Art or Gimmick?

Ever since Jay Z’s debut of his “performance art” video “Picasso Baby,” I’ve been wondering about these latest attempts at redefining music. It seems obvious to me that Jay Z is making a statement about art vs. commerce (or do the two collide here in his so-called “performance art” of rap music in the museum space of Pace Gallery?).  Is this what pop music stars now have to do to entice the public to take their music seriously?

Or is Jay Z just trying to take hip-hop to “the next level,” and if so, what “next level” would that be?

Here’s the video:


Posted on August 5, 2013, in current trends, music. Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. Thank you Hg for the thought provoking post. Hmm, that’s a hard one. The music industry and how music is presented to the public is evolving and of course, that is due to technology. My take is that Jay Z is using technology to show the art form of rap?!?! Jay Z has the power to make his music go in any direction and it would be excepted. Power used for good is divine.

  2. I guess I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, I think it’s intriguing that Jay Z is trying to move the genre of rap to other frames of reference (but I do wonder if it holds the same authenticity). On the other hand, this video feels too edited for me. One thing I love about live music is the genuineness of it, the raw realness. And I’m not talking about live music where the backing track is so loud you can’t even tell if someone is actually singing.
    I almost wish they had sacrificed the studio-quality audio here for just having the camera run continuously and post it as-is. I know that good editing is necessary sometimes but when I’m watching a live performance, I think editing it takes away some of the power. But that’s just me.

    As far as the gimmick aspect…I think if you’re real in your music, it shows. Whether you’re performing that music at a concert, in an art gallery, on the street, in your bedroom. Real is real. Clearly some people are more commercially successful at it than others though.

  3. I tend to agree with you Ali.

  4. It’s taken me a while to comment because the only thing I got out of the video is that JayZ wants us to see him (as stated in his lyrics) as the “modern day Pablo Picasso”. Without understanding why he chooses to draw parallels between himself and Picasso, I’m leaning toward gimmick. I do see rap as a form of artwork but JayZ’s song just doesn’t inspire my imagination.

  5. My thoughts? Gimmick.

    Art is totally subjective; so some will declare this to be art, and some will laugh at the very suggestion. I have yet to find anything I consider artistic in profanity or repeated vulgarities set to a beat, but I may be the only one who feels that way. Our culture equates money with power. If you have enough of either—or both, in Jay-Z’s case—you can call it whatever you want and take it to the bank.

    • I would agree that if you have money in this culture that you have power. Then you can do or call it whatever you want. Good point. I is a very small group that can do that.

    • Absolutely no need for profanity or repeated vulgarities set to a beat, but I have to admit to you that I have listen and enjoyed some of that stuff…but again I’m only listening to the beat. There’s music I listen to that I only pay attention to the beat because it make me feel like dancing, but really don’t listen to the words. Sociality in general are kind of desensitized to the kind of language, which is a shame, the shock is no longer there. If you only could take the power of profanity away, maybe these singer wouldn’t make them a part of their songs.

  6. whatever you are not alone, on tha thought,

  7. David’s buddy Joy Williams (TheCivilWars) has a #1 CD on itunes.. way you get power and money is from being on top no? maybe she can help David find his way upon his return.

    • I read that this album was being released through Columbia Records, as opposed to independent like the last one. It’s a shame they won’t be able to tour for it but it seems the story of their falling out is generating quite a bit of publicity for the album.

      • the cd is good too.. didn’t know they went thru Columbia Records. as I recall they sold a ton with their last cd too? I think good music folks do notice like when Adele’s 21 popped and it went viral almost over night. as I recall the chatter on twitter about how great it was was ott.
        if Joy is not touring maybe she will have time to work with David if he so wishes.

    • Joy W. released a solo album as TCW?

      And didn’t she already “help” David with TOSOD? To what effect?

      • I for one love all the songs Joy wrote with David. I do hope they work together again. Joy is a talented writer. I don’t care if its not a commercial success. Big deal. I want quality music. There are lots of successful songs that I don’t like. Most rap for instant especially the ones with lots of curse words. I

  8. For me it’s all about context. I’m not gonna clutch my pearls over an occasional curse word if I feel it’s there for a reason. I understand that some people are never ok with profanities and I respect that. Personally, I find that words have the power you allow them so there are some occasions were I find it fitting and some where I don’t. Using vulgarities just in an attempt to be edgy doesn’t do it for me though.

    • doesn’t Sara B put it out there too and she is a fav of Davids? not really familiar with her but from following her I do know she is a salty dog at times. just think the culture you grow up in dictates your expression and where David is concerned it seems his mormon faith is his culture.

      • Yup she does. She had a song on her last EP called Sweet As Whole that I thought was really funny, very tongue-in-cheek but definitely not for those who don’t like any profanities in music. I liked how she turned the words around to her own purpose, singing the song very sweetly but contrasting that with what she was saying. Her sense of humor seems to click with me.

      • Actually not all songs don’t need to be squeaky clean, there is room for every type of songs, but to have a song with nothing but profanities and vulgarities just, imo is not needed. Love me some edge.

  9. In reply to the last thread, I don’t think David will go the religious route — and I wasn’t implying that he would.

    I think he will continue to try to meet the disparate demands of his very vocal reality show fans and he will fail (a la NMHF). Meanwhile, the music where he follows his heart (a la GCT) will continue to quietly sell in the summer two years after it was released.

    He has NO support from U.S. radio or video channels for his pop songs/videos. Why folks want him to continue in that vein is baffling. What do you think is going to turn that around? Kari? She was on his team when TOSOD and NMHF were released.

    I understand it’s hard to adjust from a platinum pop song, but that was 2008. Jive/Fuller told David that he only had a year to do the teen pop thing and then he could move on. They’ve obviously moved on. My advice to you is to kiss radio’s ass goodbye. Those of you who want to fabricate David into some kind of Jesse Mac/JT/Bruno Mars/Buble/whatever other artist is it at the moment — well, good luck, with your frankensinger creation.

    But then you are fans of reality. LOL.

    • man you are a sick one

    • So how did you discovered David?

    • I think he’ll come back and sing polka. Polka has been looking for a really good vocalist to shoot their star right up into the stratosphere for at least the last decade. I see a big break coming. I bet they’ll even make a reality show looking for the next aspiring polka star once it becomes the folk/pop trend of 2016. David will be pegged to judge. I mean, since he’ll be THE authority in polka by then. Oh Gosh. He’ll give some awesome critiques. Anon, you should really give reality tv a try. It’s where all the cool kids will be.

    • Shanny in Australia

      Interesting post Anon. I agree with a lot of it BUT I think it’s all more complicated than that.

      I also think that David was following his heart in many ways with Begin. And I think he is currently the driving force behind the pop sound, although I do think that that gets swayed in certain directions by fan opinion at times. I sure would love to know his reasons for sticking with real middle-of-the-road-pop when he has so many choices before him.

      I’m curious….what kind of music do you think David would make if he was purely following his heart? And why?

    • So all the reality fans need to go away and then he will be successful, hmm.
      I give a lot more credit to David than you do, I believe that he is strong enough to know what is best for himself. As far as fans wanting to speculate, no harm in that, so maybe you could lighten up a bit understand that any fan is a good fan as long as they buys his music.

  10. Ode to fan wars and bickering on the Internet:

  11. Anon, David’s “reality show” fans were most likely the fans that bought GCT and made it the #1 classical album because it was on sale for $2.99. I saw comments on fan sites that fans were buying in bulk to give out as gifts. I also know that we “reality show” fans do not think alike. There are some that want David to continue on with pop music, but I also see posts that some want him to sing more soulful or more indie, or more rock, or Spanish or more jazzy, or whatever…. I agree with kimak – David is going to do as he wishes. I kind of hope he does an eclectic mix, but that’s what I like. Each of us want him to do the music that we like. My guess is tha he will do the Spanish album he has been talking about.

    • Shanny in Australia

      It doesn’t matter that some of David’s fans are fans of reality shows. David himself, was a reality show fan! lol

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