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Archive for the ‘Music Issues’ Category

Music nowadays has become much more than simply instruments over vocals.  Sampling is something that is used to help the listener (or viewer of music videos) better understand the music by incorporating actual sounds, such as a cash register (in Pink Floyd’s song Money) or police sirens (in N.W.A.’s Fuck tha Police).

Not only are sounds used as sampling, but some may even use historical figures to help get their message across to the consumers of the music.  The book gives examples like the exerpts of speeches from Jesse Jackson (in Stetsasonic’s A.F.R.I.C.A.) and Malcom X (in Living Colour’s Cult of Personality).

Although samples are not original creations made by the artists, they are very helpful to better relate the song’s topic to the consumer.  They add a great deal of effect and allow the listener to better understand and enjoy the song.

Another type of sampling (which I thought of when I first read the word sampling in the book) was introduced a bit more recently, when rap and hip hop became more popular.  This type of sampling involves using a part of another song and incorporating it into your own.  It is a controvercial issue among artists, but can be used very well by certain artists, who have proven that it can work.  Most recently, Kanye West is known for taking exerpts of other songs (of all genres) and speeding them up, slowing them down, and adding his own personal touch to it.  Some of his most famous songs, such as Diamonds from Sierra Leone and Jesus Walks are sampled.

Sampling is something that, if used correctly, can create something good.  They help the listener to get a better understanding and to better appreciate the song as long as it is used correctly.  Otherwise, it can be seen as copying someone else which is never good in the world of Pop Culture, where originality is crucial.

Living Colour's Cult of Personality uses samples of speeches from Malcom X, John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt

Living Colour's Cult of Personality uses samples from the speeches of Malcom X, John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Getting Music to Sell

Nowadays, with all of the hype built into pop culture and the media, musicians need to have more than just talent to sell their product. Island Records founder Chris Blackwell states in Dancing in the Distraction Factory that now, record sales also depend on extra things such as packaging, as well as appearances in the media, on television and on radio.  If people know and like who you are, they are likely to purchase the CD.

The book goes on to mention that the trends in the music industry are not unique, and that the same goes for other media such as movies and television.  They are all increasingly multitextual, and need help from other areas in order to be successful.  An example given is the in the selling of the 1989 Batman, where there were tie-ins with the music industry (Prince’s Batman the Movie LP, along with the actual movie soundtrack) and many other industries such as publishing (the Batman DC comic book).  Another similar, more recent example is Jay-Z’s addition to the movie American Gangster, the soundtrack that he put out after claiming to be retiring from the music industry.

Now all of us have had experience with some kind of female Pop star who has been disturbed by the fact that they are seen as a sex object.  However, if these artists choose to pose for magazines or advertise themselves in other non-musical ways, there is a high chance that such connections could be made.  They need to understand that although such appearances might help their album sales, they will also influence how the artists are viewed by society.  Nowadays, it seems like a risk that most female artists are taking.  It may be their choice, but it could also be pressure put on them by their manager or boss, who are really only trying to make more money.  Being famous isn’t easy, and musicians need to think carefully about every decision they make.  Sometimes, getting more sales is not worth ruining your image.

Jay-Z's American Gangster Soundtrack
Jay-Z’s American Gangster Soundtrack

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Are They Really Singing?

Okay, so I haven’t been too excited to start this blog assignment, but I’ve been putting it off for long enough.  Although I’m starting to blog late after reading most of the textbook, I’m going to start off with the beginning of the book and continue through to the end.

In chapter 1 of Dancing in the Distraction Factory, Andrew Goodwin discusses the idea of music performance and the fact that sampling technologies are blurring the lines between the “origination of sound and the moment of “creativity”.  He talks about Pink Floyd having to pretend on a promotional video for their single “Apples and Oranges” after vocalist and guitarist Syd Barrett was dismissed from the band.

I was watching the NFL Pro Bowl (all-star game) yesterday, and during the halftime show it was clearly evident that Ciara was lip synching her entire performance with Enrique Iglesias.  I can listen to a recording whenever I want.  If someone lip synchs during live performances, it makes me question their talent.  I didn’t care to keep watching.

As an avid music fan and self-proclaimed musician, I cringe at the idea that famous musicians are willing to lip synch during performances when thousands of people spend hard earned money to hear them “perform live”.  There have been many controversial instances where artists have been caught lip synching and were questioned for their musical abilities.  And rightfully so; professionals should be able to do their job when called upon.  A Musician’s job is to sing and make music, not to pretend.

Now the Pink Floyd circumstance was a little different.  Syd Barrett was not able to continue his work with Pink Floyd, and the band may have done what they did in both a tribute to their old member as well as an effort to please the fans.  I understand that famous musicians are heavily pressured to excel in their carreers, and in many instances I am sure lip synching is done to please the fans when musicians are incapable of accomplishing their jobs.  But I still have the most respect for musicians who do not lie to their fans and who can give them a truly authentic, original live performance.  Otherwise, no one gets their money’s worth when they go to a concert.

Anything for the fans, right?

In the promotional film for Pink Floyd's Apples and Oranges single, the band members had to fake their parts

In the promotional film for Pink Floyd's "Apples and Oranges" single, the band members had to fake their parts

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