I burned out.
It happens, pulling together hopefully meaningful blurbs week after week. Listening to songs on repeat play to tease out that beat, those melodies. Somewhere down the line it shifted from ‘let me hear this’ to ‘what can I say about this?’. The critic’s circle of self-referential doom: linking to my own old posts, feeling trapped in a relationship with the audience’s expectations. Don’t post too confessional. Don’t post too pop. Impossible to create in a vacuum anymore, it was all hit stats and linking quotes. Bigger, better, but above all, new!
You could see it, to read my early work – back when I had stories to tell and the songs were the medium, my vehicle. No hosting or mp3s, but those posts had a freshness, an innocence to them, before I hurtled into the meta-community. When I was a writer first, not a blogger worried about being left behind by the new kids and their shiny obscure indie profiles. Press blurbs sure, but that was what the people wanted – a MySpace link and a free tune.
So I stopped.
Listening to music as a listener is so wonderfully different to listening as a critic. You aren’t searching for words, comparisons. You don’t care who produced a track, whom else they’ve worked their magic for. Industry positioning doesn’t matter so much, or whether it is the one strong track on an otherwise weak album. Inherent in criticism is finding some kind of perspective with which to judge – a standard to hold a work up to. We do it as listeners too, but the standards seem to be different. There’s a beautiful naïveté in engaging with music without the critical faculties; listening with a different part of the mind, or maybe the heart. Turning off coherent thought until even a complete sentence is redundant for the experience, let alone five hundred words on so-and-sos place within the Canadian collective scene or grime resurgence.
But having said that, there are stories to tell. Stories about songs, and the way a particular arrangement of chords can cause our hearts to swell and break, or force our feet to move. Stories about moments, about people, about a place in the cultural fabric of our lives.
I took some time and I listened. I danced and sang and let myself feel music again. And now I’ve got a few more stories for you. It’ll be different this time: no stat counters, no mp3s, no rhyme nor reason to what I end up writing. It could be snark, it could be soul. Maybe I’m wasting the chance to turn PopText into the Gawker of the music world, to give myself a platform. But I’m a writer, not a blogger, and I want to stay this way.