Friday, September 04, 2009

Inconsistency of folk schmolk or how Punk has failed us horribly

A friend of mine really hates "singer/songwriters."

My questions to you, oh reader, is

1) what exactly is a singer/song writer?


2) do you agree?

Is it just the solo act guy who stands up there on his own, exposed to the world, and strums or strokes his musical instrument for all the world to judge without the collaboration of other musicians that my friend objects to?

Is that really where we are in music these days? Is it the solo person who makes the difference?

I can see that. Not to get all pornographic on your asses, but that does seem like, at least, watching a Tijuana sideshow or, in the macro a modern-day bard who should have remained in the safety of his or her coffee shop.


But to retain the pornography, all that solo singing and songwriting is about getting laid now, isn't it?


Maybe that is the ultimate objection to "singer/songwriter" music. It is either self-indulgent or just about seducing whomever you want to seduce.


That is all fine and whatnot, but why do we really want to listen to such music? Isn't it really, oh reader, wish fulfillment at best?

Sadly, it isn't even that, because most solo love songs are about longing or the seduction itself. That last previous one I gave you a link to, for example. Catchy yes, and, like the Apple-esque cell phone hawker, I would be hard pressed not to used it as an excellent way to get laid or for people to buy the latest sweet sweet iPod-like cell phone devicenik.

Like the sweet November rain?

Isn't it all one in the same?




Perhaps it is just my friend's attitude (you remember him, right?) is just a bow shot on the whole of dreadful notion of folk music. (Now don't get me wrong--I have a very eclectic sense of music and don't really hate folk music, but I do feel that I should represent the expressions of my friend here and note that, as Cracker said, "we need another folk singer like we need another whole in our head.")


I can appreciate that.

La la la la la la la la la.

The greyhound was good, I thought. A smooth move to put a dog in a video. Dogs are universally loved and hated.


The wholesomeness that supposedly comes from being a "folk singer" seems weak. It seems to be appealing, overtly, to some political banter or some idealism that is entirely unattainable and yet representational of the system, and is, no doubt, why Bob Dylan decided to drop "the folk" like a bogarted bong.

One can believe in social justice and change, but is music particularly about that subject really going to work? Isn't it about integrating the ideal into the song and not making it overt?


Don't worry, reader, the irony of Woody Guthrie's son singing "This Land is Your Land" to the effete Boston crowd is not lost on me, particularly when Arlo was such a folk rebel himself.


See, my problem is with the whole idea that the individual singer can say a god damned thing.

We privilege the individual ad infinitum. We make the one man (and it usually a man, although in our more "enlightened age" the one woman ) the "voice of a generation," the "leader," "the chosen one."

Folk music was supposed to be about the collective force or people, singing about their travails and their triumphs. Instead it has been made into the "singer/songwriter" and how to make a buck.

Not to condemn poor Arlo and all of his hippie generation, but I think you goofed.

Not to condemn poor us, but I think we goofed.

It is not the "one" the "guy" or "gal" who makes it special.

It is us.

Can you give it up to us? Can we move forward and realize we can be individual beings and yet we are a part of the whole?


1 comment:

  1. Interesting thoughts. Down at my local honky tonk they have country acts mostly, and I like its unpretentious shameless embrace of the most fundamental aspects of life. Last night the Ball and Chain played mostly Hank Williams covers (in english), and instrumentals (in french), as they say. But every Wednesday they have open mic. uhhgg. As I see it, not all "folk" music is bad, but like techno, it is easy to make, because you don't have to coordinate with anyone else, or get anybody's feedback. Thus, most is pretty bad. When good, it is pretty awesome though, and you can loose yourself to it. The bad stuff is bad often because of the self-indulgence. Don't blame the genre, blame the shallow, usually immature hipster dufuses, that embrace the genre. Folk is an art form for the one-in-a-million truly transcendent person of his/her time that can channel your hopes/dreams into a few chords. The other million are just unremarkable hangers on.