So much negativity.
First, it was a wave of protest against the return of Kanye West to Ottawa’s summer Rockfest. Dozens of narrow-minded “music lovers” have spoken out against the hip hopper’s inclusion in a lineup that otherwise features such top-line talent as one surviving member of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Again, that’s a few dozen disgruntled patrons out of a few hundred thousand likely attendees.
You’d be surprised.
Okay, so you’re not surprised. You should be, though. You really should.
Less surprising — and more reassuring — was the announcement this week that a few of the biggest names in music have banded together for a cause in which they truly believe: themselves.
It brought a tear to the eye, really, to see a distinguished assembly that included Madonna, Rihanna, Jay Z and members of Arcade Fire (?) publicly sign-on to a streaming service that for about the same number of dollars annually as there are Kanye-haters in Ottawa, will give you high-quality audio and a few exclusive tunes from your favourite pop stars.
The arrival of Tidal was justly greeted as the most important development in music since Neil Young’s PonoPlayer.
Why? Because it confirms that rockers care. About music. About money. About the state of the music industry, and its effect on how much money they make.
It’s an announcement greeted with scorn by many a critic. Which is surprising, ’cause, well, it’s as it should be.
There has always been something unsettling about the altruistic rocker. For a time, during the first decade of the evidently still-going 1980s, rockers grew a visibly swollen conscience, and suddenly felt the need to give back. To starving children. To farmers. To would-be voters. To those tempted by drugs.
It did not suit them. And it reached its nadir with Little Steven’s perplexing attempt to solicit from each of us a promise never to play Sun City. (I cannot speak for you, dear reader, but I can assure you I have never performed there. No need to thank me, Steven.)
After that, rockers looked inward, as is their wont, and began to ask themselves: How many charity performances did The Beatles do? How ’bout Elvis? The Stones? True, the Stones did their best to give back with a free concert at the end of their 1969 tour. And they’ll thank you for not reminding them of it.
So no, thinking of others simply does not become our biggest pop stars.
Hence, by the time of the well-meaning successor to Live Aid — Live 8 — the idea had changed from raising money to raising “awareness.” And album sales.
Which brings us back to Tidal, an impressive display of awareness-raising that, one hopes, will ultimately result in an improved bottom line for several of our richest rock stars.
It’s not like they haven’t suffered for their art. Now, it’s our wallets’ turn.