Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Commentary: So who's the rebel now?
A couple of weeks ago the AGF and I were watching an interview piece with a Toronto area music critic. He has written a book called something like "Where is the Love" after he started to ponder the following topic. He and his music-critic buddies all universally reviled the music of Celine Dion, but this guy decided to sit down and try to figure out why exactly he felt this way. He listened to some of Ms. Dion's music, attended a concert, and basically enveloped himself in that special cosmos where Celine is the sun and her fans are merely orbiting bits of grateful space debris.
What this critic decided was that he hated Celine's music because it stood against everything he felt music should stand for. Real music, he felt, was topical, insightful, hard hitting, and most of all, rebelious! Real music set itself up against the "mainstream" and proudly spat in it's eye! Har Har!! Take that oppresive mainstream, what with your personal hygiene an all!
Then the author did something I didn't expect. He began to ponder what actually constitutes the "mainstream" nowadays. Is it Celine Dion? If so, why is she so universally reviled by "mainstream" music critics? Then the author voiced something I have suspected for a long time now. The rebels ARE the mainstream!
Musicians who consider themselves outsiders have always defined themselves as standing against the "conformist, strait-laced establishment". They have aquired a sort of mythology about how their music created, and continues to create, an "awakening" in society, freeing people from their "shackles". The problem is, all those societal constraints they railed against don't really exist any more as part of "mainstream" values and ethics. Musical rebels have always recited the creed "no-one tells me what to say, no-one tells me what to do, don't bug me about my hair". Well guess what rebels...those are the mainstream values and ethics. It's no longer socially acceptable to tell someone else that they shouldn't whack their privates with a 2x6 piece of spruce and call it "art", shouldn't tatoo a picture of an orangutan's keister on their face, shouldn't run around with their gitch (or, if you prefer, gotch, or in rare circumstances, "gonch") on their heads, because that would be "judging" someone, which would definitely harsh their buzz. That "conformist establishment" musicians like to fight against is a straw man. WE are living in rock n' roll paradise!
Of course the upside of this, is that Celine Dion and her fans are now REBELS! THEY'RE not going to be told not to dress conservatively, not to get regular haircuts or not to play their Yahtzee! They won't be forced into giving up their "meat" and "potatoes", their poly-rayon blends or their salad spinners. No, these brave outsiders are going to continue to flaunt the conventions of "the man", whether he likes it or not. Take THAT, Marilyn Manson!
So today, I'd like to salute these brave and inspirational outsiders. They have even convinced me to break from conformity, and avoid becoming yet another conformist! I won't shave my head, grow a goatee and get a barb wire tatoo on my arm! Sure, it'll make me stand out and be "different", but sometimes you just have to be a rebel.