24.03.16 - No. 14

Real Music is nonsense.

Real music.

What on earth does that mean? I rap and make music for me to write raps to and I’ve never wondered if what I make is real rap, just if it’s any good. I hold it up to my standards and if I reckon it’s good, that’s my marker, based on everything that’s influenced me plus my own abilities, limitations and creative aims.

There’re a lot of people claiming to make or listen to REAL rap music. There are countless other people who only make or listen to REAL music, music with guitars. There are innumerable people who only make or listen to REAL musicians who write and perform their own songs.

Saying something you listen to is REAL is plain lazy. It’s confrontational and it’s useless.

I get it, we all have different tastes and having a strong opinion about the music you listen to is important. It’s part of your identity, it can bring you together with other like minded people and it can be something that outlines the things that you absolutely don’t like or don’t want to be associated with.

Everyone else is making something fraudulent. Fake.

But everybody wants to be authentic. Everyone want’s to be the real deal. Genuine. As a musician, the market is over-saturated, so how do you cut through? Well, you could say that you’re the one who makes that real music. You say that you’re authentic. Again and again and again.

Ad nauseam.

Or you could argue that if everyone is making that real music, then everyone’s music is equal and the use of the word “real’ isn’t needed. Take the ego out of the equation and make music. Then perhaps trust that your audience, small or large, will get what you do.

Or should we blame our audience? Is it audience pressures that have led to this rush to the goldmine of godly authenticity? That teenager clan-like secondary school divide between those who stand for one genre and those who stand for another. As citizens in a super busy modern society we want to ensure that what we have is our individual identity and style and that we’re not going to be conned or tricked into anything that can harm our delicate social status. We want organic. We’re smart, and you can’t fool us.          

There’s a habit of overlooking good songwriting. Writing great melody or harmony. It’s easy to dismiss a song as rubbish because of what associating that song to your identity means to your image. We can refuse to listen and hear it and then just say it’s crap, and that given the chance you could do better. A habit similar to out of shape men shouting at athletes on pub TV screens.  

Then there are biases that come with performers who are skilful at songwriting. Let’s face it, some people are fantastic at performing and not so great at writing, and vice versa, so collaboration makes sense to get the best song. The song is everything. Take yourself out of the equation, think of the song, forget pride, and then collaboration makes total sense. Working with people makes what you’re doing better.
Frank Sinatra didn’t write most of his songs, sure he contributed on some lyrics, but overly he’s fantastic performer, that’s enough. There’re countless examples. Just have a look at the american songbook.

Wouldn’t it be stronger if we defined what we like instead? For example, “I only listen to music that sounds like The Beatles/Dilla/Beyonce/Bach, because I just love that sound, I connect with it, it was a big part of me growing up”.

There was a student at my university who used to ask ‘but is it music?’ in almost every class. That student had a hard time not being able to move past that question, to not be able to side-step it or just write it off as something completely pointless, redundant and fruitless.  

We like what we like, so let’s just articulate it a little better.

Bernard James


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