I watched a brief clip of one of the current TV talent shows recently and noticed the trend of using superlatives to describe new artists seems to be at an all time high. It seems that every third act is described as “brilliant” “star quality” and “incredible” The problem with such a liberal use of language is that ultimately all such descriptions become totally meaningless. ..In my opinion there are a very few artists that are “brilliant” or “incredible” and many of these from my experience have been developing their craft over a significant period of time. Such artists have highs and lows in their professional careers, but are constantly pushing the musical boundaries to create challenging, entertaining and inspirational original material.

My personal list of  what I would call “brilliant artists”  include Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, John Hiatt, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, among others. That said each of these artists have had highs and lows. Dylan when on form can be extraordinary with albums like “Blood on the Tracks” and “Highway 61” but who is ever going to listen to his X Mas album? Waits and Cave are always interesting but I can’t help but imagine Tom’s record company groaned when he released “The Black Rider” Similarly Neil Young was sued by Geffen for making “uncommercial music and although many will favour Harvest and After the Gold rush, I think his “Ditch trio” of “On the beach” “Time fades away” and “Tonight’s the night” are extraordinary.

On a recent social media thread I commented on my personal dislike for pre teen artists on TV talent shows. I don’t blame the artist, but I do think its pretty irresponsible  When an artist is “signed” the record company invests in that artist like any commercial business and like any commercial business expects a return on their investment. Yes, the artist can get massive publicity, but only a small percentage earn a substantial living as an artist. Recently I was talking to a fellow musician in New York, who commented that Alanis Morissette was touring with just one guitarist to make the tour commercially viable. Another friend of mine with over three decades in the music business is touring Australia but the record company will only fund economy class airline seats as the audiences are a mere thousand in each venue.

The problem I have with many TV talent shows is that they often promote the idea of “instant fame” and performers become almost delusional in their aspirations. This has also created from what I see more polarized opinions. Often when someone comments on such matters on social media they can be accused of “trashing” or “bashing” the performers, rather than engaging in useful and valuable discussion. Discussion and critical thinking are essential for any field to develop and I for one welcome such debates and discussion.

nick cody




Too many superlatives when describing artists?

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