Thursday, February 11, 2010

5 Reasons Why Artists Should Just Shut Up and Sing




1. Mystery. People are always intrigued by what they don't know. It's why men chase "mysterious/exotic" women, it's why women are attracted to "bad boys"...you get it. So, with that in mind, it might behoove artists to stop being so revealing. There are ways to use social networking sites to your advantage by allowing fans an "intimate" glimpse into your life... keyword here being glimpse. You get to decide what intimate actually means-- you can reveal just enough to make people want to know more/like you more, without actually telling them anything (see: Questlove or Solange's Twitter).  It's not necessary for you to tell your fans what color your doo-doo is, how much you feel like masturbating, or your opinion on everything that happens (unless you're Lil Duval and are making actual jokes about stuff.) After all, these social-networking sites should be used by artists to make people like you more, not cringe every time they hear your music because they can't forget the mundane remark you made during a moment of drunken stupidness on Twitter the day before.

2. Fantasy. When I close my eyes and listen to "Clarity" or "Stop This Train" or "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" I get an automatic image of John Mayer in my head: a cool, sensitive but not corny dude, who is insightful beyond his years. That's part of what makes music magic. You should be able to be transported into some emotion or feeling that is authentic. But the mood is ruined when, while listening to "Your Body is a Wonderland," I'm forced to think about your "David Duke" penis comments from an interview you just did. The fantasy is that the singer could be singing to you-- or that the singer genuinely embodies what he's singing/writing about. Saying too much, ruins it. *Thank goodness, I wasn't actually that offended by his self-congratulating retardation. White people really don't surprise me with their "unintended" racism. Besides, I really love "Vultures."

3. Honesty can be detrimental. Let's face it: people don't enjoy hearing the truth, particularly when it offends and disrupts whatever fairytale they've weaved in their mind about any particular subject. As artists, your artistic existence is rooted in whatever your fan's perception is of you. (Note: I'm talking about true fans/supporters, not fly-by-nights). Now, this perception can be created mostly through your music/art, or, it can be created mostly by your persona/personal life. I know caring about how folks perceive you can be limiting, and it can be stressful. But the good thing here is, to a degree, you control what that perception is. Sometimes the best control is to simply say nothing. Don't do a lot of interviews (see: Sade, Maxwell, Mos Def). Unfortunately, sometimes it's better to let people speculate about who you are than to actually know. Don't comment on every single thing that happens, especially if it doesn't concern you or the community at large. Don't drunk Tweet. Don't try to "prove" yourself as something by being "raw" in an interview. Not saying you can't be you, but sometimes, it's just TMI. Sometimes your honesty should just be something that's expressed to yourself and your close cirlce of fam and friends who actually know you. Or better yet, your honesty should be limited to your music. It'll earn you loads of critical acclaim for being fearless and vulnerable, not loads of attention for being a selfish jerk.

4. People are self-righteous. That's the nature of man-- judge another while ignoring your own faults and limitations (see: the 50 million bible references to this very subject). Of course, your bonehead decisions or comments will blow over in a couple weeks because we live in a Digital World where info comes and goes like air. But, for the 15 minutes that people are paying attention to, dissecting and judging your every thought, mistake, opinion or whatever, it's torture. No doubt, people will judge you even if you try to live your life squeaky clean. When you open yourself up to be interpreted by other folks on a grand scale, that's inevitable. But there's some scrutiny you can avoid by simply shutting up.

5. You rarely say anything that matters anyway. I'm speaking for the bulk of artists that find themselves under the scrutiny of lame-o bloggers and tabloid shows. If you're being "attacked" for say, speaking out about police terrorism, the truth about prosperity preachers and their detrimental impact on the community, racism, the war, or even the Illuminati-- then that's something different. It's noble even. But if you're being "attacked" for flapping your lips about the details of your sex life, speaking on an issue you know absolutely nothing about, or for stupid comments you made in the heat of some random emotion, folks are a little less likely to fly to your defense. 

Point? Just shut up and sing.

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