Just the other week was the 20th anniversary of Nirvanas culture bending record, Nevermind. I got asked whether I thought the world was in desperate need of another Nevermind, a shake up or something dramatic to liberate us from some of the disposable art that fills every vacant space we have. The story was published online and in print and I got a few small quotes in but I thought I would post my full response below:
Nirvana where a pretty important change agent in the 90s. they brought on a massive cultural shift that essentially juxtaposed the 80s with the 90s. I think the world was on a precipice anyway and Nirvana happened to be making the right kind of art at the right time and in the right place.
I think the most recent cultural shift has been brought on not by art or music but by technology and so to say we need another artist like Nirvana to shake things is only half true. If you ask me there is more important music being made today than ever before, especially in Australia. Genres are being stretched and recreated, ideas and boundaries are being challenged. The issue isn’t the music, it’s the audience and the manner in which they consume the music.
People listen to songs on iPods and download tracks from blogs and this happens at such a fast rate that any artist with anything important to say needs to sink their claws in to the listener within the first two minutes or they don’t have a chance. Take Gotye, he is probably the best example of an Australian act really connecting with people and he’s done it all off the back of a song with lyrical content that is extremely literal. It’s not ambiguous in any way and his audience get it instantly. They understand what he is trying to say and listen on because he’s reached them on an emotional level. Adele is another example. Someone Like You is also literal and that’s part of the reason she’s had so much success. One of our acts, Belles Will Ring, just released an incredible record that’s complex and layered and worthy. We knew the road would be a much longer one because you have to convince people to invest their time and energy in to it and in this day and age that’s not an easy thing to do. People aren’t willing to put in the time with music anymore so you have to hit them really quickly if you want success in a manageable period of time.
On the other hand the majority of pop music isn’t intended to connect. Most of it is designed to be disposable and to appeal to really short attention spans. Artists like Kanye are challenging that idea and it’s working well. On the extreme end artists like OFWGKTA, who are aiming for Grammys, are doing everything they can to illicit an emotional response of any kind form their audience.
I guess what I’m saying is that I think the art is there. The audience just needs to work on their attention spans. If any one act or one album was going to shake us up out of this tech-imposed vacuum, it would have been Radiohead’s OK Computer. They predicted all of this and it still wasn’t enough to stop it form happening.