Sunday, October 29, 2006

58% Want Change
The other day I was riding eastbound on the subway when I decided that Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor is quite possibly one of the greatest records ever made.

This is not necessarily a particularly noteworthy revelation, save for the fact that the chief complaint noted in two of Food & Liquor's more notably lukewarm reviews is that Food & Liquor is, to the contrary, not one of the greatest records ever made. Explained one of the reviewers after rhyming off Food & Liquor's flaws: "Of course, this sounds negative, but it's more the notes of a slightly disappointed fan."

This is, of course, a completely reasonable way to review records. Jay-Z's new album will be judged this way. As is the follow-up to basically any critically acclaimed or best-selling album with the possible exception of Radiohead's Kid A (1). But this is, of course, completely insane in almost every other respect.

Imagine if you started living your life like this - judging every experience, relationship and moment by how close it came to being the greatest experience, relationship or moment of your life and being disappointed if it failed to do so. How much and what would you ever enjoy? Would you find yourself forever chasing the perfect meal, lover or episode of Saturday Night Live? Or, after about two weeks, would you end up huddled and naked in the corner of your living room, rocking back and forth and endlessly muttering to yourself the catch phrases from your favourite mid-90s SNL skits?

I would suggest the latter. First, because so much of what you do, who you meet and where you go would seem disappointing, or at least underwhelming. And second, because even when you found examples of true greatness, the discovery would be tempered by the knowledge that everything else would be that much more unlikely to measure up.

This is, obviously, an awful way to live. But, equally obviously, a perfectly fine way to review records.

The obvious moral? Everyone should be a follower of music, but no one should follow music.


(1) It's actually sort of difficult to explain why that happened exactly. Some would suggest it's because Radiohead went so far out of their way to change their sound and therefore appeared daring, self-aware and, in making something so apparently uncommercial, uncorrupted by "the industry." But if that were so, Radiohead could have cut a certifiably great glam rock record and been as well received. And we all know that never would have happened.

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