…when one person single-handedly (or in this case – single-nakedly) gets back at a whole establishment? When media or corporations with money, muscle and opinion power get publicly reduced to what they sometimes really are: narrow minded, unprofessional, speculative and outdated? Please bear with me while I get to the point.
I’ve released eight albums since 1996. From the very start, through buying my music and coming to my concerts, my audience have allowed me to make a living out of it and made it possible for me to make more albums. One should think that was enough proof of me having earned my place in music (not to mention the personal responses and the stories people tell relating to my songs in their lives). But still I’m often reminded that this is not the case. Check this out:
Some years ago, I released one of my albums. I was in my thirties, and the album had already received its share of likes, dislikes and indifference in the media, which is perfectly normal to musicians. Try to find any cultural expression for everyone to like? Might as well get used to it and try not to take it personal. A leading web news portal started their day off by posting a slaughter of the album as a top post. Ok. But reading it raised a few questions, to put it mildly.
A young, new girl in her early twenties had been given the job of reviewing albums, and in Norway reviewers don’t have to have any skills or qualifications other than being fond of listening to music (not even that sometimes, as all kinds of students can get paid small amounts per CD, and try to review as many as possible during their week-ends). Also, because we’re such a small, wealthy country (who treasure our culture?), we can’t really ’afford’ people to specialize, so reviewers have to ’analyze’ all sorts of music except classical and a few additional genres. That means, if you like punk, you still have to review country or jazz sometimes, especially in smaller publications. The biggest newspapers have a different policy, but they can only review a few handfuls of albums every week, so you can’t really count on them even after creating and releasing music through decades.
So one Sunday evening, this girl wrote her review of my album. She obviously didn’t know that even in Norway, established musicians still deserve some respect, or at least some level of professionalism. Or if not: Our audience does.
Why is it a good idea to call your company’s customers officially stupid because they just spent money on a record you as a single person with a new job don’t like? Why is it a good idea to view your readers, as suckers for liking something you don’t? And why does it seem cool to tell everyone that you’re vacuuming your living room while you’re listening to (excuse me - ’analyzing’) music for the official news service in which you work?
In Norway, we have this Great Gravity. We often find it important to show our true colors while examining other people's work. And it’s somewhat more common to let others know we dislike something than to show we’re applauding it. Don’t get me wrong – as a reviewer you’re supposed to criticize, and you should. As long as you’re keeping to the point and you’re being true to the topic. Which in this case should have been the professional task of reviewing a new album on behalf of the public, to make it easier for them to decide if they wanted to check the album out themselves, or not. And now we’re getting there very soon.
The girl displayed herself as someone who gets sick to her stomach by looking at a singers face in the newspaper (a singer she’s never met). And she thought it fun to reveal she was vacuuming through parts of a composers emotions and efforts. She made public, cheap fun of the lyricist’s experiences, without knowing that he was a wise man with a huge knowledge of language, and international awards on his walls. And last but not least, she thought it was the right place to tell me that I was too old to have flowers in my hair, at the age of 31. And she told me all that in a public album review, on the World Wide Web, through the official news provider that met me every morning when I flipped my Mac open, even before getting out of bed.
Of course, as expected, her editor and boss defended her. “It was fun to read”, he answered when criticized by others. And he let it pass, for everyone to read, and for young people to get used to. Misspell a word publicly time after time, and readers will start to think it’s correct. Just a little harsher every day, and folks won’t mind the viciousness. Just a little dumber every time, and no one will ask questions.
And that’s just about what happened when #Amanda Palmer recently got Daily mail’s attention in concert. She supposedly uses several ways to present her music. Planned or not, one of her breasts got displayed at some point. And as media would in Norway: Daily Mail hopped on. As Palmer later explained, they didn’t mention her music or performance in the article (no doubt to be found in the ‘Cultural Section’), only the fact about the breast, as if we were still in the 1950’s. But she took revenge, in a cunning way, which is difficult for artists to do publicly, as we’re often looked upon as whiners. But this ‘chick’ did what she knows best, and wrote a song about it. I urge you to watch the whole clip – I’m now an Amanda Palmer fan (and she just made me write 1016 words I probably should have written long ago, to vent my frustration). If you think this is just another feminist pouring her (our) indignation out through words, alone on a stage - you haven't reached the magic moment in this video yet: