Putting the Humanity back in Arts: Introducing MJ

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It seems pretty evident nowadays that the way we have been doing things in the past isn’t conducive to our survival and there needs to be a massive overhaul. To overhaul the very functioning of our society, dedication, hard work and a strong motivating factor are needed.

The first important question we all need to ask is where to find this factor.

Once we have identified one common factor to the seven billion people living on Earth, we need to ask ourselves how we are going to change every single aspect of our lives to create a society conducive to our survival. How can we each contribute to this fundamental change, and how will it help carry forward an ever-advancing civilization?

While action is essential, it must be the result of consultation, which itself has to be bathed in a deep, continuous reflection based on learnings from the past. This process of reflection is what I’m humbly trying to contribute to with this blog and, more specifically, in this series, the idea of which came a long time ago but the execution of which has been a lot harder than expected.

Why did I choose arts? Because they are the most honest reflection of humanity’s identity, since art does imitate life. But because life also imitated art, the responsibility of artists everywhere is very heavy, especially for those who are superstars; their influence is huge both in the number of people the affect and the depth of their influence.

These might sound like strong words many of you will dismiss out of hand. But a little reflection will prove that quite unfortunately, this is the reality; art’s influence is so strong that it cannot be denied. Unfortunately, it also means that when the arts become perverted, they contribute to the further perversion of society.

This cycle of perversion we seem to be stuck in is what inspired me in the first place to start this series. When I first started my search for artists with whom to reflect on this topic with, I immediately thought of MJ. She was not only very enthusiastic to participate, she also helped conceptualise it. The introduction posted a couple of weeks ago was largely based on a conversation we had; the rest of that conversation turned into this post.

MJ is a lovely young lady currently living in Toronto whom I have known for a very long time. I remember her performing as a child and feeling very envious of the pretty little girl who could sing and dance so well. I was the typical writer-in-training: glasses, awkward gait, shy smiles – and she was everything I wasn’t.

The years have closed that gap and we now are more similar than different. Amongst the similarities are a passion for the art we each have chosen to pursue; while I write, she, you probably have guessed, has pursued her music.

She’s really good. But don’t take my word for it: independent investigation of the truth being so important, take a look at the video clip of her song ‘The Bottom Line’.

I don’t know much about the world of music other than pressing play, so one of the things I appreciated the most about my conversation with MJ was the analogy drawn between the state of music with the state of literature today, an analogy which made the conversation come even more alive for me.

MJ is very deep and introspective, and we tend to over think everything together (it’s lovely to have someone to dig a hole with). Her music is not only the product of talent, but also of deep reflection and introspection. Having the pleasure of being her friend, I have had many amazing, deep conversations with her that allowed me to understand her music better. When MJ sings, I can hear past conversations flowing through her words.

Which bodes the question: how does someone who writes music based on introspection manage to sell in a world that seems to love, well… crappy, generic music, based on superficial notions of love and relationships, who portrays women as sexual objects and men as superheroes?

It seems to be quite a hard balance to achieve actually – or so I’m told by MJ.

To get somewhere in the world of music today, you need to have the big money. This is the only way you will be able to afford the huge exposure in mass media necessary to share your music with a large portion of the population. It has gotten to the point that music not even really about the artist anymore; it has become a reflection of the effectiveness of the team behind this artist. This team has put together what they have studied as being what will sell and that’s what is produced and released. Because these teams have the big money, they have experts in advertisement work for them and voilà – instant start.

If you don’t believe me, why don’t you go read up on how the Spice Girls were created?

mj-01All this isn’t to say that none of the big current or past musical names are only about the sales and not about the music. One of the most noteworthy examples are the Beatles, who paid their dues before becoming famous.

Is there any hope at all for musicians like MJ? Well, the music business is currently undergoing a huge shift with the advent of downloading, especially the illegal kind. The empire big music producers have built is now so big that it’s ability to adapt to new realities is hampered; it seems destined to collapse.

The Internet not only forces the music industry to rethink its sales strategy, but also makes it easier for all bands to get a chance. The consumer – that’s you and me! – can make a choice as to what they listen to rather than being forced to listen to what is put on the radio or on the shelves of music stores.

But there are still a couple of factors that still makes it hard for these bands to make it. First of all, people tend to listen to what is handed to them on a silver platter, which is understandable. Let’s be honest, but normal people (working 9 to 5, commuting for an hour or more, having kids, a social life and volunteering) don’t have time to surf the Internet for hours and hours to filter through the junk to find the gems. Because – and this is the ‘second of all’ – for every good band you find, there are at least 10 others who are absolutely terrible.

What is going to happen next? Your guess is as good as mine. The reality remains that we all need some money (to eat for example), and it can be hard not to snuff the humanity out of music to make money; sometimes a musician might even have to write the sellable pop song. Hopefully, once these artists have gained notoriety, they will be able to write the songs that they actually want to write.

The obstacles are big, but I wouldn’t lose hope; we have more tools and more interest nowadays than we ever had before, both in the music world and the writing world.

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