Music journalism you say?
I remember when I decided to go into the world of journalism – as a young college student, fresh out of high school, wide-eyed and feeling ready to take on the world. There I was, choosing a major that I felt suited me. I had been writing for a long time, and I was ready for it to make a difference.
A lot of journalists decide to cover ambitious, dangerous topics. We all hear about the ones who travel to some foreign country and end up in a lot of trouble. I didn’t want that. I also wanted to entertain, to be a safe form of escapism. I wanted to distract folks from the depressing circumstances of this world. I wanted to do music journalism.
I decided to cover the arts and entertainment.
I don’t know what attracted me to this. Perhaps my lifelong desire to be the people I dreamt of being (but realized I couldn’t be, what with a terminal case of stage fright and a shy demeanour) led me to want to write about them. They seemed interesting enough. It took me a long time to finally get my degree, but when I did, I moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, after living with my parents for a few months. Shortly after moving, I began covering local performers. Some of them I got to know very well as friends. They’re interesting people, very unique. I assume the stars you currently hear on whatever station you might tune into are also unique, interesting folks.
A lot of people groan and say, “All these people sound the same.”
The thing is, they don’t. I’ve come to realize it’s a lot like blues music: on the surface, they all sound the same. But once you actually listen, you notice there are differences between each artist. And, ultimately, pop music shares similarities to raw Delta blues. The musicians I met and grew to know in the Harrisburg area would more than likely all sound the same to people who criticize pop music for sounding similar. Much of those artists’ styles fall under the umbrella of folk-punk.
Folk-punk, for those who don’t know, is just what it sounds like: three-chord, in-your-face aggression in the style of a 60s troubadour belting out tales of drinking too much cheap beer, waking up in a house full of people they don’t recognize, and generally just enjoying life as they know it. It’s not as depressing as it sounds, and I’m probably doing it an injustice by describing it as I did, but many of the performers have songs about exactly what I described.
I assume that when Halsey talks about getting drunk and doing some questionable things, she’s just transcribing her own experiences. Or when a hard rock artist (or anyone else, let’s face it, artists tend to be mentally ill) talks about their struggles with depression. Like Bon Jovi sang, it’s all the same. Only the names have changed.
Another thing has changed, though, and it’s a good thing. Speaking of Halsey, despite one faux pas – calling herself “tri-bi” (biracial, bisexual, bipolar) – she has been pretty active in bringing awareness to a variety of issues, especially bisexuality and mental illness. It’s good that artists are being more active in using their place in society.
Artists of the past (Led Zeppelin, the Who, AC/DC, etc.) didn’t do that. Bob Dylan comes to mind, though, with his protest songs that shed light on a variety of social ills. Neil Young is another one – having started Farm Aid to help struggling farmers, as well as (with his wife Pegi) putting on the Bridge School concerts to benefit disabled children.
But my point remains: entertainers tend to be much more socially conscious. It’s a great thing, and I hope it continues. Of course, folk-punk will never have this level of reach. Most artists tend to be regional acts, travelling to states surrounding their home base, never going much further. And this is okay. It has its place, just as covering these artists has its own place. As Radiohead said, everything in the right place. It’s how we make this world just a bit more tolerable.
Just a few cents from my wisdom though music journalism.