You have tried your best to please everyone (but it just isn’t happening)


For once, I am going to engage in a post that is largely topical rather than personally important. A few days ago I noted, with interest, the tracklisting of the forthcoming soundtrack to “Twilight: New Moon”. It contains a number of musicians who one would not immediately associate with a film aimed prodominantly at young teenage girls, such as Thom Yorke, Grizzly Bear and an intriguing collabaration between Bon Iver and St. Vincent. An almighty fuss has erupted over the blogterweb (TM) from the two differing cultures as to why each appears to be fusing with the other.

Fans of the Twilight series will be eyeing the unfamiliar band names suspiciously, or just ignoring the music and fawning over a film that has been perfectly engineered to exploit their uncertain hormonal bodies (this is just my opinion, and probably isn’t true. It’s also probably not true that Robert Pattinson was synthetically created in a lab as the ultimate recipient of screeching fangirls, but you never know).

On the other hand, fans of many of the bands appearing on the soundtrack are crying foul, claiming they are selling out, or somehow dooming the indie culture to ridicule. Personally, I think that this is particularly (although not unexpectedly) haughty of said fans, to presume that the film is not worthy of the quality of music. Even worse are those fans who have been led to believe that in this post-Napster world they have some control over how an artist chooses to output his music. It is the choice of the music’s creator how it should be put to use, they are under no obligation to cater to the tastes of their current followers.

One particularly ludicrous argument is that the bands on the soundtrack are somehow aiming at the wrong audience, simply because they are part of a different self-appointed culture to those who are most likely to watch the film. In some extreme cases they may have a point, but not in this specific one. If we assume that the audience will be packed with the sort of tweenagers that packed the previous film in the franchise, then in fact this would be the perfect choice for a band. The age group is one that is unsure of its musical preference, and can be susceptible to gentle persuasion by any number of genres. If the soundtrack opens just the one Twilight fan up to some of the glorious albums that have been made by the soundtracks contributing artists then it is not a failure. The next generation of elitist, pretentious indie hipsters may be eagerly awaiting New Moon’s release as we speak.

I’m not saying that some of the anger is unreasonable, after all, when a favoured band releases new material, you do not want to have to pay to see an overly commercialized PG film just to hear it legitimately. So its lucky that people can just buy the soundtrack, treat it as a sort of informal compilation, and ignore the whole Twilight franchise.

“But, O wise blogger”, I hear you cry, “I am still giving my money over in support of this franchise that oh so contravenes my precious indie sensibilities”. At which point I start getting Clint Eastwood-grouchy, tell you to get off my e-lawn and reach for my pistol. Because let’s be honest, why should the place in which music is used matter more than the music itself? I would understand if these bands had slightly changed the style of their music to suit the new audiences tastes. That would be selling out, and would warrant outrage. But, as far as I’m aware the bands involveed are simply making more of the music they love to make, and have chosen to market it towards a slightly different audience. That is their choice.

The rise of free music has now meant that a lot of listeners associate bands attached to commercial projects as “greedy”. But why should other song they write end up making them no money? I don’t really want to wade into the whole file-sharing debate, at least, not yet, but I will say this. A group of musicians, whose professional job it is to create music in whatever form they so choose, should earn the money they deserve from putting so much time into said music. In this society, when a job is done well, the services are paid for. This is a golden rule in most aspects of capitalism, and yet somehow that rule is being broken in music, mostly because of the prevalance of the internet and the large-scale possibilities it allows.

So the artists who appear on the soundtrack have every reason to appear on it, to attract new fans and to make money. But more importantly because they have exercised the freedom they have as an artist to choose which project their music will appear on. Fans have no right to question that choice, save if the project itself is unethical.

It could be argued that the Twilight series is overblown, greedy and just downright terrible. But it could never be argued that it is unethical.

(PS: Pitchfork has placed The National’s Boxer at No. 110 on their Top 200 Albums Of The Decade list. A deep sadness has overwhelmed me that this number is the actual number it is at, as opposed to the binary number of its position)

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About Alex Pavitt
I work in the field of emotion. My tools are instinctual feelings and my laptop is the medium between my brain and the outside world. I deconstruct and rebuild. I imagine. I steal other people's lyrics because somtimes, my own words aren't enough. I spend all of my time somewhere inside my head. I worship Douglas Adams, and in the back of my mind I am always painfully aware that I will never be as good as him or, for that matter, anybody else.

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