MuchMusic has this contest going on right now called “Coca Cola Covers”. You submit a video of yourself covering one of six predetermined songs, and whoever ends up being crowned the victor more or less gets a foot in door of the music business, with money for a music video and digital distribution for one of their original songs.
Today I came within a belch of submitting my own video. If you know me at all, you’re probably wondering right about now if I suffered a traumatic head injury that destroyed two thirds of my brain.
Let me explain.
A handful of people have, at one time or another, told me, “If you just got rid of some of the weirdness and unpredictability in your music, promoted yourself, and went through conventional channels, you could really go somewhere and make a career out of this.”
My thinking was this: by submitting a cover to this contest only to have a whole lot of nothing come of it, I would be able to say to these people, “Look. Here’s solid evidence that you’re wrong. I’m not a bankable artist, even when I try to bend myself in that direction. I’m not even bankable when I’m playing bankable songs. It just isn’t going to happen. So stop saying that shit to me.”
I didn’t expect there was any chance I would win. I didn’t expect there was any danger of me even making it to the semifinals. The whole idea was to use the contest as an excuse to make a small statement. And maybe, while I was at it, I’d be able to slip in some subversive ideas about music being more than just a product.
(If you must know, it was a Selena Gomez song I was going to put my own spin on.)
Then I came to my senses and realized there was no point. The whole thing would be a complete waste of time, and here’s why. I can tell you right now who’s going to win this thing. It’s going to be a guy or a girl, probably about eighteen years old, with more looks than talent.
Sure, they’ll be able to strum a few chords on an acoustic guitar and sing more or less in tune, with a voice that has no real personality. They’ll also be completely devoid of any creative fire. They’ll be someone cute enough to sell a music video that’s made to look like a phone sex commercial, and meek enough to do whatever they’re told. The person who wins is going to be the most marketable, inoffensive, cookie cutter karaoke singer they can find. Anyone who has anything approaching a unique voice or something interesting to say won’t even get a second look.
The more I ruminate on this, the clearer it becomes to me. The moment I start to think there’s any point in someone like me getting involved in this kind of farce, it’s time for me to sell all my gear and hang it up. My cynicism is not a shield. It’s a weapon. And I don’t feel I have anything left to prove to anyone. I need to cut that impulse off right at the knees anytime it shows up.
But let’s assume for a second that I did go through with submitting my video cover, whatever the motivation was. Let’s pretend it caught someone’s attention, it picked up steam, and then the unthinkable happened: I won.
They would hit me in the ass with a giant boot before I even walked through the door, because I would reject the digital distribution deal (I’m not selling my music…we’ve established that before). And if I was given a platform to speak to a large group of mainstream music fans, this is what I would say to them:
“I don’t like popular music. I entered this contest as a bit of a joke, and I think me winning it is an even bigger joke. But since I’m here, let me give you some food for thought.
If you like the pop music that gets played on commercial radio, that’s great. Enjoy it. Don’t let me or any of the hipsters who smell their own flatulence make you feel guilty about it. By the same token, just because Pitchfork tells you some indie band is brilliant because they have good taste in the artists they steal their ideas from, it doesn’t mean they’re any good, and it doesn’t mean you should buy their albums. Everyone is entitled to be moved by whatever it is that moves them.
I suggest you unplug your television, get off the internet, and make an effort to seek out things you haven’t heard before. Step outside of your comfort zone. Figure out what it is that really hits you in the gut, divorced from any hype or marketing gimmicks. Go see some live shows happening in your city. Listen to your college or university radio station. Pick up some music magazines you’ve never read before and buy CDs by artists who seem interesting to you, without knowing what the music actually sounds like beforehand.
Take some chances. Surprise yourself. Don’t let the media determine for you what music has worth and what doesn’t. You have this thing between your ears called a brain. Use it. Decide for yourself what speaks to you.”
I would either hear a whole lot of crickets, or maybe it would stimulate some discussion. And fuck man, we don’t want that. What kind of world would it be if we weren’t all mindless consumers who ate whatever shit was put on a plate in front of us and announced it was the best meal we ever had because someone else told us it was delicious? What kind of horrific fucked up world would we be living in then?
Let me be clear. I have nothing at all against anyone who enters this contest. I think it’s great if they get something positive out of it. I hope someone with some real talent and something to say wins, and I hope they get a chance to be heard. Hell, I hope someone from Windsor wins it.
Is that going to happen? Not on your life. But you know what George Michael said, before he was entrapped by a cop at a urinal.
“I want your sex.”
Maybe that wasn’t the quote I was going for. But it’ll do for now.