I’m worried. Not so worried that I’m going to consult a therapist or develop a substance dependency, but certainly enough to pen a medium-length blog that no-one will read.
Like most of my concerns, this quibble focuses on art. Or, indeed “art”.
My lady-friend kindly pointed me in the direction of ‘Chinese Food’, the latest contagion readying itself to infect our withered neurones. In it, a terrible young girl sings a terrible song and prances around in a terrible video. Sound familiar? Well, yes, it’s fresh out of the same worn out mould as Rebecca Black’s anti-hit ‘Friday’.
There’s something troubling about it though. Not just because it’s terrible, but because its terribleness somehow feels…right. Could it possibly be that an ongoing exposure to such novelties as ‘Friday’, ‘Chinese Food’ and even ‘Gangnam Style’ has left me utterly desensitised to their pitfalls? It’s almost as if the abundance of viral videos, memes and fads has leant them a veneer of respectability, or created a new counter culture with its own merits and factors for critique.
This was probably epitomised for me by Psy’s follow-up single ‘Gentleman’, which lead to global internet type-monkeys dribbling: “It’s not as good as Gangnam Style”.
Think about that for two seconds: is ‘Gangnam Style’ really deserving of comparison and dichotomy? It was a strange phenomenon, a one-off that took hold of the media. It was silly and loveable. But then people expected a sequel, another catchy pop behemoth with a gimmick and a silly dance routine. And you know what? It came!
Not only did it come, it conquered. Look at the YouTube viewing figures and iTunes sales stats. It’s a beast! No-one would seriously label it as a true piece of artistic expression – it’s a bit of fun, a lampoon, almost, yet it’s far more commercially successful than most bands could ever dream of being.
This is my point. This is anti-art. A pastiche, a piss-take, even, that ends up surpassing the very thing it emulates. Shows like ‘The X Factor’ or ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ also trivialise their respective industries and elevate them to freak-show heights of spectacle. Yet they’re enormous.
It’s evident in literary fields, too. ‘50 Shades Of Grey’ started life as an erotic fan-fiction of the ‘Twilight’ saga, before becoming one of the most commercially successful book series ever. Recently, we were subjected to reports of a new erotic novel featuring dinosaurs! And of course, it was the Tyrannosaurus Sex and Diplodildocus (I haven’t read it) that made the headlines, not the debut publication of an independent crime writer, for example.
So, in a nutshell, that is my worry. How can viable artistic works regain their hold on a commercial marketplace so over-saturated with mockery and shallow intention?
Maybe the whole thing just demonstrates the high value we place on having a little giggle now and then.