I think most of the people I work with have strongly opinionated views on their musical choices. I’m not so picky. In fact, I like pop music, and I like forgetting about the music that I listened to last year. I listen to a lot of Pandora and it likes to play Vance Joy’s “Riptide” quite a bit for me. As a infrequent reddit lurker, I came across a thread about song covers, and discovered Taylor Swift’s cover of Vance Joy’s “Riptide” for BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge. The cover is wonderful.
I’ve found quite a few of Ms. Swift’s songs catchy, but this is the first time I’ve seen something over hers that I can claim to be impressed. I liked “Riptide” to start with, but seeing her take the song’s tempo to a slightly slower, more deliberate pace while watching her smile out some of the song really makes me believe that it is her song and not someone else’s. This is the moment when someone has transitioned, in my immediate opinion, from a product to a musician.
Let’s face it, most of the stuff that goes Top 40 is from a very polished process of creating something designed to be simply consumed, while there is so much music that is made to be thoughtfully chewed or even choked on. To note an example of such a song, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Ohio” is a personal favorite. Swift’s “Shake It Off” is fairly mindless, despite being very catchy.
What things brings me to is the idea of titles that are assumed, earned, or bestowed.
Years back, I used to take pictures, lots of them, and then I’d think about what constitutes a “photographer”? Photography has a low cost of entry, no additional cost for error, and, generally, easy to re-do something you’re working on. At the time, and probably still now, darn near everyone can claim to be a photographer. Does owning a camera make a photographer? If you’ve got a cell phone, it’s probably also a camera. It does have to be more, doesn’t it? How about money? If you’re making money by taking pictures, that must make a person a photographer. I’d say that if you’re professionally taking pictures, sure, you’re a photographer. However, I’ve seen some pretty poor work come out of that crowd that leaves some room for argument.
The same must go for musicians as well. Does owning a drum kit or a guitar make someone a musician? How many hours of practice does it take to go from “learner” to “musician”? Thinking about it is like wondering about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but it’s still something that I like to think about.