Another A-hole with an opinion, volume 11! Keeping the mystery in music

Friends, we greet you post-amazing-session at Mission Sound Studios in Brooklyn, where we tracked 3 songs off our upcoming EP. Look out for that in the spring/summer 2014! But I digress...

Recently I read an article where the new breakout band A Great Big World discussed the meaning of every single song on their upcoming debut album. I've noticed this trend happening a lot lately, which seems to just be a natural evolution of music coverage in the digital age. Haven't heard of A Great Big World, you say? Yeah, you definitely have. Their single, "Say Something" ft. Christina Aguilera is completely ubiquitous and inescapable. As much as it bugs me that the song title is reminiscent of one from our forthcoming EP, I can't front - that song is a killer. Regardless of your music tastes, the lyrics hit such a deep and relatable nerve. Singer Ian Axel has an unorthodox (at least for pop music) voice, and Christina adds a great layer harmonically, without overstepping her bounds and going into the crazy frenetic (see also, grating) runs that she normally does. She just lets Ian shine.

I used to see Ian Axel at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC, and it's great to see him get some success as the dude is clearly talented as a singer/songwriter. That said, the article I read had him explaining the lyrics (in detail) to every song on the band's upcoming major label debut. And it made me think about the idea of artist over-sharing. I realize the irony in what I'm saying as I write this blog, but I do think it's important to keep some mystery as an artist. Every artist pre-internet was shrouded in mystery, from the more obscure bands to the experimental to the massive pop stars. As much as Twitter and Facebook and Instagram are a "necessity" nowadays (and sort of crucial to an artist), the idea of explaining your lyrics just doesn't sit well with me. I strongly believe that people should be able to interpret your songs and that telling them EXACTLY what it's about sort of ruins it. It's one thing to give a quick overview of the meaning, but to explain it fully is a mistake. I think the song should make sense to the songwriter and the fan, each who probably take it to mean something entirely different. The Police song "Every Breath You Take" was never explained by Sting until long after it was a hit. The lyrics are actually about governments spying on its citizens (according to Sting), but that didn't (and shouldn't have!) stopped a million couples from making it their wedding song, with a completely different meaning in mind.

This all said, fans nowadays do expect to have a deeper connection to an artist and there are certain expectations when being featured/interviewed. But this is just something that struck me recently, as it is such a giant shift in our music culture and presentation of art. And I'm curious how you guys feel about it? /Dan

 

1 comment

  • Chowdsa

    Chowdsa Chi-Town

    I can see both sides of the spectrum. On the one hand, as you note, fans often explore ways to connect deeper with an artist, whether its the meaning of a song, the artists' origins, or even emulating their fashion. Your question made me think of that line in White Men Can't Jump, "Look man, you can listen to Jimi (Hendrix) but you can’t hear him. There’s a difference man. Just because you’re listening to him doesn’t mean you’re hearing him." I think so many fans are on a quest to prove they can "hear" an artist, that being able to demonstrate you know the meaning of a song (or other "fun fact") is one way fans attempt to do so. On the other end, one could argue that the very purpose of art and music is to allow artists to express their own emotions without having to explain them to anyone else. The very intiention of some art and music in particular is to create an emotive response through interpretation. Therefore, by explaining the meaning behind a song, you may be depriving its listeners from that emotive experience. I'm not sure where I come out becuase I have honestly been in both camps. I guess that's why music has been such a big part of my life.

    I can see both sides of the spectrum. On the one hand, as you note, fans often explore ways to connect deeper with an artist, whether its the meaning of a song, the artists' origins, or even emulating their fashion. Your question made me think of that line in White Men Can't Jump, "Look man, you can listen to Jimi (Hendrix) but you can’t hear him. There’s a difference man. Just because you’re listening to him doesn’t mean you’re hearing him." I think so many fans are on a quest to prove they can "hear" an artist, that being able to demonstrate you know the meaning of a song (or other "fun fact") is one way fans attempt to do so. On the other end, one could argue that the very purpose of art and music is to allow artists to express their own emotions without having to explain them to anyone else. The very intiention of some art and music in particular is to create an emotive response through interpretation. Therefore, by explaining the meaning behind a song, you may be depriving its listeners from that emotive experience. I'm not sure where I come out becuase I have honestly been in both camps. I guess that's why music has been such a big part of my life.

Add comment