Sunday, April 17, 2011

Soapbox Sunday: Should it be "hard" to be an artist?

By now, you've probably heard of and or seen the music video for the song Friday by Rebecca Black. I mean, I'm seriously devoid of most current news media and I've seen the video like three times now. And I've seen parodies, and I've read a couple articles on the thing too. It's really quite controversial.

I'm wondering why.

It has the record for dislikes on Youtube and maybe the record for views too. In a yahoo news article its described as "mind-meltingly bad." And, what I think is the real clincher here, what really got me riled up about the whole infamy of it all IS Miley Cyrus being quoted, in reference to Rebecca Black, "It should be harder to be an artist."

Really, Miley, singer of "Best of Both Worlds"? Maybe you've come along a bit since then, but I wouldn't call that song a work of art. And I'm pretty sure you didn't write it either.

The story goes that Rebecca and her family went to Ark Music studios where they paid for a song written by someone else and a music video of her singing it. Ark Music produced it and she's been famous ever since. Not to mention rather wealthy.

A sad story, no doubt, but how is this different from any other pop singer? It's no secret that most pop-singers don't write their own songs. How about Brittany Spears and her "Hit me Baby one more time"? Christina Aguilera's "Genie In a Bottle"? These songs were no works of art, nor the singers particularly more talented than your average girl on the street. Is it because Rebecca Black wasn't in the Mickey Mouse Club that she's become so criticized for her silly song?

Granted, the lyrics of this song are simple, grammatically incorrect and nothing special philosophically. Aren't most pop-lyrics thus? How about "Anywhere for you" by Backstreet Boys?
"I'd go anywhere for you
Anywhere you asked me to
I'd do anything for you
Anything you want me to"

Or N'Sync's "I just wanna be with you"?
"Na, na na na na na na na...
Na, na na na na na na na...
I just wanna be with you,
Girl that's all I want to do
I just wanna be with you,
Girl that's all I want to do"

And does it have to stop at pop? Last I checked a lot of classic rock had simple lyrics too: Rush? Led Zeppelin? Creedence Clearwater Revival? And lets not forget the all time most popular and well loved band of all time: The Beatles. They started out with some pretty basic songs: "Love Me Do", "I Wanna Hold your Hand".

All right, so maybe it's not the straightforward lyrics that are bothersome. I've read some comments on Youtube that mention her voice. "Her voice is terrible!" "It makes my ears bleed" "It gives me cancer."

Ummm? Since when have you had to have any kind of decent voice to be an ultra loved and popular singer? Bob Dylan? Geddy Lee? Brian Johnson? Brittany Spears?
Not to mention it sounds like her voice has been digitally altered, which seems like a prominent theme in pop-songs these days. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of this Friday song, nor have I ever liked Brittany Spears or Christina Aguilera. Though I do love Rush and CCR, and the Beatles and Led Zeppelin are darn OK in my book too. I'm just thinking the negative attention and criticism is just completely overboard. Is it really worse than any other pop song out there? I wasn't struck with that thought when my sister facebooked the youtube video to me. Yes, I thought it was bad*, but I also think Brittany Spears is bad, and N'Sync and Backstreet Boys are, in my opinion, out of this world awful.

Since when should it be harder to be an artist? Andy Warhol? Jackson Pollock?

An artist, put simply, is someone who creates art, but what exactly is art anyway? defines it this way first, among other followup definitions:

Art–noun 1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

Aesthetic principles? Beautiful? Appealing? Aren't these words and terms subjective? Isn't "beauty in the eye of the beholder"? If one person absolutely loves Andy Warhol's art (ick, ick, ick.) then it's appealing, right? Dare we get into quantum theory here? If not one single person likes Rebecca Black, if no beholding eye (ear?) considers her singing "beautiful," is it not? Does it fail the definition of being Art and therefore she is not an Artist?

Ok, maybe. But I'm kind of doubting it...

Plus, I feel that the fame this song has received could definitely be described as "more than ordinary significance." The dictionary, however, does not say anything about the production of art being "hard." There's no follow up definition in that list on Dictionary.Com that says anything like "A work that is hard to produce." Or "A talented work that one needs to work hard to get noticed."

I create art; I draw, I play and sing music, I make really yummy food (sometimes), I write -poetry, stories, blog posts, I sew and fashion clothing, I make jewelry. Still, I hesitate to call myself an "artist." It feels arrogant, smug and above all, I feel in implies that my art is "good;" A completely subjective term. This is my personal feeling on the word. Other people have called me an artist and many people call themselves an artist what what they really do is take a photograph of their pee....Or other, less perverted, but equally untalented things.

The difficulty of becoming an artist can only be as difficult as other people's willingness and liberty to label you as such. When freedom of speech becomes limited, then maybe being an artist will become hard.

Anyone else got an opinion the matter? Should it be hard to become an artist?

*What did strike me about the video, and the girl singing it was her smile. She is a very happy individual singing a song about the weekend. And I do like that about her. I remember a friend's room, when I was a young teenager, whose walls were covered in Brittany Spears posters. Not in any single one of these posters was she smiling; they were all "badass" or "seductress" style. I hated that. Which is why I don't mind seeing Rebecca's video, it makes me happy to see a pop-singer happy, and modest. And you can't deny that it is a catchy tune.

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