“What are your assets as an actor? Your weaknesses. Whatever your fears are, whatever you suck at, that’s what you gotta tap. That’s what people want to see when you’re playing people. They want to see you at your weakest. They don’t want to see some asshole comedian show off. They want to see him fail. That’s acting.”
That’s Pamela Adlon in “Better Things.” She’s teaching an acting class. Multiple partners are doing a scene. And after the comedians believe they’ve knocked it out of the park, she says the above.
That’s what’s missing from music, weakness. Vulnerability. The human condition.
It’s just a reflection of the times. We live in an era of winners, despite supposedly owning your failures, the mantra of Silicon Valley, the people preaching this philosophy are all fat cat winners, the failures are an educational experience to be endured, a blip on the radar screen, but last I checked you inhabited your body 24/7 and were oftentimes riddled with doubt, unclear where to turn, frustrated with more questions than answers, and all you’ve got in music is wankers telling you how much better they are than you, imploring you to roar, or biting back at those who supposedly offended them. Huh?
At the risk of beating a dead horse, and why the hell not, that’s what appealed to me so much about Taylor Swift’s early work, the vulnerability, the outsider talking about how she felt, when she wanted to fit in, before she believed the entire world was against her, but that’s the internet ethos, raise your head online and someone’s gonna come and cut it off, primarily because they’re angry that you’re somewhere and they’re nowhere, we’re so busy fighting amongst ourselves that the real perpetrators, the fat cat politicians and corporations, are skating.
Art is personal expression first and money second.
But now that’s been flipped.
And since there’s not that much money in music, the best and the brightest don’t go into it, only those with no options, and these people fight amongst themselves and kiss ass to get ahead.
Meanwhile, everybody’s glued to the TV set, where truth lives. Not only on “Better Things,” but almost every hit show. Flawed characters confronted with dilemmas.
Everybody’s got the answers in music.
Or they’re bopping along happy without a care in the world, a nitwit.
We can’t relate to that. We might be able to dance to it, but we can’t connect with it. And when we connect we testify, we bond, we give it all our money. It’s why Joni Mitchell is a legend who never falls out of the discussion and Laura Branigan and so many pop singers are oldie staples at best, not worthy of words.
Sure, traditionally pop hits have often focused on lost and unrequited love, but even those songs don’t translate anymore, because they’re too phony, belted out by winners tied in with Target and perfume companies. Which is why artists need to stand alone, separate, but I don’t want to give you too many challenges at once.
And here’s where I say that the wannabes need to be excluded.
I know, I know, YOU write about your weaknesses, YOU do it right, the only thing is you can’t sing and your songs suck. Did you ever think about playing in the NBA? Hosting the “Today Show”? Why is everybody convinced that music is so easy?
Maybe because there’s zero barrier to entry. But that just makes the competition that much harder.
But those at the top have let us down.
But they’ve got little experience. They’ve never been to the garden, never mind know how to get back there.
Start with your personal experience. Your hopes and dreams. Your frustrations, your losses. Don’t be afraid of the slings and arrows. They come with the territory. Everybody won’t like you. But if you sing from the soul, evidence your humanity, we have a chance to connect.