Oz Never Did Give Nothing To the Tin Man

“Don’t you just love it when artists write their own songs? Then you know it comes from the heart.”

If I Only Had a Heart

If I Only Had a Heart

Wow, isn’t that just neat-o? I overheard this while scanning the FM dial in my car yesterday. I think I was cruising past country at the time. There is so much wrong with this statement I had a moment of overload–First, I thought the radio host was an idiot, and I responded in disgust, “How can you call that an artist?” Then I thought I was the idiot for ranting at the radio, and caring about what this vapid host had to say.

I am sad and a bit angry that we live in a time and place where the term “artist” has been bastardized to be used to describe an actor hired by a corporation–a person that performs a lie created by someone else, designed to shape a consumer and sell a product (or ten).  In common parlance this person is a “bullshit artist,” in corporate parlance, this person is a “celebrity.”

In the music industry, men and women sit around a table and debate the finer points of mindless repetitive lyrics, and which “artist” would be better suited to sell a song. The end product is JLo or Beyonce or Justin Bieber or Brittany Spears. What’s even more sad is that it wouldn’t be done if it didn’t make money–we buy this product just like we buy “food” at McDonalds or Taco Bell.

The woman’s statement is an inadvertent confession–the music we’re offered on these stations is not “from the heart,” it’s not true….So if creative songwriting is “from the heart,” where does corporate song crafting come from?

I was also saddened at the easy way this woman mused about creativity as if it’s a novelty; as if it’s not the norm…is she right?  I can remember when I liberated myself from Top40–I went to college when Kazaa and Napster hit the scene. Suddenly I was exposed to so many types of music and so many artists that my mind exploded. In a good way. It was something old, something new, cover songs borrowed and a bit of the blues. (And contrary to popular media reports, I ended up buying much more music than I did before and venturing to shows I would have shied away from previously, not simply downloading songs.) I have very fond memories of staying in on a Friday night with some crappy pizza from the college kitchen and doing nothing but listening to music with a friend or two and searching for ways to expand my auditory horizons. And then being inspired to try my hand at strumming a 6-string…I did go to a small liberal arts college, I think that was an unofficial graduation requirement anyway.

Hey, I’m not going to say mass-produced songs aren’t catchy, and that I don’t rock out to Lady Gaga from time to time, but it’s always good to keep the source in mind, and remember that there is so much out there beyond what’s spoon fed on the radio dial. Perhaps “you are what you eat” is not limited to foodstuffs.

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