In yesterday’s “Week-Long Ear Bug” riff, I shared the following observation: “Taylor Swift does what she does very well or least very successfully, but Joni Mitchell’s eclectic mode of expression (or a facsimile) just isn’t in her. She’ll never get there. Mitchell’s stuff is alluring, sexy, sophisticated, nectary, lasting — Swift songs are candy.”
In response to which the often annoying Michael DeGregorio wrote that “since Jeff Wells, a noted music critic who is intimately knowledgeable about song writing and lyric writing, has deemed it so it must be so.”
And then the equally annoying Glenn Runciter added this: “It’s not really a surprise that everyone who really values music will hold tight to the music of their youth and decouple from contemporary music when they reach a certain age. It’s not always a ‘get off my lawn’ kind of thing, but go on a music forum and you’ll see this writ large. Zero sum attitudes about music is such a waste of time.”
HE to Runciter: “How DARE you try to characterize my Mitchell-over-Swift preference as a ‘music of my youth’ thing? How fucking rote or lazy or lethargic do you have to be to default to a cliche like that?
“I’ve been listening to (for lack of a better term) crème de la crème music all my life. Most of what’s been recorded or live-performed over the last century is okay, approvable, marginal or negligible — finding the really and truly awesome, aspirational, soul-touching stuff is a needle-in-a-haystack exercise or adventure or both. How many tens of thousands of rock songs and Broadway musical tunes and serious orchestral compositions and live performances and choice recordings (including Chumbawamba, Bernard Herrmann, Django Reinhardt, Devo, The Who, George Gershwin, The Feelies, Patti Smith, Hank Williams, the Troggs, Caribbean island music, the Irish Chieftains, Graham Parsons, Gustav Mahler, Blondie, Television, Stephen Sondheim, Lou Reed, David Johansen, Miklos Rozsa, Godly the Ruler and the great Mose Allison) and movie-score tracks do you have to fucking listen to over the decades to acquire a trustworthy sense of what’s mostly good and what’s mostly crap?
I sat through an hour’s worth of Swift’s concert film last Thursday evening. Her songs aren’t even catchy and are pretty much on the level of Good ‘n’ Plenty; Mitchell’s are pricey and succulent Swiss chocolate. There’s really no debating this.