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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Relevance Of Relevance

A regular journal is a hard thing to keep, not unlike exercising or a diet. If you don't stick to your guns, pretty soon your pants don't fit so well. The same rules apply to writing. The longer I put it off, the more my mind loses shape. These days I find myself procrastinating constantly, most recently by watching a music video of a teenage girl singing about her favorite day of the week. Having just finished a youtube clip of Rebecca Black being interviewed on Good Morning America, I can confirm that the rest of the world suffers from the same problem. In our heads, we are all junk-food loving fat asses.

This brings me to the topic of my journal. Things have been going very well for me in London. There is a genuine buzz around the release of my album, which is all that I could have hoped when I arrived a couple months ago. But this time around, as I gradually reenter the UK Pop Scene, my eyes are wide open. Having been through the sausage grinder that is the promotional trail before, I keep a healthy distance from all conversations about "music" with "music" industry professionals. I use quotations because while to most of us, music is an expression of the highest order, "music" is a commodity, a constructed product just like anything else for sale. Whenever my thoughts veer in this direction, I always take comfort in the verses of Billy Joel's The Entertainer. Despite his manic depressive tendencies, the Angry Young Man from Hicksville, NY displays surprising clarity in his 1975 ode to the frustrations of the music industry:

I am the entertainer,
The idol of my age.
I make all kinds of money,
When I go on the stage.
Ah, you've seen me in the papers,
I've been in the magazines.
But if I go cold,
I won't get sold.
I'll get put in the back
In the discount rack,
Like another can of beans.

Note to the reader: If I start to sound pretentious in this next paragraph, I apologize. Like all regional dishes, I am best taken with a grain of salt.

The world of today's media is a complex, infinite monster, much like the AURYN in the Never Ending Story (think of two snakes biting each other's tails): a statement is made regardless of its validity. The statement is then commented on, comments are made on the commentary, and the conversation is born. And it's the conversation that makes something relevant. As long as people are talking about it, that's all that matters. Whether "music" is deemed "cool" or "indie" or "cheesy" or "awful" is incidental and modifiable depending on the best way to sell a product, be it Coldplay, Lykke Li, Snuggies or Tiger Blood.

I know this reads like I've watched too much Mad Men (I have), but it's true. In my 12-year career, I've gone from "Who's Julian Velard?" to "Get me Julian Velard!" to "Get me a young Julian Velard!" to "Who's Julian Velard?" on at least 3 different occasions. Having run this gauntlet several times, I've learned to roll with the punches, take the critiques in stride. I don't care if "music" industry professionals think I sound like "Michalel Buble" or "Jamie Cullum" or "Daniel Powter" or "Andrew Gold" or even "Barry Manilow". I don't care if Time Out London went from calling me a "Cool, Classy and Classic Popster," to a "Camp Pirate but not in the good Johnny Depp way," in less than a year's time. I'm just happy to be part of the conversation.

As much as it pains me to say it, Rebecca Black makes a point in the interview with the blonde woman who needs to go away (saying Andrea Canning's name gives her power). Today's media isn't about quality, it's about relevance. Does it matter that George Michael's cover of True Faith is terrible? Does it matter if Charlie Sheen is truly insane? Does it matter that J. Lo's new song is a note-for-note rip off of the Lambada? Does it matter that the Black Eyed Peas did as much damage to American culture in 15 minutes as the Bush administration? As Rebecca herself says, "even a person that doesn't like it, it's gonna be stuck in their head, that's the point of it".

TGIF indeed.

3 comments:

embracefashion said...

Couldn't agree with you more. The quality of music has changed a lot during the years. Personally I'm a big fan of Billy Joel as well, and truly his song "the entertainer" descirbes the music life incredibly well.
When that's been said, I also think there still are original artist out there, including you and many others:)
The papers don't think much about that though, as you wrote, it's all about who's viewed most on youtube, even though it's dislikes and not likes.

Your music is brilliant! ;)
Greetings from Denmark
-Sara

VixT said...

Hi,

I know this does not have anything to do with the post and you might not write on this blog for now or again, but I don't know what other way to try to contact you. We watched you in Amsterdam on the 21st of Nov (at least I think it was the 21st). We were hoping you could schedule some gigs in London before March 2012? That way we get to see you again; we all REALLY loved your music! We all go back to the States or possibly other places in March, so we're hoping we can have such a good concert one more time!

Not too sure how we would find out, so I'm leaving an e-mail I don't really use but will check (just in case). Anyway, we will keep looking up if you have scheduled something so we hope to see you soon!
Have a good one and take it easy,

Vikki :)

absurdmissa@yahoo.com

Clink said...

I recently saw you perform at the Southgate House in Newport, KY (which sadly is closing on 1-1-12 after 35 years, but that's another story) You were brilliant, personable and, imo, the epitome of an "entertainer". I'll forever be grateful to my son for introducing me to your music. This may sound like the ramblings of a "teenybopper" but please know that I am a 57-year-old male who knows when he sees/hears someone special. Best of luck, and I'll always be able to say "I knew Julian Velard when...." Come back to Cincy soon! Chris Clinkinbeard