Sunday, October 8, 2017

Almost Like Praying | Lefsetz Letter

What kind of crazy fucked-up world do we live in where the only artist of stature standing up to President Trump is an ethnic college graduate who made his bones on Broadway?

One in which the “Hamilton” cast album is the 13th most consumed album of the first half of 2017, and #13 in sales too!

That’s right, “Hamilton” eclipses Harry Styles’s solo debut and Rihanna’s “Anti” and DJ Khaled’s “Grateful” and Khalid’s “American Teen” and Chris Stapleton’s “From A Room; Volume 1,” but it’s almost like it doesn’t exist in the musical discussion. And this is fascinating in a world where “Despacito” came from left field and triumphed. That’s right, the music press and radio are out of touch. “Hamilton” had 472,606,041 audio streams in the first half of the year, eclipsing those of numerous “stars,” but you can’t hear the songs on the radio…

But you will hear them in bedrooms.

“Hair” was a Broadway success in the sixties and cover versions dominated the Top Forty. But that paradigm isn’t happening today, despite Atlantic’s best efforts, because everybody in radio is too cool for school, but the public understands.

“Hamilton” is a phenomenon. I’ve heard more talk about it than any act. And it’s been going on in excess of two years. The artist development story of the past few years is “Hamilton,” not some boy band or rapper.

But “Hamilton” is rap. But since it’s on Broadway the educated whites against Trump who normally pooh-pooh the urban sound can embrace it. And you would too, if you just saw the show.

But you can’t get a ticket.

Katy Perry doesn’t sell out, U2 tickets are far below face value on StubHub, but good luck getting a “Hamilton” ticket at a discount, it doesn’t exist!

So Lin-Manuel Miranda has Puerto Rican roots. And he’s no pussy, he tweeted that Trump Is “going straight to hell,” quite amazing when scores of country music fans are shot in Vegas and the Nashville denizens are all hiding under the couch, silent.

But Lin-Manuel Miranda is educated, unlike most of today’s chart-toppers. He can actually think and analyze issues, and knows he who refuses to stand up for what is right is trampled in the witch-hunt to follow. That’s right, it’s only a matter of time before they come for you.

And Miranda got instant press. That’s the power of a musician. They stand up and people take notice, but most are silent, concerned first and foremost about their pocketbook, unaware that when you lay down your personal truth people can relate most to you. That’s what’s wrong with most of today’s music, it’s spectacle, it’s hollow, it’s the equivalent of junk food.

And here’s where you protest, say that description doesn’t fit you!

But Miranda knows the first rule of music, if you want an audience your music must be palatable. You’re whining in your bad voice sans catchy chorus and you expect people to pay attention? NO WAY!

Now the amazing thing about the technology revolution is you can write and record and distribute nearly instantly, but we haven’t had an instant protest record since Neil Young’s “Ohio” back in the spring of 1970. That’s art, not calculating what will be successful on the chart, but reacting, bouncing off input and laying down your thoughts, creating art without thinking about it. That’s what separates music from movies, the latter are contemplated, the former, when done right, is INSTANT! UNFILTERED!

Now “Almost Like Praying” is catchy and close. It’s not quite “Despacito,” but more people would like this than most of the stuff that dominates the Spotify chart, the only one that matters. Apple’s behind a paywall and YouTube is for kids and fading while we’re at it, ignore “Billboard,” go straight to Spotify, it illustrates what people are really listening to. And will they listen to “Almost Like Praying”?

I don’t know.

But it almost doesn’t matter. A major star, one of the biggest if not THE biggest, believe me, “Hamilton” outgrosses every act on the road with multiple companies working six nights a week, takes a risk but the rest of the industry is too scared to stand up?

Make me puke.

But I’m thrilled Miranda took a stand, he’s a beacon, word passes, that’s how it works, someone leads the way and the rest follow. Kind of like Fallon was anointed king and was unbeatable until Colbert switched up the formula, took a stand, ignored the haters and spoke the truth.

That’s the eternal elixir. What we’re drawn to.

Hell, watch the clip on YouTube, which I just denigrated as a music service but is good for video, “Almost Like Praying” is #3 On Trending, deservedly so, I dare you to watch it without having your heart pitter-patter, without getting excited. You think we have no options. Wrong! Artists can lead the way. Lin-Manuel Miranda just did!


(Note: statistics courtesy of BuzzAngle, view them here:

Mid Year 2017 U.S. Music Industry Report)


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