An Artist…

Doesn’t follow trends.

Sets trends.

Doesn’t give the audience what it wants.

Gives the audience what it needs.

Has a sense of history. If there’s no context, there’s no art. Art is a reaction, a transmogrification…unless you know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going.

Knows that money is secondary to art.

Knows that money, if it comes, usually does so last…it takes that long for people to catch up with you, and once they do you don’t rest on your laurels but keep innovating, which challenges the audience to stay bonded.

Knows that execution is secondary to conception. All art is based on conception. The light bulb going off. The idea. Then it’s a race to get it down in a comprehensible form as soon as possible. The more you think about it, the greater the chance of compromise, and art is never about compromise.

Knows that some of their best ideas come when they’re not working.

Realizes they’ll never fit in, otherwise they wouldn’t be an artist.

Must change and grow. Which is why Picasso is a legendary superstar and Braque is a moment in time.

Listens to advice, listens to feedback, but is not bound by it. If you don’t read the reviews, if you don’t listen to what people say, then you’ve got no context. This does not mean you have to take blowback to heart, it just means you can’t create art that has impact unless you understand the populace that reacts. Today everybody reacts. How do you deal with that? Do you create art that makes people post, that offends them, that makes them jump for joy? You are in control of the journey but not the destination. But that does not mean you should not have a map.

Speaks truth to power.

Is not a member of the group, is not a member of the club.

Knows that awards are meaningless. Or at best meaningful for a day. Talk to any true star who’s won, the glow blows off very quickly.

Doesn’t have to tell people they’re great, their work speaks for itself. Unless telling people you’re great, braggadocio, is part of your art.

Doesn’t complain. The game is rigged, the odds are stacked against you, deal with it. Sure, you can be frustrated, but complaining about it just aligns you with the whiners who are not artists, and you don’t want to be dragged down into the hole they’re in.

Affects society, but is separate from it.

Knows that the power of their art supersedes the power of their pocketbook.

Doesn’t bitch about the value of their work. The value is established by the audience. Or, you have your own metric, but then you can’t bitch about the reaction or lack of acceptance.

Frequently creates alone, but oftentimes is inspired by interaction with others. And the closer they are to these others, the more contempt they have for them. You want to do it your way, they want to do it their way, and oftentimes this tension results in work that is better than either of you could do individually. Don’t confuse this with tracks built by twenty “songwriters.” There’s too much thinking involved in that, and art runs on instinct.

Let me repeat that, an artist runs on instinct, on their gut, on what feels right, and as soon as they go against that, they’re toast…their art is compromised.

An artist knows when they do great work. Which comes only occasionally. No one can ring the bell every time out. But when you’re channeling the gods, you know it. Actually, once you become aware that you’re walking on the tightrope, that you’re in the league of greatness, once you become self-conscious, you often fall. The key is to stay in the mood, the groove, for the duration of creation.

An artist is willing to fail. Not that they’re willing to share all their failures. But if you don’t play, you cannot win, you must be willing to fail in the eyes of the public.

Believes they’re God on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and a piece of crap the rest of the week.

Art is a Sisyphean task. Once you make it to the top, you roll right down to the bottom and have to start all over again.

WAP

Video

Lyrics

Maybe you should read the lyrics first.

“Wet Ass Pussy.” There, I said it, do you need to stop reading now? Does it offend your sense of propriety? Should little girls be seen but not heard? Has culture gone to hell in a handbasket? Can you handle the shenanigans of our president but not the words of some female rappers?’

Welcome to America, which has never forgotten its Puritan roots. Where sex is taboo. Even though the last time I checked that’s how you got here.

Do you think that Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion didn’t know they were pushing buttons, that they didn’t know they were going to get a rise (pun intended) out of staid society? Can you say Alice Cooper? Can you say Frank Zappa? Can you say PMRC?

Yes, every generation has its offenders and those up in arms. No one is complaining about the sex in Prince’s lyrics now that he’s dead. And what Lenny Bruce said seems tame today. Then again, how many people are truly offended by “WAP”? How many are offended who are not old boomers or religious zealots? Is it anti-feminism to embrace your sexuality?

So on one hand, same as it ever was. On the other, a great leap forward.

The goal wasn’t to have to continue to complain about differences between the sexes, but to be able to behave the same as men without consequences.

In other words, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion are not doing anything the men haven’t done before. Rock was built on sex (and sexism). We even had a band called “Whitesnake,” which released an album whose title track was “Slide It In” (which was quite good, in fact).

And then there are those who are complaining about the inclusion of Kylie Jenner, that she is appropriating black culture. But how can this be when the producers decided to include her, and not vice versa. Furthermore, Jenner had a baby at the ripe young age of 20, with Travis Scott, do those qualify as bona fides? But, African-Americans should not be complaining about Jenner’s inclusion, it demonstrates that they’ve won, that despite politics, culture is run by black people, certainly music. Actually, scrap that. The music business is not run by black people, but it’s African-Americans who dominate the end product, the music, who influence not only Americans but people around the world. That’s right, they don’t only rap in English these days.

We live in a bizarre world where all the kids want to be rappers. Just look at how the whites in backward burgs adopt the clothing and swagger of rappers. African-Americans should be laughing, that the oldsters may be up in arms, but they own the youngsters. And the last time I checked, people age and are ultimately thrown off the conveyor belt. And, as a result, we have gay marriage and legal marijuana and…how come the president can get away with his heinous activities and comments, certainly re women, but black entertainers cannot?

Oh, I’m not saying that African-Americans still don’t have a way to go in America. Economically, no doubt. And too many citizens of the United States are racists, and act accordingly. But the only way Trump can win the presidency is by rigging the game. But you can’t rig art. Rap has won. It has certainly replaced rock.

Why did rock die?

Let me count the ways. A refusal to embrace the internet, rockers still believe streaming is the devil, while rappers saw the future and posted on Soundcloud and gave away mixtapes and ultimately dominated streaming services. You embrace the future, you don’t complain about it. And rock became a caricature of itself. It’s no longer even “rock.” There’s Active Rock, where a harder edge is employed to demonstrate that it’s just not the same old thing, even though many old rock listeners don’t cotton to this aggressive, often atonal sound, never mind youngsters not even bothering to listen. Rock has become a backwater. You’ve got the Americanas and the Triple-A’s, but they don’t understand that the world is built on stars, and shoegazing is not that attractive. You need something undeniable. And one way to achieve that is through a train-wreck. And that’s what “WAP” is, you cannot help but pay attention.

And then it garners discussion. It’s a big story online. Isn’t this the same playbook Trump employs every damn day? To say the unsayable? Meanwhile, it worked for him, he got elected and the afraid Democrats, who cringed in horror, lost. Or, as Leonard Cohen sang, “Everybody Knows.” And everybody swears and those who do not have sex desire it and sexuality is built into the workplace. Sure, sexual bullying, sexual aggression, sexual power should have no place in the office. As for relationships? THAT’S WHERE YOU MEET PEOPLE! If you haven’t had a relationship with someone at work, you haven’t had a job. You will soon. Unless you’re already married.

So, “WAP” is better conceptually than it is as music. A swamp Zappa got stuck in once he decided he had to be the lead singer. It’s made to offend, it’s made for controversy more than it is for listening. But that’s okay. And, if you want to come back from a layoff you’ve got to make a splash, you’ve got to make news, in a world filled with a zillion messages that rarely last. Come on, “WAP” has been up front and center, part of the discussion for two days now. And do you expect people will be streaming and talking about it a month from now? Probably not. Which is why you need a steady stream of these events, i.e. singles, to keep the public’s attention.

So, the girls have stolen the mantle from the boys. They took their game, twisted it, improved it, and owned it. Despite all their swagger, men never owned sex, women did. They had to say yes. As for saying no…we call that rape, and anybody who boasts about that is a pariah.

And for years we’ve had feminists pooh-poohing the embrace of sexuality by younger women. How they dress, how they talk, how they dance, how they handle themselves. But by owning your sexual power…don’t you gain power? And how come we constantly deny the world runs on sex, especially when the richest man in the world throws over the mother of his children to run off with his best friend’s spouse? Yes, Jeff Bezos is beholden to the little head. Like all men. Money without sex means you won the game but got no trophy, none of the spoils.

There’s a lot to debate in all I’ve written above. Not all of it is black and white (pardon the pun). What is appropriate clothing, what is the right place to act sexually, do too many women adopt the cloak of sexuality and leave all their other power behind… But that is not what “WAP” is about. In a world where most feel powerless, both men and women, in the face of the government, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion have embraced their inner strength, which is what art is all about, and spoken truth to power. Yes, Trump may put on a tie, but he’s a certified horndog (as is Clinton), the women can’t be the same way either, they can’t embrace the power of the pussy, they can’t be active, not passive, they cannot rally their troops and make those on the fence question their beliefs?

This is Dada. “WAP” is in a long tradition of art. From the Impressionists on, it was about pushing the envelope. Yes, the Impressionists offended by painting everyday life, a taboo! Picasso and Braque threw representation right off the canvas, the result was abstract, something Jackson Pollock took to the limits. Duchamp declared a urinal an art piece, and Warhol did the same with soup cans. Not that fine art is driving the culture today, it’s akin to rock music, a self-referential backwater. But hip-hop dominates the culture, trends. For now, anyway. And rather than ask for permission, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion barged right in. That’s how you take power. If you ask, they never say yes.

But the audience, the culture, America, the world, has said yes to “WAP.” Google shows 79,400,000 results on the rapper and the song. And the official video already has 38 million views as I write this. But somehow, you believe with a fraction of this impact you should be paid the same. You call yourself an artist when nothing could be further from the truth. Artists take life, twist it and make us look at ourselves, make us think. Art raises questions. Art challenges taboos. Art hits you in both the head and the heart.

“WAP” is art.

Jaan Uhelszki-This Week’s Podcast

Jaan Uhelszki was senior editor at “Creem” and is the co-writer of the new documentary on the legendary music magazine. Listen to hear tales of Lester Bangs, her appearance on stage with KISS, how Ronnie Van Zant predicted his death and how Cameron Crowe inspired the arc of the film. Jaan’s got stories, and she tells them!

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Priscilla Block

Priscilla Block

I’d never heard of this woman before today. But right now she’s got the #1 track on iTunes… WHO?

So I started Googling, so far it’s just the country outlets with the story, not even “Billboard” has run one, HitsDailyDouble is silent…but Priscilla Block’s song “Just About Over You” is charting ahead of Harry Styles’s “Watermelon Sugar,” Billie Eilish’s “my future”…EVERYTHING!

So, the story is she broke on TikTok. With this song called “Thick Thighs.”

It’s not on the lyric sites. You see if you’re not part of the big ecosystem it’s like you don’t even exist. Hell, a friend of mine e-mailed me that he had dinner (outdoors) with friends and their 13 year old daughter and she had no clue who Rihanna and Cardi B were, her musical favorites were all TIKTOK ARTISTS!

In other words, when you’re chasing the mainstream, when you’re looking to become a diversified brand, are you missing the target? It all comes down to music, if you’re not releasing it regularly, you’re forgotten, not part of the discussion, replaced by something else. This is what the oldsters don’t understand, ALMOST NOTHING LASTS! No book, no movie, no music…it either sticks or it doesn’t, and in a world where what happens in the morning is old hat by the afternoon, not even part of the news, if you’re not coming up to bat frequently, you’ve already lost the game. This is reality, don’t shoot the messenger…shoot all those web-surfers not beholden to systems, going where the action is…isn’t this how Napster happened in the first place?

So, the song “Thick Thighs,” Priscilla’s breakthrough, the one that made inroads on TikTok, contains these lyrics:

I can’t be the only one who likes extra fries over exercise
I never eat the produce that I buy, so why even try
You can’t spell diet without ‘die’
I’ve been eating carbs since ’95
And I’ve heard thick thighs save lives

Now wait a minute here… Aren’t the venerated models ten feet tall and skinny as a rail? Don’t the women who design and market these clothes fast, seeming to eat on alternate days at best? Doesn’t the media fat-shame on a regular basis? SO WHY IS PRISCILLA BLOCK RESONATING? Because she’s speaking to the people. And come on, a song entitled “Thick Thighs,” that’s a natural if you’re on TikTok (and if you’re worried about privacy, sign in with Sign in With Apple and lie about your age, you’re covered, at least to a greater degree than if you signed up directly).

Now this “Country Now” article:

Who is Priscilla Block? What You Need To Know About The Viral Sensation

says Priscilla has no label, but I got e-mail from a guy who says he’s aligned on the label side, who knows. But if you go to Priscilla’s homepage and click on “Representation” all you get is a Gmail address.

Now to be honest, I can’t say I heard “Thick Thighs” as an instant smash. Maybe it’s the mix. The lyrics don’t stick out as much as I believe they should. Who knows, but it’s resonating with the TikTok audience. If you click through, you will find that there are 108 videos using the song, never mind how many times each has been viewed:

TikTok Thick Thighs

But how did everyone know about the new song, “Just About Over You”?

Well, Priscilla has been teasing it on Instagram, revealing her honest life, not posturing like the so-called “influencers.”

But really, it’s her videos on TikTok that are rallying her fan base.

So, on 7/14, Priscilla uploads a video of her singing a song she wrote yesterday, i.e. “Just About Over You.”

TikTok Just About Over You

Unlike those competing on TV singing shows, SHE WROTE IT!

And then Priscilla posted the following day that the song has gotten 230,000 views in less than 24 hours, and she’s singing the song again and she writes…

TikTok “What? Y’all think I should record this?”

Engaging with the audience directly, not via the intermediaries, not only not the press, but not the playlists either. Then, on 7/17 Priscilla says “The fact that I wrote this song 4 days ago…y’all are insane! Should I record it???”

TikTok Should I record it???

Do you see the difference between this and the Spotify complainers? Block is singing the hook of the song, which is catchy, over and over again in all these clips and now… She’s got the number one song on iTunes!

Oh yeah, what does that mean? Is she atop the Spotify Top 50, what does Mediabase say?

Yes, sales don’t mean what they used to, but they do show an active fan base…Block is a queen where it counts, online, on TikTok…

I recommend listening to “Just About Over You” via this lyric video, made not by an official company, a member of Priscilla’s team, but a fan, ergo the usage errors:

Priscilla Block – Just About Over You

The best line is:

I don’t scroll through the past anymore ’cause I don’t care

SCROLL! That’s what we do these days, that’s what we ALL do these days, scroll on our phones. But the Spotify-haters living in the old world are so busy writing platitudes detached from real people that they don’t resonate.

“Just About Over You” is the classic story. It’s over, you put on your best look, try and feel good in your skin and clothes, go out to start over and…you run into them. If this hasn’t happened to you, you’ve never had a significant other, or have never left the house.

And if you listen to “Just About Over You” it competes with the rest of what’s on the country hit parade, a ton of it dreck with execrable lyrics, and the mention of Block’s ex’s truck does make me wince, but that’s the only offense, and as I say, most of what’s on the hit parade is even further compromised.

And how come Priscilla Block understands a hit chorus when all those complaining they can’t make it in music don’t?

What happens now?

Maybe it’ll be over soon. After all, there’s not a concomitant explosion of listens on Spotify or YouTube…but maybe that’s not where the audience is anyway. They live on TikTok. And Priscilla Block proves if you just think it’s mindless videos, that is untrue, TikTok is a community, where the active music audience resides.

The success of Priscilla Block is exciting. And that’s something that has been rare in the music business for so long, we get a marketing buildup, stories everywhere, whereas by connecting directly with the audience with authentic songs Priscilla Block has resonated. WOW!