Same As It Ever Was

Jose Vilson Jose 4 Comments

Talking Heads

The Grammys always reminds me of the quasi-utopia the music industry portrays. With the gusto and aplomb the musicians and artists convey, one might think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this billion dollar industry. Numbers get flung around with showcases of the elected and selected best. Grandiose speeches accompany goldenrod statuettes as gifts for the figureheads for the production of tunes. Graphics and special effects light up dazzle beautified audience members preconditioned to applaud whether they liked what’s in front of them or not. Most current artists get similar amounts of time to perform their songs with no regard to sex, gender, or age. The awards continuously pay homage to the “illustrious past”, but never consider why such artistry became possible.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand this dynamic. As an adult, the veil’s been lifted.

I know the benefits of being a major creative; the swag bags and VIP parties (minimally) compensate for the darker shades of the music industry. But then I wonder about the battle for the artist voice in their own industry. With so much talent assembled in one space, one might think that these conferences would be an opportunity for artists, record managers, and execs to innovate for the 21st century of music. Yet, we notice the pull to sample the past, often formulaically, in order to achieve monetary success and popularity.

I can’t knock the hustle.

It just makes me think about how artists get developed. When does the artist get a chance to create with disregard for “best practices” and when should they try and follow a formula? Every artist struggles with this. Some of us stick to a particular formula and it works. After a while, once we’ve learned the basics of the genre, shouldn’t artists push for the intriguing, the provocative, the illuminating? The music industry doesn’t allow much wiggle room in the creativity department when the artist first starts. The collaborations done as a one-time special event and not anything profound, the tributes often exacted selfishly.

Education analogies here? Absolutely. Same as it ever was.

Jose, who didn’t know that Talking Heads never won a Grammy for anything but their album packages. Wow.

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 4

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  2. bivey

    I did watch the grammys, with my son, who was (happily!) home for the weekend. I had a somewhat different experience, though (as is often true for me) your experience was part of my own. I’m working on a blog article about the whole thing – my original comment here was getting awfully long, and I began to think that if I worked in a bit on my school’s rock band (which I teach), I might have something to use at my school’s site. Hopefully, it will all come together!

  3. Pingback: Same as it Ever Was, pt. ii | View from the Nest

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