What makes something real? Hot Damn! Rhetorical question time!
Ok, lets refine that: What makes something creative real?
How does one even answer that type of question? It’s hard to quantify art, be it a painting, music, poetry, whatever. Who’s to say my creative manifestation is less than or greater than yours? It’s not possible.
For me, it all comes down to what really touches my soul. There are a lot of songs out there that I’ll be the first to admit are catchy as hell. They get stuck in your head all day and taunt you in your sleep. But does that really make them great? Maybe. I think for many of us though it runs a lot deeper than that. We each have a go to list of songs, the ones that have moved us in our darkest hour, the ones that re-establish our faith in the world. Most importantly, these are the songs that we hear and we think,
“Thank you, there is someone out there who understands.”
That’s what does it for me. I don’t even have to relate to the exact situation described in the song. Sometimes due to a combination of metaphors and the author’s own experimentation with narcotics, I’m not even sure what the scenario is. But when you hear something that resonates with your soul, you know it. You hear a sadness, a longing, an empowering and it takes you to a specific moment in your own existence. Maybe in the past, or maybe very presently, you have felt that EXACT emotion. You know EXACTLY what that person is talking about. Those are the musical moments I live for.
How many other things can connect two human beings who have likely never met in such a raw way? Excuse my sounding like a real hippie, but its entirely spiritual and so cool. To write a song and have somebody say to you, “I know exactly what you mean, I’ve felt what you felt,” there is truly no greater compliment. That’s when you’ve broken the barriers of genre and chart status and airplay. In terms of commercial success, yes, those things are entirely important and necessary, but hopefully we don’t solely create to line our wallets… Mostly because it’s generally a terribly ineffective way to make money… Ha!
Too often one hears these great pop and, dare I say, country (that’s right, you aren’t all heartbroken, good ol’ boy rednecks with pickup trucks and a lady-friend ambiguously named “girl” with “painted on jeans”. You aren’t fooling anyone.) anthems recorded by singers who didn’t write them about experiences they have never known and as a listener, its pretty obvious. The song is great, the singer is great, but I don’t believe it. It’s not real. Its contrived emotion surrounded by grade-A production. That’s not to knock on singing songs you don’t write. Sometimes the pairings of artists and songs are ingenious, and an artist can bring a song to life in a way it has never known. For example, the Johnny Cash cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt.” The Nine Inch Nails version is great! Trent Reznor created an incredible work in that song, but in my opinion, the Johnny Cash version is a masterpiece. Maybe it’s his age, his vulnerability, and acceptance of his life: the good, the bad, and most importantly, his mortality that make his rendition truly chilling. If you haven’t seen it, go watch the music video on Youtube, which is also stunning and powerful. Its raw, its human, and it’s a reflection we’ve all seen and know in ourselves. That’s why it affects us so.
The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know, but I do know this; these moments of human connection that touch us, that linger with us as long as we live should be coveted. What song has done it for you? The one you heard and thought, “I know. Me too.”? Share in the comments!
Once again, thank you for indulging my inner-ramblings,