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There are few things that frustrate me like modern-day music. Lyrics are getting more vulgar and offensive by the day and auto-tuning programs strip voices of their uniqueness and any kind of emotion. The ones most willing to sacrifice their dignity are rewarded with fame, while true talent is left ignored in the coffee shop around the corner. I believe in rebelling against the stigmatic consumption of “Today’s Hits.” I believe in giving true artists the credit they deserve; I believe in listening to and appreciating the acoustic rendition.
Listening to the acoustic version of songs opens your heart to imperfections in music as well as life. A live performance is never seamless; notes catch in the singer’s throat, vibrato comes out at the wrong time, the guitar player’s fingers slip for a moment. These mistakes and mess-ups could potentially lead to a halting, disastrous ending to the song, but the true musician can play around them, making rendition unique, unrepeatable, and beautiful. The more you learn to appreciate this technique and artistry, the more you will be able to apply it to your average day. As you walk to work, you’ll begin to notice certain things like what the lyrics to a tune you heard on the corner was describing: the way the tree that you walk by every day leans a little to the left and sways just a little precariously in the wind; the woman in the red coat with dull brown hair obscuring her face as she chews her lip, lost in thought; the way the world is a little quieter in the winter, snow muffling all sounds like a thick, woolen blanket. You’ll begin the see the beauty in detail, to observe and speculate rather than glance at and pass by. Slight imperfections in the music you immerse yourself with help highlight the beauty that can be stored in something you once considered a simple space filler.
Performing live is a risk. Singing without the security of knowing that flaws can be edited out is terrifying. Doing it successfully is a big deal, just like making a presentation in front of your boss or climbing a mountain peak. Adrenaline is adrenaline, nerves are nerves, fear is fear, no matter what activity you are partaking in. I believe the singing voice is one of the most personal parts of humanity; it can be improved and altered slightly, but can never change. It takes immense courage to overcome stage fright and expose yourself to a crowd of people that may or may not boo you off of the platform. It’s an act that should be admired, just like you’d expect to be admired for impressing the boss or reaching the summit. Refusing to support live performers takes away the credit they deserve for doing the thing that many consider to be the hardest thing you could ever do.
Our newfound ability to edit sound has caused our culture’s music to lose its legitimacy. Producers make millions upon millions of dollars for cheap lyrics piled on top of overly loud bass effects and a few fast runs that sounds nothing like the instruments they are supposed to be imitating. Vocalists make their way into the production company’s booth with no talent besides knowing the right people and making the right sacrifices, climbing their way to stardom only by using whatever the computer projects. Oftentimes, cruddy music hides behind an interesting beat or a catchy chorus that leads people to consider it, “good.” However, if you strip it of any kind of embellishment, is it still so catchy? Take away the autotune—are the vocals still intriguing, or could any average singer sound just as good? Take away the bass—is the beat still catchy, or are you now beginning to realize just how trashy the lyrics are? Is it really worth the millions of dollars it made, some of which you contributed? Acoustic is raw, acoustic is legitimate, and it’s a reality check. Maybe next time instead of going to a $200 concert that you know is completely lip-synced, you’ll go to the open mic night at the coffee shop downtown and only spend a few bucks on a latte.
I believe in imperfections, I believe in risk, I believe in legitimacy. I believe in good lyrics and giving support where it’s due. I believe in acoustic music, the kind that tugs at your heartstrings and allows you to see the world in a different shade. I believe in listening to bands you’ve never heard of before; I believe in actively seeking them out. They deserve it.