I do agree a lot

but I can't help thinking that the problem for an artist is not trying to be someone else but succeeding to being someone else

Maybe the way you fail to be someone else may lead you to something new? Maybe it can lead you to your own self?
(let's say Kurt Cobain trying to rip off the Pixies, Bob Dylan trying to be Woody Guthrie, or the Vaselines trying to be a rock band)

I also remember Francis Ford Coppola saying something like "steal but only steal to the best [...] it's a way to make them immortal"
(I know, this statement might only apply to movies and not to music... ^_^)

Great post anyway, makes me think a lot


John Albin

Is "authenticity" within the world of commercial music even possible? That said, it's easy to forget that most of the people we encounter at the beginning of their careers are kids trying on adult personae one at a time until they find one that fits. At a few places and times in the history of popular music there have been these outbursts of astounding creativity from people who were exceptionally fully-formed at 20 years old. But it's unrealistic to treat that as a standard and expectation. When it happens, celebrate it, then go back to watching more modest and normal talents grow.

Michael Azerrad

Since we all live in a commercial world, artist and non-artist alike, one would have to ask whether authenticity is possible for anyone. And it is. So it's possible for commercial artists too.
And I'm not talking about kids who are 20 years old. Have you ever heard an Iron and Wine album?

John Albin

The point I'm trying to get to with respect to commerciality precluding "authenticity" has to do with the way people are captured and groomed by the music biz. I don't think selling records makes one inauthentic, but I think the music biz (even in its degraded and debased current incarnation) so quickly sweeps people up into image manufacture that by the time fairly out-of-it people like me notice a newish performer, odds are that performer's persona has been processed to at least some extent. If I'm hearing someone in Starbucks, someone else has already told that person what to wear and what to sing.

I hadn't heard Iron and Wine before, but am listening now. Do you see them as imitating someone else's "sincerity"? I hear influences and associations, but I can't really tell whether this is putting on someone else's clothes ...

Michael Azerrad

I guess you'd have to spend more time with contemporary indie music to really be able to tell who's putting on someone else's clothes. Just as I would have to spend more time with contemporary blues in order to figure out who's just copping Muddy Waters.

John Albin

You have no need to fear immersing yourself in the blues. Here's a handy-dandy checklist re: blues pseudo-authenticity (McKinley Morganfield variety). Any two constitute a positive diagnosis

_ Fedora
_ Wayfarers
_ Under age 70 and using either "mojo" or "hoochie coochie" in reference to self
_ Playing any "reliced" version of any Fender instrument.

An comparable indie pseudo bruce-o-meter would be much appreciated.

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