Abnormally attracted to format
May 22, 2009, 4:07 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , ,

I’ve realized something about art this week : We have become so stuck with format, that we let it overcome our appreciation. What prompted me to think about that this week was a combination of me listening to the new Tori Amos record (yet another 70+minutes long, incoherent and uneven collections of songs — review coming soon) while trying to come up with a decent plan with my band for how our upcoming album should be shaped.


Let me therefore use music and albums to illustrate my point. I won’t get into heavy details, but just outline the basic idea.

— Who says an album should be cohesive, under 50 minutes, feature songs that have to obviously relate to each other ? Who says an artist can only have one voice, one feeling, one audience at a time?

I think sometimes (not always)  it’s wonderful when an artist can present mutliple facets of himself/herself on the same album. It ends up acting as a timestamp of that person’s psyche. As listeners, we are able to follow and explore the artist’s states of mind during definite periods of time and acquire a precious familiarity with the complex being that they are and how they function. The price to pay here is that the album, as  a separate work, is just harder to define and may be difficult to get into.  On the flip side, this mostly works in the long term, especially when the artist releases a stream of such diversified albums. We’re all human (yes, artists are human too) and we very well know that we are not defined solely by one state of mind, emotion, or mood during a two-year period.

From that stems the fact that we don’t need to like all songs on an album to find it great. We have to accept that we can only be receptive to a certain aspects of an artist’s work. We should still, however, allow the artist to express other facets that we may not connect and try to appreciate for what they are : a piece of a complex puzzle. In that equation, we are judging artists, not albums; which is a different perspective altogether, and, to me, is as interesting.

Part of the problem is rooted in the fact that the release format is not very flexible for most artists and it constrains what can be done. We are therefore automatically judging collections of songs as “albums” and sometimes fail to see that individual songs have their importance too, have something to say, separate from the others.

Of course, I’m not making the argument against coherent albums.  However, I’m just stating that it may be time to stop rejecting the ones that are not. Because they, too,  can be a true reflection of an artist and by no means should be used to diss them.

It really all depends on context. It is not in the benefit of all artists/album to be one or the other. It really is a case by case approach, and that’s how it should be. We should not judge an album by systematically comparing it to the other “great albums” we know and love. Every album is an entity to be taken in its own context and judged with different, personalized criteria.

bla bla bla…


I could go for hours talking about this. But I won’t. Also, my thought are not completely formed about this yet, but I thought I’d spit it out raw.

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