The Anteater Spoonful: Musical Integrity

Welcome to the Anteater Spoonful, a thought-provoking column focused on discussing those big topics that I don’t believe receive the attention they deserve. My name is Naser Dashti, I am a second-year political science and sociology double major and the author of this column. In the first issue, I will be talking to a longtime friend and fellow anteater, Daniel Ho. Daniel is a second-year biological sciences major. The following is a discussion on the topic of musical integrity. It got quite heated, so I had to cut it down quite a bit. So for the full version, more info, or to suggest a topic please visit: https://www.facebook.com/AnteaterSpoonful.

Naser: So what’s the deal with musical integrity, what’s wrong?

Daniel: Music has become corrupted by the pursuit of commercial gain. I think art has gone from an artist’s means of expressing themselves to a means of sustaining themselves.

Naser: Right, I think those who make real music avoid thinking about stuff like that. The music comes from of a place of passion to create something beautiful. They have this artistic sense of “I need to create,” and if they lose sight of that then they lose their creativity.

Daniel: I definitely agree, I think all artists have that deep-down passion for music inside. But, most realize that using art as a way to make money is really sustainable. I mean I wouldn’t go the whole way with saying commercialization has destroyed art. The artistic expression is still there, I think it’s just approached the wrong way, but I still think it’s there.  Like, I think Justin Beiber’s a good example. I mean, like him or not…

Naser: He definitely has ability.

Daniel: He wanted to express himself vocally and then on came Usher and record companies, and you saw what happened; he became this product of the media. His artistic expression was there, it’s just … they wanted to use his mass appeal to sell records.

Naser: When it becomes about selling, the message suffers and that’s the problem. You want to let your message get out there, but not at the expense of muddying it up. Like, [Lupe Fiasco] right now, although he’s better than others, he’s muddied up his message. His message used to be a lot stronger; there wasn’t any bullshit in it, just straight fucking message. It was good shit and message, but he’s appealing to the masses now and he’s gotten corrupted.

Daniel: Alright, well how about this. Don’t you think every musician sells out, just to sell records? Don’t you think everyone has to sell out as part of music?

Naser: Maybe, I mean at any point if your goal has anything to do with making money, then you’re selling out. You have passion and it gives rise to art — creating the most amazing art is your goal. If selling enters that equation, then you’re moving some of your focus toward selling; your art’s going to suffer. You’re changing and you’re changing your music to appeal.

Daniel: What if you don’t change it to appeal. I mean think about musical art, and theater, like not mass music.

Naser: Well then that’s good, but if at all you’re changing to appeal to the masses, then you’re selling out.

Daniel: Yeah, I would agree. But, wouldn’t you think all art has the purpose of selling?

Naser: No, that’s what it’s become, but I don’t!

Daniel: What about the artist who works 80 hours a week and doesn’t get anything out of it, doesn’t he want to sell, doesn’t he want —

Naser: He wants recognition, and it’s a fucking shame that he doesn’t get it.

 Daniel: But then how do you foster art, how do you grow?

 Naser: That’s the problem; I’m not providing any solutions here.

 Daniel: So what about the underground who was true to themselves, made good music, but had no way of getting out there like that?

Naser: I mean, no matter what, they can get out there. They might not get massive. A lot of the non-mainstream bands, they’re not big names but they still get out there. People who like real music, and a lot do, will find them — the Internet’s a blessing. They’re still out there; at some level they’re still expressing their art to an audience.

Daniel: I think everyone’s sold out, therein lies the problem, deep down you know that. Everyone has sold out and you’d be hard pressed to find an example of someone who’s big-time who hasn’t.

Naser: Okay. It’s hard not to sell out, because that’s human nature. It’s human nature to like the fact that people like you.  But I don’t think that means that you should give up on staying true. Today it has become acceptable to sell out, that’s what pisses me off. It’s human nature to do that, okay? It’s unfortunate, but in our society it has become beyond acceptable to do that. In fact, it is the norm; it’s completely fine to change yourself for society. It’s acceptable to change your art for the public’s appeal. What used to be a bad trait, what used to be something people would fight off, what used to be something people recognized as corruption, has now become okay.

Daniel: Well, think about this, what if an artist is true to themselves and is making an album and people say, you know, there are reasons why this isn’t great. Then they go and make it better. Do you think that’s selling out? Do you think making something better is selling out?

Naser: If the artist believes it’s better, then I would say no. But it all comes down to what they believe, and that’s what it is. If the artist’s creativity disagrees with what they’re making, then that’s selling out! If they honestly believe in it then I say go for it man.

Daniel: I think everyone in any artistic medium has sold out in some way. I think you have to assess whether it was a bad thing. Some groups definitely sell out just to appeal to more people to get their message out there, and then some people like Lupe Fiasco just completely sell out.

Like you have Kanye, I think Kanye’s a bad example, but put him versus Lupe. Lupe completely changed the way he expresses himself and I think Kanye tried to keep that to a minimum, I think he’s always been that crazy. I think you have to assess the degrees of selling out and that’s what’s important. Everyone at their core has sold out.

Naser: Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to blame anyone.

Daniel: Yeah, I don’t think anyone’s 100 percent to blame.

Naser: You can’t blame the public, because they’re fed by the media. You can’t blame the media, because they’re influenced by the public. You can’t blame the artists because they want to get big. You know, they gotta be pissed when they’re fucking broke and they see some fake douchebag making half the art they are and getting millions for it.

Daniel: I think artists are modifying how they approach art as a response to attention.

Naser: Yeah, I mean I don’t think any true artist can start off with the idea of making it big. If I was an artist, and I made music based on what I thought the masses would like, I would make complete shit. Real art, actual art, comes from inside, it comes from you; people create art from a very personal and vulnerable place. I mean it’s a very beautiful concept that’s just been turned to shit.

Daniel: Well, if you’re like an inner city single mother and you compromise some of that and go on like American Idol? Is that bad? I’m not sure if it is.

Naser: I mean go for it, express yourself, but don’t compromise your art. “Change the game, don’t let the game change you,” — in the words of Macklemore.

Daniel: Yeah, well let’s see what happens with Macklemore.

 

Naser Dashti is a second-year political science and sociology double major. He can be reached at sndashti@uci.edu.