give the people what they don’t want

Now here’s a dilemma.

It says here Robin Thicke’s latest album Here, My Dear, er, Pamela, sold only a few hundred copies in Canada during its first week of release. Worse, press giddy with schadenfraude are reporting, the awkward aural love-letter sold “less than 54 copies” in Australia. As in 53 copies? Well, less than 54, anyway.

It’s significant for two reasons. For one, it’s the first time sales figures in Australia have made international news. (Indeed, no one appears to have looked into how many copies Thicke’s previous album sold in Australia during its first week of release, which might have been a handy reference point.)

More than that, however, is the possibility — nay, the probability — that such apathy reflects the arrival of an artistic triumph.

Makes sense to me, anyway. After all, if I were to compile a list (objectively, of course) of the greatest albums of all time, it would surely include such commercial missteps as the first Velvet Underground album, The Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society, The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle and Kate et Anna McGarrigle’s Entre la jeunesse et la sagesse. Chances are, combined first-week sales figures in Australia for that quartet of masterpieces would make Paula look like a chart-topper in waiting. Or how ’bout Henry the Human Fly, the first solo album by Richard Thompson — supposedly, the worst selling album in Warner Bros. Records’ history? (No, Thicke is not a Warner Music recording artist.) Or, say, Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock, the album that pretty much killed the commercial career of the enigmatic artist Mark Hollis.

Some of the finest music ever captured on tape/vinyl/aluminum. Duds, all.

Does this mean Thicke’s Paula is one of the greatest albums of all time? Obviously. I’m still not buying it. Neither, apparently, are you. Which is a shame, as we are missing out on one for the ages.

And speaking of missing out, and of misunderstood artists, check this out. According to a FAF magazine contributor evidently hearing the music of Yoko Ono for the first time, the artist’s Glastonbury set was “the worst live performance of all time.” The worst. Of all time. Worse than even the worst Presidents of the United States of America show. Remember that band that was eighth on the bill at that Club SAW all-ages show 10 years ago? Remember Ashlee Simpson on Saturday Night Live? Remember Tom Cochrane? This was worse.

Why? Because superlatives are cool. The coolest, even. And, more importantly, perspective is for losers.

As evidence, FAF offers a stunning performance of Ono’s primal pièce de resistance, Don’t Worry Kyoko. The weeping and a-wailing rendition echoes the striking original, which can be found on Ono’s 1970 debut album. It’s an album that 44 years on, continues to defy description. It’s also a work of staggering significance, which like John Lennon’s simultaneously released solo debut, endures as a towering artistic work. Seriously, if you have Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band in your collection, you probably never need to buy a hardcore record. It’s that intense. (Yoko also gave us this haunting number, which inspired Alex Chilton’s finest song. So there.)

Funny thing, though: Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band probably only sold about 53 copies during its first week of release.

And yes, the press loved that too.

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