So here’re the thing. I mean, the thing is…
I have been thinking about “the thing” since I left Terminal 5 last night.
Earlier this week, someone asked me to read their work and I said, “Would you like me to look at it as a reader or a critic?” to which the response was along the lines of, “Is that even possible?” And the answer is both yes and no. You can never stem the tide, but you can turn the faucet way down.
I think that it’s a habit you pick up along the way, as a means of retaining some of the pure pleasure and enjoyment in the art that you love. But it’s also a habit that, as a critic, you’re not allowed to indulge in often, or at least publicly, because your lifeblood is intellectualizing and contextualizing text into a system of broader concepts and patterns, interpretations and connections. You must prove that you are seeing what others might miss and you have to back that up. Fair is fair, after all.
But even critics circle back around that question of authenticity, it’s like blood in the water to a shark. They’ll at least swim over and have a peek, although they’re often hesitant to indulge in a bite.
I’m often teased about what has been referred to as my “unbridled enthusiasm” for certain musicians and writers and artists, what have you. And I get it… up to a certain point. I know that there is something just the tiniest bit silly about my penchant for reverting to teenage fandom, starry-eyed gazes. I know that I look a bit weird clutching my hands to my chest and swaying with my eyes closed to a certain track.
But look. I could contextualize why I love music for you all. I mean, I’m certainly CAPABLE of using that language, I have access to it, it’s not really an issue for me.
My question becomes… how often are we able to just indulge in the things that we love? And when we’re offered the opportunity, holy shit. Why don’t we indulge in them even MORE? And I truly feel that every critic (or rather, what I would consider to be every GOOD critic – topic for another day) feels that this question is important, even when they’re doing their job. In fact, I believe that having this question in the forefront of your mind might just be the missing piece that enables thoughtful, provocative, useful criticism.
Hey, don’t get me wrong. I can snipe and snark with the best of ‘em. I could write you a review explaining why such and such a track was vital to the setlist or how St. Vincent’s morphing stage persona is vitally important to gender issues, particularly in music, or I could start dissecting the influence that David Byrne had on what happened up there last night on stage.
Or I could tell you that the show made my freaking life. For a few hours (and maybe it’s the only chance that I would have all day, or will have all week or all month), I got to truly, deeply love something. Just love it. And I didn’t have to appropriate it or analyze it.
I just had to love it.
And that’s the source of my enthusiasm. I think that I’m going to stick with it.