Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Music

The Collapse of Artistic Criticism Under Trump

The Trump presidency has been bad for art and the way we evaluate it. Yes, there’s newfound popularity for far right art forms that speak to dark impulses. “Martial industrial” music–often set to images of Nazis marching–is spooky stuff, and in the last few years it’s quietly spread all over YouTube:

But mainstream art critics have mostly ignored the niches of material which are nakedly far right. They prefer to focus on more popular stuff. And here they have done us a number of disservices, aiding the right even as they attempt to resist it.

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Why Kanye West Likes Donald Trump

Kanye West is getting a lot of heat for appearing to come out as a Donald Trump supporter. Kanye is a much better poet than he is a prose artist, and when he speaks extemporaneously he tends to ramble. This often causes him to make flippant comments which become defining soundbites, drowning out the rest of what he says. Many people would be disinclined to take him seriously, and I’m sure some of you question whether this is a suitable topic for this blog. But there’s value in dissecting the views of people who seem politically unsophisticated–this is the only way we can come to understand the people outside of our bubbles. Read the rest of this entry »

Fun.gov: How to Make Art Free without Starving the Artists

A few weeks back, pop star Taylor Swift pulled her songs off of Spotify on the grounds that free streaming services don’t compensate artists sufficiently for the value of their social contribution. You know who Taylor Swift is, right? If not, here’s a picture of her to help you out (and get more people to click on links to this piece–for some reason, people really like photos of young female celebrities):

Swift’s argument makes some sense–art certainly adds value to our lives and contributes to our society, and we can’t have art if we’re not willing to pay our artists. The trouble is that these days it’s very easy for people to avoid paying for art over the internet, and there’s no practical means by which laws would be enforced to ensure payment. Going forward, this is going to get exponentially worse, until the entertainment industry is left with a fraction of what it brings in today. Additionally, the age of streaming and downloading introduced a new principle that appeals to many young people–that all citizens, regardless of income, should be able to enjoy art equally in a free society. These two principles conflict. How can artists get paid for their art if their art belongs to society and individual consumers have the means to access the content for free with impunity? I’ve found a way to do it. I call it “Fun.gov”. If you’re a small government type, it’s going to rub you the wrong way at first, but hear me out. This could work.

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Macklemore and Philosophy

I’ve been hearing the song “Same Love” by Macklemore for a while now. I agree with the song’s central message–that gay people should be afforded equal treatment by the state and in society. I also quite like the song, in no small part because unlike most songs, it’s very direct with the point it intends to make. The lyrics make clear arguments without hiding their messages in metaphors and other methods of obscurantism. There are entire websites devoted to helping music fans come to understand the veiled messages in their favorite artists’ songs, and it’s nice to not have to have inside knowledge to get the point being made. That said, it also illustrates one of this blog’s running themes–lay people lack expertise. While Macklemore makes a point I firmly agree with, the argument he uses to reach our shared conclusion is not very good.

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New Slaves?

Apparently Kanye West has a new song called “New Slaves”, and in this song West raps the following lines:

See they’ll confuse us with some bullshit
Like the New World Order
Meanwhile the DEA
Teamed up with the CCA
They tryna lock niggas up
They tryna make new slaves
See that’s that privately owned prisons
Get your piece today

West appears to deliberately draw a distinction between the claim he’s making regarding the American prison system and the kind of zany conspiracy theories that run around the internet–New World Order, Lizard People, Illuminati, and the like.  Is West saying something relevant here, or is he off his rocker? Let’s take a look.

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