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'When art is judged not upon it's quality or honesty, but by how financially viable it is, the very concept of creativity is threatened'

Since as long as I can remember, creative pursuits such as music, film or art have always been driven primarily by the most logical factor which is necessity. They are created because they are portraying a certain emotion relating to the time and place they are in the world. This is to do with feeling, emotion and what often makes a piece of music or film so extraordinary, and feel so good is that it is using the public consciousness to shape and create it. This has always been the key and necessary step in order to make something true or real. Ernest Hemingway said that 'there is no good or bad. Only true or false. Is something is true then it is good' and I understand what he means in that if you have poured your soul out into the artistic form that you are pursuing then no matter how good or bad it is, it is at the very least a real and personal reflection so holds more merit than something made with no love.

I dislike falseness in people as much as I dislike it in creativity, and yet I fear people believe it has become more necessary these days to put on a mask in order to hide their true identities. I can't blame people for this, it is what society teaches us to do and is what is often necessary in order to go about our day. If everyone went around wearing their hearts on their sleeves then no one would want to get to know anyone, because deep down most of us are a bloody mess really. It's only until we get to know someone deeper that we allow them to see that side of us for fear of showing vulnerability or being embarrassed. I suppose it's because I studied drama that I'm honest in nature, as it teaches you to feel emotion and perform from the heart. And it's probably also why I find the modern day approach to mainstream music and film so abhorrent.

Now I am generalising here, but it does feel as though in this day and age that music and film is being increasingly driven by that cold, mechanical and heartless concept; money. In the past the financial viability of an album or film were certainly taken into account, but the driving force behind the product was always the product itself, rather than how much money it can make. However, these days at least in the most mainstream, these beautiful pursuits of artistic expression have been confined by those in power to how successful they predict it will be. Cold hard statistical analysis using charts, metrics and formulas can predict how successful a certain song or film can be, and this is what drives the industries these days. This makes me sad, because our increasing ability to analyse has left behind the main point of these artistic pursuits in the first place; honesty and expression.

Let's look at music first. The emergence of shows like American Idol and The X Factor changed the way that music and musicians are made. I feel Dave Grohl provides a good example for this when he said about these shows that “it’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy an old fucking drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll fucking start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some shitty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass shit, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need a fucking computer or the Internet or The Voice or American Idol .”

When music is contrived and controlled by an agenda which in this instance is to make as much money as possible, then the heart and honesty is driven out of it. And if people are encouraged to become musicians through this process of going on a TV show to try and impress a group of millionaires who have no idea what real music sounds like because they have never written a song in their lives, then this is how the industry evolves. Grohl also reckons the shows homogenise music so that "everyone sounds like fucking Christina Aguilera." The Foo Fighters singer added: "The next time someone says you're not a good singer say: 'Fuck You'. I interviewed Neil Young and he said in his band someone said to him: 'The band's really great, but honestly you shouldn't be the singer.' If Neil Young had listened to that person then we wouldn't have had any Neil Young."

Music cannot be understood or truly appreciated by a select few people trying to drive it in a direction they think is best for themselves. And this is why the soul is being lost; because these days when people create a song, a group of people will get together to try and understand what the public wants and what will sell based on past performance indicators, and then make a decision based on science not art on what to make. Another group of songwriters and musicians will then be hired to craft a song for a specific group to sing, targeted at a sect of society. I'm thinking of Uptown Funk as I write this, an undeniably catchy song that like most music these days lacks any real heart. This is because Bruno Mars did not write the song so it is by definition not written from the heart, and because the things he sings about, like most modern musicians is shallow and un-cynical. It does not sing about things that are real and important, does not make us think. Rather its aim is to instead numb and distract us from the harsh realities of life by singing about things which are not real or important. Money, sex, possessions. Shallow things. This is because now that mainstream music is predominantly controlled by the establishment, their agenda (apart from making money) is the same with all their pursuits; to stop us thinking. Because they know from the past that when people think it threatens their way of existence, threatens their level of control over the masses. Like everything else, modern music is a distraction they use to keep us passive and shallow so that they can continue to run things as they want, without opposition. And the lyrics have certainly taken a hit in the establishment's pursuit of mind-numbing music, look at the quality Rihanna can manage when she sings 'let me see you work, work, work, work, work' or Justin Beiber with 'Baby, baby, baby, oh'. Powerful stuff.

Danny Sugerman, who managed The Doors and Iggy Pop at points in his life said that the end of the 60's was the beginning of the end of an era for music. He was talking about heart and real passion in music, something powerful that makes you scream and want to dance like a madman; that indefinable feeling you get in your heart when you hear something true and honest. Then began a new type of music like The Eagles and the Bee Gees in the early 70's. Not necessarily worse music than things like The Beatles or The Stones, but for me often lacking real heart as it was mostly about dancing and happy love. That's all fine, but for me it gets a bit boring after a while if all we hear is mainstream pop music. This was the emergence of the 80's where disco came along, and everyone was doing cocaine and music was catchy and happy. Call me cynical but most 80's pop makes me groan when I hear it, instead of wanting to dance.

And I feel we are in a similar time now where most songs I hear from this era are either about sex or how great the artist is, all painting these false aspirational images about the glory of capitalism and consumerism, not directly obviously because the lyrics wouldn't be sexy enough. What people call R&B these days is a painful example of this; the constant bragging about their possessions, bitches and money. It's arrogant, selfish music and because people are easily influenced, they will hear these things and imitate. Pop music is so god-damn generic and samey it is an offense to mine ears; with the black rapper in the verse telling us egotistically about his wealth and fame, then over to the scantily clad female singer in the chorus who re-emphasises these values and how good they are for her as his 'bitch', an endearing term in this instance. It really makes me worry about young people who see these 'artists' as role models, particularly young women who see people like Miley Cyrus gyrating on older men and thinking that they need to act like whores to get attention. But also for young men who are subconsciously being taught poor life morals through this sort of music, as what they are hearing is not an accurate reflection of their lives, probably no more than the singer's is, no matter how much they try and convince us otherwise.

Another factor is what I call the music factory conveyor belt, with the assembly line of new songs being churned out by the emotionless machinery of industry. The arise of the internet has caused our attention spans to decrease so that people are now not so conditioned to appreciate a song which is perhaps 9 minutes long, where the speed, volume and intensity of the music increases and decreases throughout, with epic guitar solos and layered lyrics to provide an enriched experience. Even if those lyrics are as bizarre as 'if there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now, it's just a spring clean for the may queen' , they're still better than most of the crap today:

People today are instead fed fast-food songs; something recognisable, quick & painless, easy to dance to, but lacking in any real nourishment or flavour. Studios do never-ending research on their target audience to try and understand what they want. So if they see that people only tend to watch videos for 6 seconds online before getting bored, they will summarise that music needs to be fast and brief, and that's where we are at now. Perhaps it's not our fault, and more to blame is the technology of our times which means we can only focus only remains on an item for a few seconds before getting bored. How are we expected to read books or sit through slow films when we are being constantly bombarded with new information? The advances in technology have also of course played a huge part in the dumbing-down of modern music. The amount of times I hear that generic beat in music which screams of unoriginality is crazy. Then add a high-voiced male artist and some hugely uninspired digital loops and effects and you've got yourself a song, good Sir. So often so uninspiring. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places, or not looking hard enough for good electronic music, and I would never claim to be an expert in the subject of modern music, but most of it feels a bit dull to me. There are some artists who are inspirational to me in the modern era; Radiohead, Daft Punk, The Flaming Lips, Kendrick Lamar, The Prodigy, Tame Impala, Boards of Canada, Moby etc etc, but there's also a lot of crap clogging up the system and music doesn't seem to be improving in the mainstream.

The film world is experiencing similar problems. There is a creative frustration in the film industry in that it is all about how much money the studios think a film can make, rather than how good it is. When art is judged not upon it's quality or honesty, but by how financially viable it is, the very concept of creativity is threatened. The endless superhero films that are spunked out onto the big screen is an example of how creativity is being lost in modern day film because it is safer and easier for the studios to make these sorts of mind-numbing explosive action films. Despite me enjoying most Marvel films, it does feel as if we are being shown a different side of a infinite-sided die in a game that will never end. It makes the creators lazy in turn because they willingly forget about the creative process behind making a truly good film, instead opting for what they know will probably work and is easy.

The other example is the endless remakes and sequels we are now being put through by Hollywood, which are often poorly received, but make a ton of money regardless because it is content that people are already familiar with so they are more likely to pay to go and see it, even if people tell them it's crap. There is an obvious lack of creativity in this approach by the film business, I mean in the example of remakes and the superhero films, the story has already been made! And that word 'business' there is the reason; that they now treat film and music as a business, rather than a form of expression is paramount in this approach. Because of this purely financial approach, brilliant films that would have been made but are considered by the studios to be too difficult to predict or market are now getting no further than a script. I'm sure there are many scripts out there that have not been made into films because although everyone knew it had potential to be a brilliant piece of cinema, it was a strange idea which would not attract a large enough mainstream audience. I'm thinking of the films of Martin Scorsese, who started with gems such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and how much worse off the industry would be if someone had not had faith in him. These artistic, poetic movies which make film what it is and are vital to the fabric of the industry are the ones under threat as we become increasingly up to our necks in shit.

But at the end of the day it's up to the public what lives and dies and what the future of film is. If we continue to pay to watch these remakes, sequels and superhero films which seem to make up 95% of English speaking cinema, then the studios will gladly keep churning them out and sit back watching the millions come in. So if and hopefully when we stop going to see these films, then something different will emerge and it will perhaps jog Hollywood back into a more creative period for film, like in the 70's. Films like the Scary Movie franchise needs to die because they are abysmally terrible, and yet the Wayans brothers keep making new ones, and spin-offs too, because they are cheap to make and idiots will continue to go watch them. I don't know, maybe I'm being too harsh and there will always be a sect of society who actually find rubbish like this amusing, but God knows I wouldn't have interest in knowing these people. With the technology at our disposal we should be experiencing a new Golden age of film, but not many modern films are considered by critics to be worthy of classics from the past. And as for music, well, the less said about that the better in most cases.


Thanks for reading,

by Gonzo World


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