Also: Sorta kinda review of Get On Up, the James Brown movie (directed by Tate Taylor. Jagged Films, 2014)
Also: About music, as we no longer know it
Also: About why I didn’t attend Madonna’s Rebel Heart
Also: You better know who Kevin Bacon is!
I just spent my whole morning watching Get On Up on HBO, as did most of you.
Cried through the musical portions of the film. Especially that scene where he was singing acappella to his estranged best friend Bobby Byrd. You probably did so too.
Blues always gets me. People singing their hearts out always gets me.
This James Brown biopic had a kind of Slumdog Millionaire feel to it. For those who didn’t see the Danny Boyle film, Slumdog Millionaire is about a young man joins the much-coveted Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Every time he struggles to answer a question, we see a flashback to a particularly cruel episode of his sorry- ass childhood, and somehow this gives him insight into the correct answers, thus making him win the million bucks.
In short: “Paid the cost to be the Boss.”
Get On Up is a ridiculous film. Ridiculous because James Brown is played by Chadwick Boseman, who also played that slick-moving Panther dude in Captain America: Civil War. Who also played Jackie Robinson. And Martin Luther King. And quite possibly every great Black American icon in history. You get the drift. This Boseman fella is ridiculously talented. Me and my husband laughed about the ridiculousness of his talent today. “He’s like the African-American Kevin Bacon,” he observed. As you know, Kevin Bacon is the ridiculously talented star of Footloose…
Didn’t see Footloose?
Seriously, it’s great that we can laugh about Great Talent now, and that Great Talent can make it to the Game these days without having to Pay The Cost in Blood like James Brown did.
America has been producing a slew of movies about its Musical Legends these days. The thumbprints of rockstar Mick Jagger are all over these productions. The Vinyl TV series are one such production by Jagger.
It’s making me a little sad, because these films are already documentaries. These films are about the music industry as we no longer know it.
A long time ago, faraway, in my childhood, whenever a person has Got It, She became a Rockstar. (Yes, my Rockstar is a She, and her name is Madonna).
She is taken in by a Music Label, who produces her records and concerts. The Label then pays payola to Radio so that the Rockstar gets played (and boy does she get played in more ways than one — but she outwits them all soon enough).
The Rockstar is very big. She can headline a concert and pack venues to the rafters. She carries hundreds of other people’s livelihoods on her limber shoulders.
With her Great Talent and Charisma, paid for by an unusually difficult childhood, the Rockstar hypnotized millions. And these millions, in turn, were united in her Name. The Rockstar made Collective Consciousness possible.
For half my life, I consumed my music this way. I bought the Rockstar’s albums (cassette tapes back then!) I kept my hair uncombed while singing “You may be my Lucky Star/ But I’m the luckiest by far…”
I copied and transcribed her music on my piano. I willingly took part in a Collective Consciousness from which I eventually cultivated musical friendships that quickly turned into fun unpaid musical projects, then later fun paid musical projects, then later acquired a more serious tone as Livelihood.
Used to be that every single song on an album was sung by just one person, one Rockstar, and known by heart by millions.
Now, Everyone is a Rockstar, and the Collective Consciousness has broken apart into thousands of tiny niche markets, struggling to stay afloat in an ever-changing Game of Tones.
Thank you, Youtube. Thank you, Facebook.
You have an artist who must share credits (and royalties) of a single song with ten or so others, including the recording engineer, and maybe even the dude who made her coffee every morning.
Because Everyone is now a Rockstar, there is no more Rockstar.
If you want to fill the football stadiums like before, to the rafters, pick one of two possible options:
1.) Be a Showman (i.e a dance DJ with a spectacular light show).
2.) Join forces with fellow artists.
But even these may not be enough at this day and age of Spotify.
In a couple of months, my husband and I will attend a musical festival that will be held in a large football field.
I will attend out of 1/4 nostalgia and 3/4ths curiosity about the new world order of music that it epitomizes.
It will be the first concert that we will ever attend in which the name of the festival is of greater import than the name of the artist playing.
And there are many, many artists sharing the bill. The event is headlined by the older artists, with the newer artists in smaller print.
I have seen photos of the event in previous years. The football field is never filled to the rafters.
James Brown could pack a venue to the rafters, all by himself.
How could the new world order of music-making sneak in so fast and pull the rug from under me just like that?
Sorry I didn’t go to Rebel Heart.
This is not about you, my love. It’s about me. I’m in denial. To watch you sing and gyrate to your old tunes in your late 50s is just too much existentialist dread for one night.
I chatted with your fellow fans who are my friends, members of the Collective Consciousness of which I was once part long ago. I saw the videos they recorded with their phones. You packed the venue to the rafters, they told me. You danced so well, still. You were spectacular.
But dearest Madonna, it pains me to say this but — you are history, as we all are soon enough. Time sneaks up on everyone, even on someone as fiercely beautiful and tenaciously age-defyingly ambitious as you.
I think it’s time for you to do a Mick Jagger and start producing documentary films about the glorious time we had together when we were younger.
Also, I want to listen to what Sean Penn has to say about you. And what you have to say about him. I thought you guys looked great together back then.
I will be watching you this time.
True Blue Forever,