Trent Reznor

Artistic integrity VERSUS pleasing “hip blogs”

In a recent interview, NIN-frontman Trent Reznor said, “I get the sense that a lot of bands today are designing themselves to get a good review in the hip blogs and that is probably the safest and most cowardly thing you can do as an artist. If you have something to say, then say it. Express yourself and break the rules.”

It got me thinkin’…

How much do young bands actually shape their sound towards current perceptions of what’s cool? Probably quite a bit, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Musicians learn by mimicking; the best bands steal from many sources and then synthesize those sounds together in some interesting new way. But it all begins with copying, and for many younger bands that means copying what’s either hip or popular (or both).

And if their influences are evident in their music, then it’s possible that the bands Reznor has called “cowardly” are not crafting their art with Pitchfork or CoS in mind at all, but that it’s all part of the same modern milieu — as both band and blog share similar tastes and target audiences. Maybe these bands ARE saying exactly what they want to say with their music, and it simply doesn’t interest Trent Reznor, or anyone else that would make a blanket statement about new music not having the same magic that it once did… when you were 13.

Reznor does knowingly qualify his argument, though: “I’m saying this as an old guy.”

And as you get older, you’re less easily impressed, right? So perhaps it’s not a case of all modern rock sounding the same, or all indie folk sounding bland and aloof, or all new hip hop sounding like it’s afraid to take real chances. Maybe the danger and emotion and import Reznor valued in the music that once inspired him is just as present in new music (or some of it, at least), but he’s not hearing it, or not responding to it as an older listener who’s been-there-done-that.

What do you think? Is the heart and soul of music as large as ever? Is Trent Reznor’s accusation of cowardly bands making safe musical choices in order to please hip blogs accurate? Or is he just looking back on the music that moved him as a young artist, getting all nostalgic, and then missing the fact that the same forces are still at work in the world for young musicians today? In short: how do you feel about music being made today?

Let us know in the comments section below.

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