Thursday, March 13, 2008

strangers judging my baby



...that's what it feels like when you seal those envelopes and send the album out to get reviews. Some people will shower your baby with gold and incense. Some people will think the baby is cute, but even they might have germy fingers or influenza or whatever. Some people will hate babies in general, and they'll try to say something nice, but you'll know. And though this doesn't fit into my little metaphor at all, some people won't even understand what babies ARE and will have no vantage point from which to judge yours ("i'm more of a puppy person... i mean, i've HEARD of babies, but can they do any tricks?")

And i don't mind a negative review-- hell, with the nature of this album i expect a few people not to like it. But it's like a butcher knife through my sternum when negative reviews aren't well thought-out or argued, when they're on some "he's kind of angry and that makes me uncomfortable" or "this doesn't sound enough like Gangstarr for me to consider it hip hop" or whatever (a note: i haven't gotten any of these kinds of reviews; it's just my paranoid side looking into the future). And you're just as likely to get positive reviews that similarly miss the mark, like "he doesn't talk about guns and cars, so this is automatically good" or "this reminds me of Atmosphere so that's cool" or whatever.

The control freak in me hates the fact that you never know who the reviewers are going to be. They could be hardcore hip hop heads who can put your work in context and get the references, or they could be 23-year old journalism majors who listen to the Decemberists and got assigned your album randomly by their editor.

"But hey whiny-bag," you might say. "If the music is good it shouldn't matter!"

I'd like to believe that, but it does matter. My days as a faux-journalist taught me a lot about how newspapers and magazines and blogs work. All artists have target markets, whether they want to admit that or not. When a writer isn't in your target market, they're not going to be able to interface with your art in the way you want. To me, art is a two-way relationship. I write for myself, but i also write to speak to other people-- and not just any people, but a specific group. I don't particularly agree with the idea that music is universal-- maybe certain kinds of dance music or melodic music or stuff where the content is an afterthought-- but music that is content-oriented (spoken-word, folk, indie-hip hop, etc.) is always directed at a certain demographic. Either that, or it's so watered-down that it's meaningless.

As much as i want to say that my music is for everyone, it's not. Even if i write it for "everyone," i know damn well who is most likely to hear it and who is most likely to care about it. So, consciously or unconsciously, i'm speaking to those people. This is why, to me, songs or poems that just say "fuck Bush" or "racism is bad" are ineffective. At a given poetry slam or hip hop show, you're going to have an audience 99.5% in agreement with you. But that's a tangent.

I also have to check myself. I love my album because i know exactly what it represents and what i'm trying to say. But not every listener is going to "get it" right away, or at all. Or maybe they'll "get it" and just not like it. We all experience art differently. And that's... okay. Or at least that's what i keep telling myself.

Anyways, i'm not complaining here-- it's all just part of the game. My last album got all positive reviews and this album's got some great reviews already too-- i'll post them all together once we have more.

BUT I SWEAR, SO HELP ME, IF ANYONE GIVES ME A FLAT-OUT BAD REVIEW, I'LL POST A REBUTTAL MAD FAST ON MY WELL-TRAFFICKED BLOG AND MAKE YOU LOOK LIKE A FOOL. GOOD LUCK GETTING THAT STAFF POSITION AT SPIN AFTER WORLD-FAMOUS BLOGGER EL GUANTE DECONSTRUCTS YOUR SOUL.

Just kidding.

Jokes.

Really. All press is good press, and i welcome criticism.

Good day.

4 comments:

Molly said...

"I love my album because i know exactly what it represents and what i'm trying to say. But not every listener is going to "get it" right away, or at all. Or maybe they'll "get it" and just not like it. We all experience art differently. And that's... okay. Or at least that's what i keep telling myself."

Dude if you're the one RELEASING albums, you better start believing it!

I think it's unnerving to know that basically anything you do (not just your songs, but especially them) can be interpreted any way people want.

But since all of our lives are a collection of our own DIFFERENT experiences, you have to allow your music to speak to people in whatever way they interpret it...if you want them to keep listening. Because your music won't be able to reflect the entire world, or even a specific population, ultimately if you only want people to interpret it the way you intend it will only be fit for a one person audience: you.

Which I think is fine too...but it's not really conducive to becoming famous...so, you know.

el guante said...

STOP YELLING AT ME!

el guante said...

(weeping)

jon jon said...

more important than if someone has positive or negative criticism, is that folks actually listen...


word up
congrats on your release, expanding what is hip-hop, in the process.

yup , I havent heard it.

hahha

peace