Stunted By Reality Just another know-it-all talking about life, business, technology, sports and music.


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Listening to Bob Marley's song 'Stir it up' the other day I was reminded of how the art of making good music and combining it with equally good lyrics with depth and meaning seems to have largely passed this generation by.

'Stir it up' is a beautiful love-song tinged with overt sexual connotations implied by the well-written but simply structured lyrics. The suggestiveness is easy to miss given that the song has a touching melody accompanied by the catchy 'stir it up...., little darling,....stir it up....' refrain. However it's so well put together that unlike a Sean Paul classic, you could imagine it being played to the Queen if she happened to be touring a 'successful' multi-cultural community centre and nobody would bat an eye-lid. Well apart from Prince Philip, who like me has an inflated view of his wit.

In fact it would never have been a surprise if someone asked me what Marley's song meant, which I believe is testament to singer-songwriters of old that had the ability to use deeper language than the music I come across today. The use of similes, idioms and metaphors in music seems to be a lost art. It's possible I'm listening to the wrong music and there are some literary geniuses out there putting out good music but one thing is for sure there aren't many in pop music. (Not withstanding the unfair comparisons of ordinary musicians to Bob Marley, but hey please bare with me, I'm trying to make a point!)

It can be pointed out that the creative vision of artists from the past has been known to be over-exaggerated as George Town University did by starting a degree in Philosophy with Star Trek. However this could be as a result of the current creative dearth in art in general. I only need to refer to the infinite number of cover-songs and movie remakes to conclude that maybe I should test my own theory, that I can accurately guess the ending of 50% of all song lyrics, if you only tell me the first two words.

It's hard to think of too many songs currently on the airwaves which we will in all seriousness ask ourselves what the meaning was in a year or two. Ten years ago the British band Kean had a song about their disappointment with authority following the Iraq war. However the catchy melody of the song would have been equally at home in a Bridget Jones movie just as she once again raised her hopes in yet another Mr Right! I believe that is saying something about the skill of writing a song with a strong message using subtle enough lyrics that the record can be interpreted in various ways. Not pretentiously abstract, but just enough to be able to convey other emotions.

Indeed, if there wasn't video of Bob Marley singing 'Stir it up' you could imagine some expert in 100 years claiming that Marley could not possibly have written his music because it was just too good to be him. Just like those Shakespearean naysayers with PHDs. Hmmm mmm....

For current musicians, it seems that the only time we're likely to question song content is when we're wondering who some veiled or not so veiled reference to another famous person is. Although Beyoncé does have a famously second-guessed song about her ego, but even that does not display any amount of depth when it comes to word-play (apart from the possessive being applied to the ego when it is in fact apparent that she is talking about her male interest's ego as belonging to her). Beyoncé talks about the 'ego' being too big, too strong and not fitting (lord knows where?); pretty much in those words. I'm guessing here, but I'm sure I'm right that at the age of three Beyoncé was capable of writing the exact same lyrics to describe her four year old grubby-handed playground-crush's tantrums. It's a shame, but that seems to be the depth of language in current popular music. No one will be asking Rihanna what she meant on Rude boy; "Come here rude boy, boy, can you get it up?" or Taylor Swift on 'We are never ever getting back together'. No one.

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I've always believed that art and music are universally liked by everyone. The only thing that differs in each of us is what type of art or music one likes.

Unlike music when you listen to art types who are part of the establishment you get the feeling that only they can acknowledge what is and isn't art and whether or not it's good. Music certainly has it's snobs but it does not feel like any one genre 'owns' music.

I've just been reading an article in the Guardian entitled 'Banksy: overated purveyor of art-lite'. I knew it was link bait just by reading the headline but thought I should read on to see what angle the author was coming from.

The impression I got was that Jonathan Jones thinks that art should be deep and evoke discussion and amongst the comments those who agreed shared the same sentiment. Personally I think being deep isn't quantifiable and that the quest for it is what has left the art world on the road to ir-relevance in the real world beyond whether or not a piece is a good investment. Too much meaningless art has been created and labelled abstract or deep whilst condescending those of us who don't get it. Add to that evoking discussion seems to be less desirable than for people to get the meaning of an art piece. However in my opinion an artist must be allowed to outline their quest, be it to get attention, to get paid, to highlight an issue or even to see what junk they can get away with by labelling it art.

Anyway, I leave you with the words of one of the commenters who manages to express it the way I see it.

@TheManFromRotherham -

Banksy's work has always been something you could take in as you fleetingly see it as you pass at 40 mph in a car.
I think that's a key point being missed here by Jonathan Jones.
Banksy's work is designed to function as you move past it quickly, walking or on the bus, on your way to somewhere else. It is, as someone else said, like a cartoon in a newspaper.
Street art has a similar impermanence; a throwaway comment to be read one day and replaced the next. It's not supposed to be stared at and poured over like a painting in a gallery. And that's why it works and that's why it's popular. Did Banksy ever intend it to be anything more? Personally I doubt it.


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