“There’s something missing in the music industry today… and it’s music.”
Mariah Carey’s performance last night in New York City, on New Year’s Eve 2016 of all places, again showed us just how far autopilot has taken over flying the plane, so to speak, as that relates (by way of analogy) to technology in the music industry. But let me first be clear about this. I am not bashing Carey as there has been enough press doing that this morning. In fact, the video of the debacle (i.e., Carey’s performance) is all over the internet; you can’t miss it. However, I will say this (perhaps in defense of Carey); I felt sorry for her. Wealth and looks aside, she was embarrassed on one of the biggest stages in music. No one wants to see someone ridiculed that bad despite what that performer might be like as a person or how difficult that performer might be to work with.
Furthermore, in fairness, Carey is far from the first performer to be in this position. We all remember the Milli Vanilli fiasco from 1989’s MTV performance and in fact people still refer to that “act” today when hinting at a fake. Then there was Brittney Spears’ 2007 MTV VMA performance of Gimme More. That lip sync spot was a direct hit on Spears’ comeback which was then followed by a stint in rehab and the loss of custody of her children. Finally, add to that Ashlee Simpson and her own professional trainwreck which occurred in 2004 during a performance on Saturday Night Live.
Here’s the point. I don’t want to bash Carey for being a fake or a buffoon herself; instead, I want to bash the music industry for repeatedly getting us further off course by using more technology in the place of more people. As we go further down the line with things like “autotune” and “sampling” in this digital age of ours, you can expect to see more of last night. And, if even the show does go off without a glitch, it will still resemble karaoke much more than any live band ever could.
We need to put musicians back where they belong; working and playing music. When I go to see a musical act I want to see a musician; not a creative computer programmer. If that had been the case last night for Carey in that she was backed up with a band and not paired with pre-recorded musical tracks would the same result have been reached? Probably not.
But I also understand that with more people comes more cost. I get it. It’s the money. Nevertheless, we have to figure out the economics and get back to our roots. We know how to do that (i.e., go back to our roots) don’t we? In fact, isn’t that the case with the millennials who have just rediscovered “vinyl”? I found that rediscovery to be a curious but refreshing about face because clearly vinyl is not the most advanced medium to listen to music with. But despite its technological shortcomings; it’s just a fun thing to do. You know, look at a record and hold one in your hands. If that be the case, then we should–as an industry–revert back to live performers instead of pre-made, pre-recorded, pre-digested, pre-processed, and pre-approved performances.
Let’s start 2017 the right way and take last night’s performance by Mariah Carey and turn it into a positive and use it as a reminder that imperfection is really not that bad. In fact, it is life. Real life at that and that is precisely why we want it.