On Kottke’s weblog today, there’s a post comparing manufactured pseudo-punk Avril Lavigne to her supposedly less phony pop-punk genremates, with a link to an interesting rant by Dave Eggers about ‘selling out’.
The Eggers rant is interesting, yes, but also lazy. Isn’t it just playing into the hands of the puritans and the naysayers?
Personally, I’ve always taken the term ‘selling out’ to mean compromising one’s artistic integrity for the sake of popularity and/or financial profit. By this reasoning, therefore, just because one becomes famous and makes a lot of money from one’s art does not necessitate that one is a sell-out.
Regarding the Avril Lavigne thing however, and the obvious attempt to show that the line between ‘real’ and ‘phony’ is blurry at best — well let me give you another example:
Some time last year, Puddle of Mudd were guests on a BBC music show called Re:Covered, where bands play two songs to a live studio audience; one an original piece, the other a cover. Puddle of Mudd began with a cover of an old Alice In Chains song, Brother. It was a stunning rendition, beautifully performed, resonating with emotion. Alice In Chains were obviously an inspiration to them, and it showed.
Then they played one of their own songs. And they were fucking awful.
I guess the moral of this story is, just because you can play a song well doesn’t mean you’re any more ‘real’, or any less ‘phony’. If music is more important to you than the superficial appreciation of a well-played tune, the differences _do_ matter.