Jenks Voice Studio

Art & French Fries

Published on March 9th, 2017 by Brad Jenks

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Why can't people just like things anymore? Why is there always some elaborate justification?

I won't go into what I think are the implications of this in the field of Vocal Pedagogy, as I have done that elsewhere (Link). I will stick to the abstract question-
Whether it is in the realm of the Arts, social philosophies, or activities, I feel like we live in an era when every time people encounter a criticism, instead of saying, "Yeah, I know. Even so, I kinda like it.", they always launch into tireless defense of the obviously indefensible, apparently unable to (as G. K. Chesterton would put it) "understand things that we DO understand."

Maybe this is not new to this generation. Maybe I'm just growing to observe it in my own, as everyone must. But I find this everywhere. Ignorance proclaimed to be just as noble as education. Elementary music proclaimed to be "just as good" as truly impressive compositions. Impassioned exclamation deemed to be on par with carefully considered, specifically chosen prose or verse. Ill-formulated ideas and wishes identified as almost certainly as reasonable and valid as highly reasoned and researched points of view. A constant lowering of the bar, a consequence of an inability to distinguish qualitative difference.

And it is all hugely connected to emotional response. I think that Nietzsche was not far from the mark when he observed a tendency in his time that many regarded "...beautiful sentiments adequate arguments....and conviction a criterion of truth..."

So again, what is this need to have all our faves be on the same level as everything more obviously, qualitatively better? Is it a hangover from our more sociologically stratified past? Is it a fear of a vulgar taste in one matter labeling us common in all other arenas? Do we somehow lessen ourselves by association, and so we must elevate everything to avoid it? Is the obliteration of objective quality the true aesthetic route to egalitarianism or is Quality the victim of belligerent ignorance?

I encounter this in the studio a lot. A student will say, "What do you think of [insert singer]?", hoping I will justify their appreciation of their current idol. If I happen to suggest that I think little of their vocalism, but that they are a fine enough performer, I am almost always met with, "But how can he/she not be good? They make pretty sounds/are popular/are making music professionally, etc....." And I think a similar response is common in many areas, but it has taken a strong pedagogical and even scientific bent in musical circles. But why can't we just be more honest?

I, for example, enjoy Bonnie Tyler. I think she is an obviously terrible vocalist. But I don't defend her glottal ineptitude. I just like her anyway. And that's just fine.

I always feel a little as though someone is desperately trying to convince me that McDonald's is just a different KIND of healthy cuisine, just as nutritious as any other, instead of just plainly stating, "Mmmm, salty fries. YUM! Me likey." And then putting them in their mouths, shutting up, and leaving it at that.