Whatever. I’m still back. I had to disappear for about a month and go save the/my world. Now that that’s done, let’s get right back to it.
If you haven’t had the chance to check out Part 4 of The 7 Deadly Sins: A Musical Perspective Series – LUST – check it out here. We’re smack in the middle of summer, so if you haven’t already been sinning it up for months, get to it. I don’t mean to sound any alarm bells, but have a look at the calendar – July’s almost over. Jump in the water. Get a sunburn. Wear a muscle shirt and some neon sunglasses. Do it!
A big merci beaucoup once again to Amy Sparrow for her original photography for this entire editorial series. You can have a look at her work on her flickr Photostream.
Revel in your image and be damned
Pride was, and is, considered by many cultures and faiths to not only be the deadliest and most serious of all sins, but also the source of all the other sins. The latter point is substantial food for thought – without pride, can one be envious of one’s neighbour; or feel the burning, all-consuming sickness known as wrath? It all starts with pride, if you really think about it. Protecting one’s precious ego at all costs only leads to darkness.
We all know (of) such people – so wrapped up in themselves and their appearance that everything else in their lives, including those closest to them, are left on the side of the road while they pursue their vain endeavours. They worry constantly of how they’re regarded by their fellow judgmental peers. The cruel joke in all of this is that they’re never ultimately satisfied with themselves. It’s a self-propelling, continuous cycle. And the cycle is vicious.
One of the self-prescribed rule-thoughts I always carry around in my head is to try and not be judgmental. I pity (and truly try not to loathe) the judgmental people of this world, and so, I must aspire to not stoop to their level. That said, I do, on occasion, find myself judging the… the what, what do I call them? The “beautiful”? It’s all a matter of opinion… or judgment, really, I guess. I assume these beautiful people with their beautiful clothing in their beautiful cars are soulless, vain, loveless, awful human beings. But I can’t possibly know this for sure. The judgment I make is based on a brief look at their appearance and/or behaviour. It’s unfair. For all I know, these people may just be loving, generous, open people that happen to want to look like a million bucks every single time they leave the house. It doesn’t mean they’re evil, does it? Of course not.
It’s hard not to judge. It’s one of those things you constantly have to remind yourself about. You. Yeah, you. I bet you think this article’s about you, don’t you? Don’t you?
My god pouts on the cover of the magazine
As far as the music business goes, image (or style), if not king, is at least queen or jack, if you want to strike it rich, that is. Because we have eyeballs and we like pretty things (or things we’re told are “pretty” by advertisers), many of us factor in an artist’s look into our overall appreciation of their work.
Take Marilyn Manson, for example. (Am I dating myself?) Yes, his early music was very “fuck the world” and “don’t judge me, I’m an individual”, but look at him – this guy has, and has always had, a definite look. Though instead of trying to look like his contemporaries, he ran screaming the other way, painted himself, gave himself some breasts, threw in some coloured contacts and mandatory tattoos and BAM – I am freak-show clown, hear me groan oddly. Alice Cooper had done it all before, I realize this. But Manson reinvented it and made it his own.
There’s no debate as to whether Manson had his own style; he clearly did. The real debate (if there is any at all) is whether Manson’s (and whatever other artist’s) approach to style is artistic or simply disposable, empty gloss. Critics and fans are left to decide. But even then, many critics and fans couldn’t give a flying flock whether it’s art or not. Art, shmart… does it make me shake my boot-ay or bang my head? It does? Good enough.
In my not so humblest of opinions, I do think it matters. It’s not always so simple as pitting image versus substance; there can be substance in image, but image alone does not good music make.
I find Marilyn Manson to be artistic, for example. Take some of his early videos – “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” [Eurythmics cover], directed by Dean Karr; and “The Beautiful People”, directed by Floria Sigismondi, who has also directed videos for Katy Perry. These are wild, original, aesthetically engaging pieces of work. Just as much credit needs to go the directors and stylists as to Manson. There’s a whole team at work here to make him look just right, just creepy enough. These vids gets my “thumbs up”. On the other hand, anything by, let’s say, the Jonas Brothers, gets my thumbs way down (I refuse to link to that drivel, get over it… find it yourself if you must see it). Why? Because even though both of these artists make these videos to spread their names and music in order to gain fans and make da money, one of them makes original pieces of film, and the other makes commercials. I’ll let you figure out which is which, kiddo.
Oh! Mansonites, or those whose interest has been piqued, check out some of his latest work right here – “Born Villain”, the title track from his latest album. NSFW, by the way. Directed by Shia Leboeuf. Yes. That one. But this video’s offensive in a whole different way than how the Transformers turd-fests are. Good offensive.
We’ve all been there. Some of our favourite artists create these… epic… pieces of shit… that become the most difficult albums to defend. One of the best/worst examples in recent memory has to be Metallica’s St. Anger. Man. The bitter vitriol that was spewed once that thing hit the shelves is unsurpassed. A lot of people really hated it; full-on, brutally committed hate. I actually liked several of the tunes on St. Anger. I’m not ashamed. At least they tried something different, right? That said… let’s not even get started on Lulu… yeesh…
Some of the most scathing reviews of St. Anger came from lifelong Metallica fans. Does that mean it just plain sucked? Or is it one of those “time will tell” kinds of things?
Regardless as to whether it was good or not, at some point, an artist needs to take a look in the mirror and ask him/herself – “Did it really suck that bad? Did we blow it as much as they say we did?” Sometimes the answer is yes – it was horrible. Woops. Other times, it’s no, it’s a good album, people just don’t get it. And other times, the questions are never answered. People debate till they’re blue in the face and they fall asleep from exhaustion.
What separates the wheat from the chaff is this – if one asks the question “Did I do wrong here? Did I screw up big time?” and he/herself answers “Oh yeah. Big time. Huge fail.” Well, in that case, maybe it’s time to fess up. But that fessing up only matters if that person actually believes what they did was wrong. Otherwise, it’s all a sham. And nobody likes that.
So whether it’s Metallica saying “Y’know what… sorry about Load… and Reload, actually… oh, St. Anger too…”, or Opeth biting the obvious bullet and saying “Right, well, maybe Heritage shouldn’t have been an Opeth album, per se… sorry about that, yeah?”, there is something to be said for admitting one’s faults. If Ulrich and Hetfield are proud of all those albums, then hey – don’t apologize. As long as they truly believe in those albums. Maybe history will prove them right. Same goes for Heritage – I dislike it greatly. I miss the old Opeth, but that’s just me. The “new Opeth” is not Opeth. It’s just not. Damnation was Opeth. Heritage is just… something else. Gah, I’m getting off track. There I go judging again. Sigh. It’s tough…
Since pride really does seem to be the beginning of all things foul, it’s worth looking at oneself and asking – “Am I limiting myself, injuring myself by being too proud? Have I succumbed to the paralyzing, debilitating sickness that is Pride?” Take a look at yourself, and if you see those walls of vanity up, tear them down. You’re not helping anyone, especially yourself. Open up, friend.
It’s so silly, no? We all screw up. We all have screwed up, are screwing up, and will screw up again. It’s what we do, and we, humans, do it (a little too) well. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Really. There isn’t. The grey area is whether you let “it” out, or someone else lets “it” out, or whether “it” remains a dark, guarded secret until the end of days. The outcome is up to the holder of the secret.
It’s tricky. But in the end, letting it out will set you free.
I know that’s a cliché. But I can live with that. Proudly.