Musicians and their aesthetics

Ever since musical groups and individual artists turned into more than just names listed after song titles an appreciation for their ‘look’ has been growing and growing. A musician’s ‘aesthetic’ is their look, their theme, the atmosphere they create the feel of their work and themselves in a larger sense than simply their music and its qualities. We are now faced with an issue however: how much should the aesthetic contribute to their value as an artist?

One of the more famous idols known largely for their looks is Lady Gaga with her iconic meat dress and countless other bizarre outfits and music videos, but you do not exactly feel the impact of those through headphones do you? In fact, I seek to separate Lady Gaga and similar artists from the main group of musicians and groups with defined aesthetics, as hers vary greatly between songs without any real unifying theme. These artists more seek to create impact and astonishment to enhance their messages and songs; they do so with their public appearances and music videos. This is actually a very common technique; Lady Gaga just manages to take it two hundred steps further than most do. The more niche artists who utilize defined aesthetics to their advantage are being addressed here.

Internet sensation Yung Lean is perhaps the most notorious for his use of an aesthetic to propel himself to stardom, at least among the interwebs. With his characteristic Sad Boys logo and self-titled 2001 style his music, appearances, performances and most importantly his videos strike the audience with an incomprehensible feeling of obscurity and alluring, nigh musical heresy. And thus, due to this overwhelming aura of specific style many are accused of liking him solely ironically or appreciating the look and not the music. These critics do have serious points as many have pointed out Jonatan’s (Yung Lean) lack of breath control in his songs, his subpar lyrics and in some places his producers’ low quality music. The question is: despite his objective faults is Yung Lean saved by his aesthetic in respect to his value as a musician?

I do not think he is, as an artist he most certainly is, but as a musician he simply can not be hailed as a great contributor to music with his current quality and neither can any other similar artist. These musical artists are just that, artists, perhaps not skilled musical technicians with the firmest grasps of musical theory or properly flowing lyrics but they convey their themes, their messages and their styles in a way one would expect of a true artist. With new fabs sweeping popular culture like the vaporwave genre and similarly ironic rappers like Lil B and Riff Raff one does not have to enjoy them to understand that there are ways to convey points and ideas in musical ways without particularly relying on musical qualities.

At the end of the day most folks get caught up in semantics and that is what people should try to avoid by being eloquent and precise in their judgments. Enjoying musicians does not have to rely on musical quality, but one cannot acknowledge this whilst claiming that they are fantastic musicians, just good entertainers perhaps. One can appreciate deep intellectual messages in niche, counter-melodic music all the while qualifying with the fact that the musical quality simply isn’t all there, they might not be incredible musical artists but artists they are and their ability to put across their points are evidently efficient. No one should feel bad for appreciating musicians who ooze characteristic style and appeal but lack the most amazing lyrics or musical mechanics and no one should feel bad for appreciating musicians in t-shirts and jeans meaning only to sound as good as possible, they’re simply all different sides of the same coin in a musical community with value coming from different sources to different audiences and that is a beautiful diversity.

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