The S/T Newsletter #2: Understanding and Judging Music as Art and Entertainment (Teaser)
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In 2017, Phil Elverum released an album called A Crow Looked At Me, under his Mount Eerie moniker. It was released shortly after the death of his wife, and it becomes clear less than a minute into the record that its creation served as therapy for Elverum to process and grieve her passing. It consists mostly of nothing but Elverum’s voice and his acoustic guitar, inviting listeners to share in his pain. It’s one of the most brutal, miserable experiences you can have with an album, because pressing play essentially means giving consent to learn how it feels for your soulmate to die. It’s for that reason that A Crow Looked At Me is also one of the greatest albums of all time, and a magnificent work of art; it’s so effective in evoking the artists’ intended emotion in its listeners that most won’t even go back a second time, but are deeply moved after hearing it just one time all the way through.
Seven months after A Crow Looked At Me wasreleased, Florida rapper Lil Pump dropped his self-titled debut album. It is about as far away from Elverum’s work as musically possible, and exactly what you’d think a seventeen year old who suddenly became extremely rich and famous through viral bass-boosted Soundcloud songs would put out for a debut record; a bunch of aggressive, fun-loving brag anthems. Lil Pump wasn’t interested in tugging at heartstrings or making you think; He wanted to make people head-bang in their cars and jump up and down at house parties and shows. He succeeded. Lil Pump is a blast, a genuinely enjoyable listen that’s full of the type of trunk-rattling, triplet-chanting Florida rap that exploded in popularity during the middle of the 2010’s.
Reading reviews and write-ups concerning both A Crow Looked At Me and Lil Pump, both were received positively, with Elverum’s work being especially acclaimed for good reason. It’s the tone in which the records are discussed, though, where things get interesting. A Crow Looked At Me was treated with immense respect, in part because of how vulnerable Elverum was on the record and with respect for the loss that inspired it. However, it can’t be ignored how critics speak about Elverum in a way that places him above them as an artist and human (which he is, at least in terms of the former) while addressing Lil Pump like a little kid who stumbled into a fun set of songs.
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