Sunday, August 16, 2015

Guilty Unexpected Pleasures: Michelle Branch

guilty pleasures
Damn right.

I try not to be a music snob, but it's often impossible. I think if you like anything enough, chances are you'll be a snob about it to some degree. We all judge each other's tastes in things whether we admit it or not. And that winds up leading us to moments of self hate when that one thing which we've decided we shouldn't like winds up taking us by surprise. It's not enough to change your mind about your previous judgement, necessarily, but it leads to one exception. And maybe then another, and another. But you can't tell anyone. You're too proud. So you watch, read or listen in secret. Well fuck that. Fuck secrets and fuck guilt. Like what you like.  I've been fairly open on here about a wide range of musical genres and artists I like, but there's a few that I've been more guarded about. So let's kick open that closet door, shall we?

Yup. Michelle Branch is a good place to start. A staple of early 2000's CW shows, I'm sure this is related to watching Smallville regularly. There are levels to this one because on the surface this is clearly just drama queen passionate teenage girl music which I've already admitted to liking before, with no guilt whatsoever. On another level though, there's something undeniably commercial about it which you'd think I would be cynical about. But I'm not and it never really took a while for me to realize that I was ok with this. I just liked her music from the start. I wouldn't say I was necessarily a huge fan or anything, but there are times when I'll pull her up on the old Spotify and just play her stuff, either solo or her slightly more countrified duo, The Wreckers.

On any level though, like it or not, she's good at writing a basic pop song and that's an art form that is sorely underrated in some circles. But think about some of the biggest, most respected artists of all time. Going back to Cole Porter, Gershwin, The Beatles, Leiber and Stoller, Gamble and Huff, all of them were writing pop songs. Not "essentially" but flat out writing pop songs. They weren't trying to be edgy, alternative or trying to be "authentic." They were going for commercial success and that was fine. Who the fuck actually wants to be a starving artist? They were able to craft lasting melodies and lyrics while making money. And while on some level that's a matter of luck and being true to yourself and expressing something universal enough to have appeal, there's also a formula at play in determining what people want. It's not just artists being artists for arts sake, and there's nothing wrong with that. I'm not saying Branch is in that league, but she's working in that area and that's fine. No apologies. It's safe and sweet and that's ok. It can't all be deepest depths of the human soul. Once in a while, this is what we need.  

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