Digital Drivel or Analog Art?

The Grammys awards had a pretty good string of live performances this year, and a great thematic, subtextual message emerged. There were certainly some of the usual flashy getups and hair colors performing and in attendance, but many of those that won last year could have been “flavors of the month,” as good, old-fashioned artistry fared well.

Retro phenom Adele took six, and indie-darling Justin Vernon of Bon Iver won two, saying, “When I started to make songs, I did it for the inherent reward of making songs, so I’m a little bit uncomfortable up here. But with that discomfort, I do have a sense of gratitude.”

Kanye West took home four Grammys, although he didn’t attend and may have been home thinking about his rude interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMAs a year or so ago? It was interesting to hear Swift singing the lyrics “I’ll be singing this at the Grammys and all you’re gonna be is mean” in her song, “Mean,” which won two Grammys. (Swift says the song is to her critics, most likely to music critic Bob Lefsetz.)

I think Dave Grohl best summed up the theme of the year in receiving one of his four Grammy awards:

“This… was a special record for our band. Rather than go to the best studio in the world down the street in Hollywood and rather than use all of the fanciest computers that money can buy, we made this one in my garage with some microphones and a tape machine.

“This award means a lot because it shows that the human element of music is what’s important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that’s the most important thing for people to do. It’s not about being perfect, it’s not about sounding absolutely correct, it’s not about what goes on in a computer. It’s about what goes on in here [points to heart] and what goes on in here [points to head].”

Do you have any observations or opinions on where music and artistry are heading? Will we get more lightweight, auto-tune, digital drivel or back to basics, master-craft, analog art?



  1. Maybe people are searching for genuine. Retro singers, garage band winners and honest lyrics may signal a desire for music listeners to find a feeling of “real.” In a world that’s in a lot of turmoil, polarization and mis-trust, maybe people are seeking an alternative through their music.

    • Chip Brown says:

      I agree, Wayne. I think it is a search for the genuine, and perhaps analog = authentic. I’ve seen the retrp trend coming at least since Amy Winehouse, Mad Men, She & Him, etc., and the Grammys of course also had retro-style Bruno Mars, Tony Bennett, and a Beatle singing standards. But the public longing is surely more than just a style thing.

  2. Mike Colucci says:

    Hi, Chip. I get what you’re trying to say, but I think analog vs. digital is not the most useful way to look at it. The media and the tools will always be changing. Ultimately, it comes down to being creative enough to warrant attention. If Bach was stranded on a desert island with nothing but empty coconuts and an iPad, he’d still be able to create something close to immortal. (Granted, it would probably sound a little different.)

    • Chip Brown says:

      Hi, Mike. I think we agree. It’s not the form that ultimately matters. Audiences tend to seek out quality content regardless of the media or tools used. I can hear Bach’s Coconut Concerto in my head already!

  3. themarginalthinker says:

    i think at some point people are going to get fed up with the auto-tune teen singers. Staying power requires real chops and great song writing – which is why I think Adele has touched such a raw nerve in many of us – thanks for posting

  4. Hey Chip!! Great commentary! I did not watch all of the Grammys, but sat and watched and listened in horror when that “song” by Nicky Minaj was featured. I absolutely love the variety of different music genres and applaud creativity, but what IS that kind of music? Do you think that type of music or artist really has any staying power?

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