Hi! I’m Dave from boyinaband.com
This week I wanted to address people who claim that “it’s all about the music.”
You know, the kind of guys who, when presented with an artist that has a strong image will immediately discount the music, regardless of how much they enjoy it, purely based on the fact that they’ve put effort into their image, saying something like “They’re trying too hard, they should just focus on their songs; it’s all about the music, man.”
And then will proceed to go to their favourite clothes store to dress up their exterior in an attempt to attract more attention to themselves.
Time for a thought experiment.
I call this one [insert bastardised scientific theory name to do with multiple universes or images]
So we’ve got this cat, who has just released a hip hop album.
Two dudes are watching the cat’s music video on TV and agree “This is a pretty good song, that cat is talented.”
Later on, the dudes are listening to the song on its own and have a pleasant enough experience listening to it.
Now let’s transition to a parallel universe in which everything is the same, except the cat had decided to put a bit more effort into his visuals. Taking note of said visual aspect, dude #1 happens to mention “Wow, that cat is cool, I wish I was as cool as that cat!” but dude #2 gets thoroughly indignant, saying “This is terrible, it’s just some cat trying too hard, it totally ruins the integrity of the music.”
but as dude #1 listens to the song later, he has that cool image mentally associated with that cool beat. As such, he has a stronger emotional response to the song and enjoys it more.
Now in our third and final parallel universe, as dude #1 watches the video, dude #2 picks up a magazine and is shocked to find out that “That cat killed a guy.”
All of a sudden this cat’s music seems much more intense, and as he listens later, Dude #1 is filled with a sense of horrified amazement at the actions of the feline emcee, resulting in an even stronger emotional attachment to the song than in either of the previous two parallel universes.
If by getting into the story and visuals you find more enjoyment from the music, what’s wrong with it? And unlike things like politics and religion, no-one gets hurt if you suspend belief with musical imagery! Well, except the guy that cat murdered.
Think about when a song reminds you of a person because you used to listen to it with them, or when you are reminded of a holiday because you heard that song on the radio during that trip – it’s the same principle of an outside influence giving you a more intense emotional attachment to the song, but people don’t say that “ruins the integrity of the music.” If the artist wants to utilise imagery to enhance their music in that way, why shouldn’t they?
In some cases, image does take precedence. I imagine Marylin Manson wouldn’t be where he is today if he decided to dress in his favourite pair of jeans and novelty T-Shirt – the intense image he has created around his music makes it feel even more exciting, like that music is an insight into his warped style.
Another example that I find fascinating is the air of mystery some artists create – Daft Punk, Deadmau5, those kinds of artists, with their masked image – it inspires people to talk about the artist and again, the music becomes more exciting because if you are willing to suspend belief, you can almost imagine that a pair of robots or a zombie rodent from the internet has created them.
Then there’s the “authenticity” that the “it’s all about the music” crowd advocate – the artist that made the music entirely on their own. Ironically, this is an image itself whether intentional or not; if these people listen to an artist thinking “this is so cool, they did this entirely themselves!” BAM- they’re allowing something other than the music colour their appreciation.
But that’s okay! Our brains naturally associate images and ideas with sounds; we’re psychologically wired for it. This is why you’ll remember the alphabet to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star, why people over the age of 22 will associate this sound with a combination of nostalgia and frustration (modem sound), and why when people hear this *wind chimes/harp* it feels perfectly natural to see this image *fairy* but perhaps not this image *something inappropriate*
One way to think about it, if you hear this *seaside wave sound* you’ll probably end up thinking of something like this *beach* – the sound itself isn’t interesting, but the image it triggers is. Someone who lived at the top of a mountain their whole life who had never seen the sea would wonder why the hell you were enjoying listening to that noise – the mental imagery can play a huge part in your appreciation of sound.
What I’m getting at is that if you’re actively trying to ignore your ability to associate imagery with music, it is a huge wasted opportunity to feel even stronger emotions when you listen to songs.
So try and open yourself up to the over-the-top braggadocio of popular hip hop, the futuristic imagery of a lot of electronic dance music, or the pristine-perfect production values associated with pop. If you don’t immediately discount the culture associated with the music, you might find you enjoy it in an entirely different way.
Those are my thoughts, what do you think when it comes to music and image? Whether you’re pro or anti-image, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.
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Cheers for watching, and have a nice day!