When I reflect on some of the posts of the past months, I think about the people who influenced what I wrote and why. Usually the conversations with people in my very close circle of influence are the fuel for my thought process. I have a few friends who are not musicians, but enjoy listening to music of various genres who help me to pause and listen to music without a critical ear. Then there are my friends who are musicians that keep me alert on the technical side of performance and songwriting. However, there are times when my wife inspires a particular post. She offers a very biased, opinionated point of view that possibly reflects the thoughts and beliefs of many regular readers of Weekly Music Commentary. As I consider what I want to say each week in the commentary, overall I think about those who will read and what might entertain and force them to adopt opinions about particular entertainers. Within verbal conversation, I sometimes find expressing balanced opinions a little frustrating. In print, I have an opportunity to organize my thoughts better and research to offer contextual evidence. This week is an example of a conversation with my wife coming to life in print, in the commentary. Several weeks ago, my wife mentioned how she admired singer Janelle Monae for her stance on her choice of wardrobe.
Of course, she made some negative comparisons to other artists, who I choose not to mention, but overall she admired Ms. Monae’s courage to be different. An artist, and in this case a musical artist, is “different” from the masses of people who are not artists. Any artist you meet will have unique views on life, politics, love and other subjects. Those of us in the audience are normally attentive listeners as they describe their beliefs, while we search to understand them. I knew my wife was referring to something more. A difference among those already labeled different if you would.
The one thing that seems to separate artists into two groups: commercial success. Within the music industry, success blazes a trail that seems to be the only path for subsequent artists. If what one or two are doing musically is appealing to a critical mass of music buyers, then that is what the decision makers will promote, without any thought of individuality. As I speak with music fans today, some are unhappy with the current state of the music industry for lack of originality. Some say that all popular music and artists look and sound the same. Not all. Janelle Monae is unique, and she wears it prominently like her trademark tuxedo.
Notice what Janelle said about her attire in an interview with Honey Magazine, “I bathe in it, I swim in it, and I could be buried in it. A tux is such a standard uniform, it is so classy and it’s a lifestyle I enjoy. The tux keeps me balanced. I look at myself as a canvas. I don’t want to cloud myself with too many colors or I’ll go crazy. It’s an experiment I’m doing. I think I want to be in the Guinness Book of World Records.” She is doubtlessly very different, but fans of Janelle Monae are more than willing to accept her individual stance. My wife appreciates the image she portrays to young women with her choice of clothing, and image and artistic freedom are very important to Janelle Monae. Notice what she stated in another recent interview, “I feel like I have a responsibility to my community and other young girls to help redefine what it looks like to be a woman. I don’t believe in men’s wear or women’s wear, I just like what I like. And I think we should just be respected for being an individual…. I’ve been in Vogue, now, and different publications, which is cool, because I think that it just shows a different perspective of how women can dress.”
Does it really take courage to be different from other artists today? Yes! Some feel that taking the popular route is the only way to find commercial success. Janelle Monae is proving that idea wrong. Perhaps more artists will follow Janelle Monae and choose individuality as the new path. What do you think?