Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Technology, more than art, is the unconscious. We live in our technology as we live in air -- unconsciously. And as technology changes, we integrate it into our atmosphere until we take it for granted, as though it has always been there.

Art is aspiration. We remember idols of art -- people know Shakespeare's Kings because Shakespeare wrote about them. We remember very few idols of technology. Tech is subterranean. Like the body. Tech extends the body's capacities. I don't count my heartbeats. I don't know how this web site works.

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Paul McCartney is an artist likely to be remembered many years from now. And with good reason -- the most popular songwriter and the most popular singer of the rock era, as if Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin were the same person. His gifts astound.

In the last week I have read major hype about his new album in puff pieces in both the New Yorker and the New York Times, and how Starbucks is his new record company, and today every Starbucks in the country (or the world?) would be playing his album all day. Now THAT is cultural power.

I succumbed. To the hype. I went and got an iced tea at Starbucks, and a horrible pastry (really bad!), and listened to one whole song and parts of two others. The ballad mushed me unconvincingly, but I was digging the rockers.

He's unlikely to get much traction in the rock press. For legitimate reasons -- rock is about 'tude and lyrics, and in both departments Macca lacks. He's written many good lyrics, but much more often indifferent ones. And his 'tude isn't rockin'. He's from the pop era -- he's an entertainer, an entertainer with artistic aspirations, like Sinatra or Bennett maybe, and his persona is that of an incredibly wealthy mostly cheerful person. Not rockin'.

He's a great melodist, though, and a wonderful arranger and player of many instruments, with a golden voice, and he can still put a good song together. His last album had a bunch of terrific ones, and I am curious to hear the new batch.

The coffee shop is supplanting the record store as the place to hang out. While that does not personally please me, I'm interested that the world's richest musician has joined forces with the world's richest coffee peddler. Mostly I'm impressed with McCartney's shrewdness here. Going with Starbucks seems a savvy response to changing technology and a changing market. He's taking the product to where people are buying.

He doesn't seem like an especially nice person -- and neither did Bing. They share a stylistic affinity too -- they both have a way of tossing off a song, of going through the motions, gliding on their considerable gifts -- and I believe that this element of gliding is a key to their mega-popularity. People are attracted to ease. Bing & Paul are easy singers -- they sound at ease with themselves and the world, usually.

Like Irving, he's self-taught and musically un-lettered -- he can't read a score. And like Irving he's the most popular writer of his era. But he isn't really our Irving -- he isn't as witty. But he is our Bing, and I love him and wish him well.

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