The Art of Objectivity – Is Anything better than Anything?


In prior posts I have touched briefly on the shifting shape of modern media criticism. The shift from typewrites to QWERTY has globalised debates, discussions and revisionism of media forms. Music, film, television and art have found their ways from nice clubs, pubs and studios into the bedrooms of individuals and their friends and out to bedrooms across the planet. The impact that this has had on critical journalism raises quite an interesting debate on the ‘art’ of human perception.

To be more blunt, is anything actually any good? For the sake of this discussion’s brevity I will try and riff it on music. Music, and indeed any and all art, is fuelled by what we often describe as tastes. We the consumers, not unlike food, all consume art differently; we all have a different palate for the range of ways in which sounds are served to us. If you took a decent cross-section of people from various backgrounds and asked them their weekly expenditure towards food it would vary greatly. A number of factors affect people’s diets. Some cannot afford much more than Kerry Katona bites, others refuse to consume anything ‘inorganic’ (whatever that means) and the select few only eat in Babylonic towers with food served by Gordon Ramsay’s nephew’s cousin.

The point is, not everyone even enjoys every genre of music. Fans of some genres, without having heard 20 revered songs from another genre might call the genre in question shit. Referencing the tendency for varied tastes, this is a perfectly understandable standpoint. I for one believe that marmite is in fact fermented shit, some people still spread that crap all over their toast.

And yet, I believe that there is something at least ‘respectable’ in most lasting genres of music. A genre of music, like a genre of art or even writing grows its legs only if the frame and scope are great enough. Genres with skinny frames often die quickly and never truly get to harbour a canon. I can attest that in my experience, every long lasting genre of music I have listened to has at least gained my respect even if my guttural instinct is to yell ‘SHIT’.

The way in which this respect is attained, in my opinion, is via the understanding of the artistry, the skill and the work necessary behind a piece of work. People’s genre bias often prevents them from doing this but any serious music fan should be able to at least respect a funky bassline, frenetic guitar solo or complicated rap flow. The simple reason for this is that we, the artistically deficient, cannot replicate the skill that artists in different genres display.

This skill is at complete odds with the perception most people have of different genres and that often smears people’s view of music.  The picture perpetuated of almost every genre at the apex of their popularity is that developed by record labels. The advent of vinyls, albums and eventually singles slowly altered and funelled the music industry into the current three headed, major record label (and media) dragon that exists today. Naturally this has (or perhaps had) made the topsoil of many currently popular genres appear terrible and undeserving of respect.

And to bring back the allusion to fine meats and cheeses, some restaurants rise to the top and afford themselves significantly higher charges for customers. The reason for this is that, objectively, most people can agree that the restaurant is at least deserving of a taste test. Today, the internet allows us to branch out, discover and seek out the gems in each and every genre. It is, for me an important step in opening the world up and creating a shared global culture. So yeah, listen to different shit.