Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Death an Art Form: The Death of Rock Part One

Since its beginnings, has been considered either a short lived fad, or a genre that is dead, or dying. Yet, the genre has been successful and popular for 50 plus years. Some of the greatest popular art of the last century has come from rock music. But the resilience of Rock has lulled many into thinking that it could never die; this art form has become such an intricate part of the 20th century that we can no longer image popular culture without it. It has been a long time since we have seen the fall of an art form (the last, arguably, was radio in the early part of the 1900's. But also, paintings, plays, and classical music have all basically been buried in the last few decades. However, there are few alive who witnessed any of these forms in their prime as the case with rock.) forms are born, grow into maturity, and then slowly die. Rock music is not different. But since people have been claiming its death for years what reason do we have to believe that now is the time of its demise?

To know whether Rock music is dying we must look at the tools and techniques and decide what else can be done. Is there anything left to do? A simple look at some of the critically acclaimed albums of the last ten years is revealing. These are the winners for Best Rock Album from 1994-2004:

2004 Green Day. Title of the Work: American Idiot.

2003 Foo Fighters. Title of the Work: One by One.

2002 Bruce Springsteen. Title of the Work: The Rising.

2001 U2. Title of the Work: All That You Can't Leave Behind.

2000 Foo Fighters. Title of the Work: There Is Nothing Left To Lose.

1999 Santana. Title of the Work: Supernatural.

1998 Sheryl Crow. Title of the Work: The Globe Sessions.

1997 John Fogerty. Title of the Work: Blue Moon Swamp.

1996 Sheryl Crow. Title of the Work: Sheryl Crow.

1995 Alanis Morissette. Title of the Work: Jagged Little Pill.

1994 Rolling Stones. Title of the Work: Voodoo Lounge.

Notice that almost all of these albums are unoriginal. The style, themes, lyrics, music, everything here is recycled. There are some fairly sad albums here, but one of the most distressing was the latest winner: . This band won an award for a style, theme, and genre that has remained unchanged for more than ten years! This is astounding. The amount of change that historically occurs in rock music over ten years is drastic. That's the difference between “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (Platters) and “Abbey Road”. Or the Cure “Boys Don't Cry” and Nirvana's “Nevermind”! Yet this album is claimed to be the “Best Rock Album” of the year 2004. Now, some will chastise me here for basing my argument on such a historically out of touch award. “American Idiot” probably won for many reasons. The band did deserve an award for their years of work, perhaps the academy realized they had missed some of the band's greater albums. Also, the political message of the album is a far cry from the band's early slacker style. And the production value has gone way up. But, essentially this is the same music, the political musings may be new (but are hardly original. If anything this is a sure case of senseless pandering to a disenchanted youth who want nothing more than to complain about a government that they don't know anything about.) and their songs may sound cleaner, but nothing has truly changed. For the sake of those who oppose the Grammys as a source of data, I will look at another barometer. Billboard magazine is the best source to find out what is actually selling. Here are the top selling rock albums for the past few years and their ranking for that year.

Year End Records from 2002-2004 (This was all I could get my hands on.)


6 FALLEN Evanescence



5 LET GO Avril Lavigne

6 METEORA Linkin Park

8 FALLEN Evanescence



5 [HYBRID THEORY] Linkin Park

7 SILVER SIDE UP Nickelback

These are the rock albums (I excluded “Pink”). Notice again there is a lack of originality here. Linkin Park is mixing post-grunge rock with some pathetic rhyming. Evanescence is perhaps the only thing close to original here and its Goth/Classical/Rock style leaves no room for growth (this is an example of forging new ground by finding a niche). Creed's style is hardly different from the poppy post-grunge sound (think late Pearl Jam, early Foo Fighters, Live, etc...) and Nickelback is post-grunge. And Avril Lavigne needs no explanation. Alright, well some might also take issue with my use of sales as a barometer. And not wishing to contribute to the commodification of music, I will now turn to the hip critics for answers.

Records of the Year for 2004.

Aerosmith - Honkin' on Bobo

The Arcade Fire – Funeral

Jimmy Buffett - License to Chill

Eric Clapton - Me and Mr. Johnson

Elvis Costello and the Imposters - The Delivery Man

The Cure - The Cure

Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand

Interpol – Antics

Jimmy Eat World – Futures

The Killers - Hot Fuss

The Libertines - The Libertines

Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News

Phish – Undermind

R.E.M. - Around the Sun

Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous

The Rolling Stones - Live Licks

Patti Scialfa - 23rd Street Lullaby

Scissor Sisters - Scissor Sisters

Elliott Smith - From a Basement on the Hill

Patti Smith – Trampin'

Taking Back Sunday - Where You Want to Be

Tegan and Sara - So Jealous

TV on the Radio - Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes

U2 - How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

Velvet Revolver – Contraband

Wilco - A Ghost Is Born

Brian Wilson - Smile

Notice how many of these into one of a few categories: 80's music rehashed (the Killers, The Libertines), post-grunge (Jimmy Eat World, Taking Back Sunday), more-of-the-same (think U2, Brian Wilson, R.E.M., and the Stones), or rehashed experimental styles (Modest Mouse, Franz, TV on the Radio, Wilco). With such clear stagnation can we realistically expect rock to pull through? I have looked at three, industry standard sources for my data and in all three cases originality was found lacking. Before we can answer this we must look at those few bands which are, in some way at least, still making innovative music, which I will do in my next post on this topic.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Chapter 4 (Part Two): The Revelation

Before reading this I would strongly recommend rereading or at least skimming through .

“You are not the first to go without correct judgment. There have been 23 others that I know of. They all murdered someone else in a horrific act of violence, and when the Stripes came, they, just like you, were allowed to go unpunished. Three years ago, I was ordered by the System to go investigate a double murder. At the time I was stationed on Earth. The report on our PDA’s said that a mother had killed her husband and son. When we got to the scene, the judgment upon her was that she was to be sent to a new town. No punishment was given. At the time, it didn’t bother me too much; I thought that the Stripes in this other town would punish her. Two months later another murderer was let off without punishment. A week after that it happened again. Finally I began to question what was happening. I knew the punishment laws better than most; I’d administered plenty of terminations of murderers before. The night after the third murderer went free I laid awake most of the night struggling for an answer. Sometime past –04.00 I started to fall asleep. In that time between consciousness and unconsciousness a wicked thought came to me: what if the System was wrong. I was awoken from my sleep by this thought. Guilt and panic swelled up inside of me. I rushed to check my PDA to see what punishment I would get for doubting the System. My PDA was blank.

“You are being very patient Mr. U, I’m sorry this is taking so long but we’re almost done. Did you ever have feelings of hatred towards Dr. Ortho?” Said Mr. Hughes.

“At first,” Mr. Hughes PDA narrative continued, “I was unsure what to think. I had my PDA checked for mechanical problems, but everything came out fine. My doubts continued and grew stronger, yet the PDA was silent. After several days of tremendous feelings of doubt and guilt, I had an epiphany: I realized that I was allowed to doubt the System because it wanted me to doubt it; it was asking me for help. The System was just, but it was making unjust decisions. How could our System make these mistakes unless someone had changed it, manipulated it, debased it for their personal gain. This was what the System was telling me by allowing me to doubt it. The System wanted me to see this flaw and discover its cause. Do you understand?”

U looked up and the man sitting across from him. For a moment he considered running out of the room and contacting someone, anyone, who could deal with this man. But, the moment was fleeting and he resolved to tease out all that this Mr. Hughes had to say:
“Do you have any real proof that the System has been disturbed? What if there were other variables involved in those murder cases that you don’t know about. It seems more likely to me
that the System is just than that someone was able to access and change it.”
“Were you expecting to see Dr. Ortho today Mr. U?” Asked Mr. Hughes aloud.

“Proof? This conversation itself is proof. If the System wasn’t changed, would it let us talk such blasphemy against it? You yourself said that all this afternoon you doubted the System without any punishment. Why would we be allowed to think like this unless it wanted us to recognize that it needed help? As for the murders, I poured over every significant variable in the System’s database, and in each case I found that the judgement should have been severe. But they weren’t. What other explanation could there be for these things?” U’s heart beat heavy and swift as he considered Mr. Hughes’ words. He felt as if all the oxygen in his body and been drawn out by some force, leaving him hollow.
“If Mr. Hughes is right,” U thought to himself, “then we’re all lost”. Even as he thought this, he seemed to fall deeper into a panic.

“Why are you telling me this Mr. Hughes? I came here because I thought justice was going to be done, not to hear blasphemous lies from a alleged servant of the System.” U said through his PDA.

“Last two questions Mr. U and then we’ll be done. Did you murder Dr. Ortho?” Mr. Hughes asked.

U’s PDA lit up with Mr. Hughes’ words: “I want your help Mr. U. I know this is difficult for you to believe but if you think it over, I’m confident you will find that the only possibility is that the System has been altered. I want to know who is changing it and why, and you can help me. The replacement for Dr. Ortho will be coming here next week. If you can tell me who he is, and look for reasons why someone would want him instead of Dr. Ortho working as a supervisor it would be a great help to me. Think it over. You may contact me through your PDA, it is secure, I am sure of that. Although the System has been altered by some forces, I have found that those forces can not view my communications through the PDA. How I know this I cannot tell you right now. Please consider my words and give me your answer soon. But for now, I do need an official confession from you. It is a mere formality to validate our meeting to any suspicious superiors. So if you could, please answer my next verbal question on your PDA.”

“What if I don’t want to help you? If your theory is correct then there are people who would be very interested to learn of your little investigation.”

“No,” Mr. Hughes replied through his PDA, “the System wouldn’t let you report me. You would be stopped, how I can not say, but you may trust that it would be unpleasant.”

“I wanted to thank you for your patience Mr. U. Again, these questions are for your protection. The last question I have is why did you kill Dr. Ortho?” Mr. Hughes’ voice seemed as calm and commanding as it did when he had first met him. It was a stark contrast to the passionate words U had read on the PDA. U felt uncomfortable as he tried to recall bits of his once abandoned confession; it seemed so childish now:

“I killed Dr. Ortho because I had to. Five years ago, I watched him on my MediaStation. He explained the System, how it works, its use, its potential. At the time there were people who doubted and feared it, so Dr. Ortho was there to help them understand. He said that we must have faith; that the System only requires faith to operate. We must each take the opportunity presented to us by the System as a chance to have faith. If we feel that we are too severely punished for a crime, then we must use that doubt to show our faith. Accept the judgement, and your faith will allow the System to function correctly. If, however, you do not accept the System’s judgement, then liberty will fail. He said these things to help the people who felt their freedom would be lost by the System’s control. When he said all those words, a feeling came over me. I knew what my act of faith would be. I knew that if I could kill Dr. Ortho, believing in the judgement which would come, then I would truly have faith. I felt, as if this was what he was asking me to do, reaching out through the screen to my heart Dr. Ortho demanded that I kill him. I killed Dr. Ortho because I had to, because I had faith in what would happen if I did.”

“Thank you Mr. U. You will be receiving contact from me or the department concerning our findings. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding our discussion here and the role this interview will play in your punishment.” Said Mr. Hughes as he stood, shook hands with U, and then left the office.

“This was is not how it was supposed to happen,” U thought to himself. He sighed, rocked back in his chair, and felt completely out of place.


Friday, July 15, 2005

The Death an Art Form: The Death of Film Part One

There are two main reasons given for the poor ticket sales this year: 1. the product is inferior, or 2. the growth of sales, home movie theaters, and internet bootlegged movies has caused the value of seeing a movie on the large screen to be diminished. What is interesting about both of these forces is that they appear to be irreversible: DVDs will only be sold more often, Home theater systems will only fall in price, and bootlegged movies will either continue to be rweleased through the internet or they will cause DVD prices to fall and their features to rise. As for the inferiority of the movies themselves, anyone who happens to even glance at a marque will notice an increase in remakes and adaptations. Not only that, the kind of remakes and adaptations that are being released are so shockingly poor that one wonders if will produce a film version of any story that has ever been sold to anyone. Original are increasingly rare. Plots are rehashed over and over again with each new incarnation inheriting less and less from their witty ancestors. Acting, unbeknown to many, has taken a tremendous fall. Watching a movie from the 30's through the 80's one finds that acting in the last decade or so is far bellow that of other times. (There are some significant contradictions to this statement, but, as usual, I am being general.) But what does this all mean?

The first thought that should come to mind we any art form experiences a slump like we find in film is that it is only a temporary problem; however, we must also consider that all forms have their beginning, their prime, and their end. , Opera, Vaudeville, all these have fallen from their height. At one time each of these forms were the main form of acting/storytelling, and now, while they all still exist, they have all become forms of the past. Why is this? Simply because every art form (or genre) is limited, it has a certain number of tools and techniques it can use and when those have been exhausted nothing is left. One might argue that Art is infinite and is not confined to anything except our willingness to experiment. To answer this I will turn to an example from music. If I am a Classical musician, the type of instruments I can use is limited, the tempo and style is limited, the complexity is limited, etc...Now, if I experiment with any of these or many of the other variables that I have left out, I have some room to explore, but at a certain point I am no longer “Classical”. Statistically speaking, there is an almost infinite number of chords progressions, movements, melodies, and the like that I can use to make “Classical” music, however, most of those don't sound good together at all, so my room to explore is limited. (Unless of course I wish to make music that purposely sounds “bad”, but then my music themes are limited because I can only use themes which involve some sort of dark, conflicting, or ambiguous elements.) If I add guitars and a drum set I become a Rock/Classic hybrid. If I change the style and remove certain instruments I become Jazz. Thus, the Art itself is not limited, the genre/form, however, is. In the same way, a visual art form using acting and storytelling will always exist, it always has. The particular form that art will take will change though. How then do we know when an art form/genre is dying and when it is stagnant?

To know whether film is dying we must look at the tools and techniques and decide what else can be done. And again, there is an infinite amount of things with film that can be done, but we must narrow ourselves to things that ought to be done, things that will actually function successfully in regard to theme and form. What plot can be made into a movie that has not already been done several times? At look at the “Best films” released recently shows that they fall into one of a couple categories: 1. The plot/substance of the film is weak but the visuals are very strong and evocative, 2. the plot/substance is shallow but the epic scope of the film and the special effects are good. 3. The plot is original but experimental. Most affective plots have already been made into movies. What is left are plots that were previously unfeasible visually or, in order to be original, are so experimental that they no longer affectively communicate to the masses. (see my previous discussion on post-modern Hip-Hop). Look at Lost in Translation, Kill Bill, Hero, Sin City, or The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, all of these movies are critically accepted as great, however, none have much of any real substance; they all are filled with absolutely stunning visuals, visuals that could never have been done ten years ago (with the exception of Lost in Translation), but their themes are either paper thin ( T.) or totally lacking (Kill Bill). These are some of the best artistically rendered films of our time and they are sorely lacking. The other critically successful films lately have been movies such as Spiderman and Lord of the Rings, these, while well done, only have a spirit of originality in them because they would have been (or were) unsuccessful had they been done without our modern special effects. So then, what is going to happen when all the adaptations which were held back for visual reasons have been made? The only new ground being made in film lately has been in visuals and there are other forms of art which can (and I suggest will) steal the thunder of Hollywood visuals.

If an form is in a rut, rather than dying, we can identify this by looking at its potential. Can we possibly conceive of a new approach to the genre that has plenty of room to grow? So far in our look at film I would have to say that the only approach that is fairly fresh is the visual aspect. But, as I have pointed out, this is not a comprehensive enough style to allow for a continued originality in film.

Film is a relatively old art form which has experienced a significant drop in originality and competency lately. This drop is the result of an art form which has all but exhausted its plots. Evidence for this can be seen in the fact that the best artistic films of the last few years have had little substance and instead relied on visuals. Special effects and visuals, due to recent advancements in computers, are the last fronter for film. But even this fronter is being colonized by another art form which instead of dying out, has just come into its adolescence and continues to grow at an astounding rate: .

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Future, Billy Corgan, Art, and Foundations

In the coming weeks I am going to take a new approach to this blog. There are several topics I will be dealing with that require multiple posts; however, I am impatient and want to talk about each of them all at once. Therefore, I have decided to treat each topic a bit at a time. Expect me to introduce a discussion in one post and then write a review of an album, book, or movie in another. And then introduce yet another topic in a third post. It will be many months before each of these subjects are completely treated on here, but I believe this format will let me tackle the various issues that currently plague me while presenting a variety that will interest different people.

In , of fame (perhaps one of my favorite bands) talked about the ideology of the early-mid-nineties, specifically the movement. Corgan remarks that as the years wore on, he felt defeated as their dreams of changing the world fell flat. As proof of this, he points to the current American culture which is based on “" value. This to Corgan is evidentially contrary to whatever “they” were working towards.

This post is not really about Billy Corgan or the Grunge era- they are merely specifics that allow me to speak about a more wide spread belief that conservative values are somehow counter-artistic or anti-humane; an ideology that works against peace and love and justice/equality. The reason such a belief exists at all is in part due to a lack of spiritual maturity in many who simply fail to be loving, peaceful, and just. There are many other causes for this belief but to do into them would be to stumble into a monstrous digression. Instead, I intend to examine how ironically misguided this rejection of conservative values is philosophically and practically. In order to do this I am going to take some liberties with Corgan's quote. Corgan did not specifically identify Christian values as against the Grunge revolution, but by saying “right-wing” the implication is there. And I intend to grab hold of this implication despite what his intentions were so that I might deal with the broader issue.

If Christian values were contrary to the Grunge ideology, what exactly was this ideology? Well, if we generalize (always dangerous yet necessary for communication in any sense of the word) and conflate the themes of , and the Smashing Pumpkins, we find that they seemed to be fighting for equality (specifically for women in a patriarchal society, but also for sexual preferences. They were against gender roles too. To say that men or women had to act in a certain way was to be unjust.), for love (Although this love took on a very dark countenance for a reason that is at the very core of my ost.), and for justice. They were against consumerism, commodification, oppression of the weak, any sense of being judgmental. And what was the basis for these various positions? Essentially it was an evolutionary utilitarianism. In other words, the only argument they could produce (however, I don't believe any of them articulated this argument even though it was underlying in their lyrics and themes) was that it was the best idea, the most practical. Why was it “right” to be anti-violence and wrong to be hateful? Because violence is not good for humanity. Because love is good for humanity. Ultimately that had nothing better than “the most good for the most people” to appeal to for values. And utilitarianism has never been a strong foundation for anything simply because it requires a dangerous assumption that happiness and suffering can be statistically analyzed. Now before I get emails informing me that so-and-so from whatever band was actually a Buddhist or he believed in “some god” or something along those lines let me again state that I am generalizing here quite self-consciously. And I believe that if you look at the overall worldview of this movement you will find that what I am suggesting is more or less true. The Grunge movement boils down to a restatement and expansion upon the 60's Hippie ideology (which, interestingly enough Corgan himself points out in the same interview). The hopefulness had been lost by this time, but the themes and concerns were essentially the same. Additionally, the 60's appealed to a more mystical foundation where as the 90's dealt with a less mystical and more utilitarian base.

Perhaps someone would suggest that it is not necessary to have a foundation in order to have a moral or ethical stance: “why should I defend loving someone? Must I have a philosophical theory to justify equality or peace?” Yes. But why? Because without a foundation the structure will collapse. Ironically enough, this animosity towards a foundationalism is in itself a philosophical ideal: pragmatism, the brother of utilitarianism. The reason that foundations are important is simply that people actually live by them. To ignore worldviews is to be in denial. Everyone, everywhere has a belief system as a foundation for moral and ethical values, a filter to judge the world and events and emotions and thoughts and desires. In the case of the Grunge movement the foundation was a mystical, existential utilitarianism founded on near nihilism and a Darwinist view of humanity. In this system right and wrong was determined relatively in accordance with the most good for the most people. In the end however, this was insufficient. Corgan himself recounts playing Lollapalooza in 94' and watching as the crowds were filled with unthinking macho alcoholics: “They're not really getting it. They're there with their khakis and their beer, and they want to hear the hit—that's really not about changing things.” But here Corgan has no real way to judge his fans, they are merely doing what seems best for them. If Corgan had confronted one of these fans the encounter could have happened like this:

Corgan: You fool, don't you see that your latching on to the rage of our music and ignoring the message? I'm singing about how wrong it is to be macho and sexist and unthinking!

Fan: Why should I care? Thats not what I get out of your songs.

Corgan: Because if we don't work together and fight against hatred and sexism and commercialism we'll never be free!

Fan: Why is that my problem?

Corgan: Because you're a human!

Fan: Why does that matter? Why should we stop hatred and all that stuff?

Corgan: Because people are suffering and we can help them!

Fan: Why is that my problem? I'm happy and content being who I am why should I lose that to help others?

Corgan: Because you should.

Fan: Why should I not be sexist? It pleases me!

Corgan: Because we are all human and therefore deserve to be treated equally with respect and love.

Fan: Why should we all be treated equally?

Corgan: Because we all share the same experiences and because its right.

Fan: Why is it right? Who said so? Prove to me it is!

Of course I'm straw-manning Corgan here. I'm sure he would have a lot more intelligent things to say that what I've put in his mouth. However, in the end he wouldn't be much better off than what I've proposed because the Grunge ideology had nothing to appeal to. It's foundation was on the idea that we should do our best to help the most people because it was a good idea. Any justification that they could offer would be founded on statistics which in themselves were relative to time, place, culture, people, and a million other variables-variables which are really impossible to calculate. How do you establish the value of a human life when all you have is statistics or a vague notion that love is better than hate? Perhaps part of the reason the Grunge movement failed was that it had no foundation by which to demand others change their lives. All they could say was that it was a good to love because it was good to love or because the world would be a better place, but for who? And in whose opinion? If the value of the individual is based on the premise that “because we exist, we have value” or “because it is in the best interest of everyone to give equal value to everyone” then there is no true basis for value just some ideas why we should believe in the value of the individual. Thus, Corgan and his cohorts had no true reason to urge revolution from their fans.

Now let us look at Corgan's assertion that “right-wing” values were/are the antithesis of the Grunge ideal. First off, in a very fundamental way I agree with him. For them, man was hopeless and the best he could do in life was to try to be humane and to enjoy it while it lasted. This certainly is not in following with Christian values. But in another way, Christian values actually speaks to the same issues that he was fighting for and in a more significant manner as well. Christianity specifically stresses the tremendous importance of Love, justice, equality, peace, while condemning oppression, commercialism, commodification. The great difference is that with Christianity there is a basis. Here, the individual has value because they are made in the image of God, by God. There is something outside humanity that establishes value. In the same way, there is a real reason to pursue peace and love and fight against injustices. The very things that Corgan and others were so adamant to work for are also concerns except there is a real foundation rather than a utilitarian hopelessness; there is no sense of loving only because it is the best thing for humanity (which can only be supported by questionable statistics), instead there is love founded on an eternal and absolute standard.

Therefore, in , it should not be that Christian values are rejected, rather the Christian artist, armed with a foundation that is unchanging, that gives profound value to individual people, should be at the forefront of art. This art can be full of compassion and love that at the same time demands justice and equality. Billy Corgan should be, if anything, excited to see a time when at least some people hold a belief that has the foundation necessary to bring about the change he envisioned.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Artistic Activism

The current status and trajectory of the is distressing. , , and critics are all struggling with poor work. Rock music seems to be dieing its long predicted death, movies are increasingly rehashed plots or remakes and even the “artsy” movies seem to be running out of steam (See Wes Anderson's latest, or the new Bat movie from the director of Memento, although some directors are still moving forward, it is at least a slump. this years ticket sales for that). In TV the sitcom has all but vanished in any significant way and reality TV is hardly a competent usurper.

This crisis---whether real, imagined, or temporary---has been caused by many forces to numerous and complex to deal with at this time. But this crisis is multiplied in the Christian community by a crisis which has been ongoing for several decades, and perhaps even a few hundred years, depending on who you ask or which particular artistic medium you look at. as at the forefront of this crisis and many others have been lamenting its faults of late. Even worse is , which has always struggled for an identity, and when you combine that with the fact that the rock genre is quite probably in its last gasping breaths, the situation is bad to say the least. So then, what are we going to do? It is very easy, in comparison, to find what is wrong with Art, whether that be the more general slump or the specific struggles of the Christian arts. But it is difficult to figure out what to do about it and even harder to actual do something. For those who can create, there is a lot of work to be done. But what about those who can't or don't? What I would like to discuss here is what the listener/watcher/reader/viewer can do to help the Arts recover.

The most obvious approach is financial support; however, I believe that this is more often than not a disservice to the artist. Take for example a CD. Let us say that you know a guy who plays in a original rock band. They have just recorded a CD and he asks you to buy it. While it is good to buy that CD it is not enough. The comodification of art is one of the reasons it is in a rut right now. Simply buying a work of art does not provide the artist with any incentive to improve or explore. One could say that simple demand for a work of art is a good barometers of the arts quality: if it is good, it will sell, if it is not, it won't. But this is not necessarily true. If we return to our previous example, your motivation for buying that kid's CD was more than likely not genuine interest in the art, but rather sympathy and encouragement. Because of this, I have seen bands who have little or not talent artistically become wildly popular. Now, I am not saying that you should not buy independent music or works of art; rather, I would plead with you to take an active role in art. Don't just buy that kid's CD and bury it in your shelf, instead listen to it, try to understand it, and then talk to the artist. Without being negative question their themes, forms, styles, language, tone, etc. This creates a responsibility for the artist, they cannot make total garbage if their fans are engaging their art and discussing it. And in our times we need responsible artists. In a similar way it is important that when your talking to an artist about their work that you don't simply tell them how it was “good”, or “cool”, really engage the work, have something of substance to say and say it kindly. Pursue the artists, ask them how their work is coming along, discuss with them what their doing and why. This is particularly important for the Christian Artist who, as I've already suggested, is in a double fix. Perhaps no other Christian Art is in more trouble than Worship music. If you know someone who plays worship music, urge them to write their own material. Support them, but do so in a way that promotes excellence not stagnation.

I'm sure that my words are either falling on deaf or converted ears, or maybe my words are not clear enough. But my hope is that if people will stop treating art as a commercial and shallow thing, then the artists will stop producing shallow and commercial works. I have already spoken on the obligation of the artist, specifically the Hip-Hop artist, but the audience/receiver of the art also has an obligation: think critically about the work, discuss it, and support growth.