there alone.

Nobody to talk to.

Many miles from the person you should be there with.

Who would enjoy the show, too." (#3)


"You can always hear what's wrong with other people's songs, even as you're blind to your own song's shortcomings." (#8)


"This particular Roundtable was a lovely affair with a catered dinner and free drinks, hosted by a well-regarded demo service. We gathered in the actual studio, where musicians perform. One by one Hopefuls arrived and mingled awkwardly—none of us had ever met. We were thrown together and had to muster our people skills.

Not all songwriters have people skills.

Still, networking is key to Nashville success. And this was prime networking. Future co-writers might be here tonight. We all made quick, biased, hunch-based, unfair judgments of each other, trying to answer the question, "Whom will I wish I'd buddied up with?" The classic Mingler's Challenge." (#9)


"I have a mental malfunction in which the main way I approach enjoyment of any performance is through the fantasizing eyes of an introverted extrovert, as if I were the one up there performing, or the author of the piece being performed. Why, I could write a musical; I could write a play—I could write a book and read from it!

"Tonight when we get home I'll get started," I secretly plan to myself as I offer my applause."


"As I played these, or the songs I'd make up, I'd imagine a vast, appreciative crowd out to my right, just beyond the edge of the conjured stage the dining room had become.

Basically I am a pathological dreamer, with a vaguely pathetic desire to perform. Or have my stuff performed."


"[my wife] pales at the notion of having someone hand you a guitar with the expectation that you'll sing a song you wrote. "Is everybody paying attention to me? I'm going to sing to you! Something I wrote one day! I'm certain that it's good and you'll enjoy the experience of looking at me while I perform!" The idea makes her a little queasy.

But I was ready." (#10 is a gangbuster.)

I'll leave to you read the entire series. These are just a couple gems - there are many more. Absolutely fantastic series. Inspiring.