Friday, 26 March 2010
A Mind of Their Own
Example 1 – The recent BRIT award ceremony contained several live performances by artists either nominated for, or winners of, some gong or other. Amongst the chosen ones this year was Cheryl Cole, TV personality, member of Girls Aloud, WAG and now solo artist. She presented us with a highly choreographed routine backed by a pre-recorded tape over which she attempted to lip-synch. Admittedly this was a TV performance, not a live gig but you get the feeling that the two would not differ significantly.
Example 2 – In the late 1960s, ‘Shout’ merchant and diminutive singer, Lulu, was given her own prime time TV show. In a show that was broadcast in 1969 her guest was a certain Jimi Hendrix with his Experience. The Jimi Hendrix Experience played live in the studio and caused the TV producer to have the proverbial kittens by stopping the scheduled run-through of ‘Hey Joe’ in mid-flow and starting up an improvised version of The Cream’s ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ which then over-ran its allotted time slot.
I’m very much afraid that in this day and age, the ‘show’ is very much the be-all and end-all of music and that means cutting out all the things that do not fit a highly regulated, physically demanding performance, like…ooh…real singing and improvisation. Those lucky artists that have been chosen by their backers to be heavily promoted are completely in the palms of their paymasters and have no real say in the matter.
Or do they? Example 2 shows what can happen when the artist takes control. Admittedly, Jimi’s act of mischievous defiance took place over 40 years ago when the control of artists was much looser than today, but it can happen. In the same BRIT ceremony as example 1, Lady Gaga ditched her originally planned ‘hits’ act at the last minute and instead, played a low key, one-woman performance of two lesser known songs, one of which was completely reworked for piano and voice. The audience was a bit stunned to say the least. But it was unexpected and fascinating. Unlike Cheryl Cole.
And I think this is what draws me to certain acts. It is the ones that say, ‘This is what I do. If you like it, fine. If not, tough!’ There is nothing worse than an artist that panders to their audience. Actually there is; it is an artist that panders to their audience because their management tells them to.