Art, Ed Sheeran and the rest

Use this forum to have philosophical discussions about aesthetics and art. What is art? What is beauty? What makes art good? You can also use this forum to discuss philosophy in the arts, namely to discuss the philosophical points in any particular movie, TV show, book or story.
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pomarine
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Art, Ed Sheeran and the rest

Post by pomarine » December 26th, 2017, 9:06 pm

Is art purely subjective or is some art truly "better" than others? I struggle with this, as I know some intelligent adults who genuinely seem to think that Ed Sheeran is a good songwriter? I do wonder if it's just that some people are looking to music / art to offer something deeper in their lives, while others can just appreciate it on a more superficial level? Or perhaps the reason people claim to like such blatantly commercially oriented "art" has nothing to do with the art itself, and it's purely down to following the crowd and the social capital gains associated with liking it? Or am I in vocally disliking people like Ed Sheeran just being a pop music snob who could easily be "out-snobbed" by someone more into their say avant-garde or high art?

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LuckyR
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Re: Art, Ed Sheeran and the rest

Post by LuckyR » December 27th, 2017, 3:50 am

Art has a measuring problem. Since it exists and thrives in a subjective universe, it lacks yardsticks that individual observers can use to compare their subjective assessments. Popularity can be an objective measure, but then there is the "sell out" backlash associated with popularity.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Art, Ed Sheeran and the rest

Post by 3uGH7D4MLj » December 30th, 2017, 8:31 am

pomarine wrote:
December 26th, 2017, 9:06 pm
Is art purely subjective or is some art truly "better" than others? I struggle with this, as I know some intelligent adults who genuinely seem to think that Ed Sheeran is a good songwriter? I do wonder if it's just that some people are looking to music / art to offer something deeper in their lives, while others can just appreciate it on a more superficial level? Or perhaps the reason people claim to like such blatantly commercially oriented "art" has nothing to do with the art itself, and it's purely down to following the crowd and the social capital gains associated with liking it? Or am I in vocally disliking people like Ed Sheeran just being a pop music snob who could easily be "out-snobbed" by someone more into their say avant-garde or high art?
Pop music. Tin Pan Alley had some great songwriters, great musicians writing great songs. The big band era was pretty exciting. Picture being in the room with the Basie orchestra, or Ellington. (I envy my Mom) This stuff was written, arrangements were painstakingly notated, the players were trained and talented. And it thundered.

At a certain point everything went 1-4-5. The inventiveness of tin pan alley was not needed it seemed, because this stuff was popular, simple, but selling like hotcakes. Some of it was embarrassingly stupid, but it helped define a generation. There was a musical formula, a satisfying blues-like pattern which was immensely popular with the kids. Some say that songs in the early 60s were just advertisements for a 79 cent piece of plastic, it was, but I think it was more than that. It was American music (forgive my bias, it's all I know), but it was the music of the African diaspora. The music of the African diaspora is a cultural colossus. It stretches from Benny Goodman to Miles, to Marley, to Ravel and Stravinski, to Little Richard and Chuck Berry. It's great stuff and is still with us.

Anyway, I can remember being so bigoted about which bands were cool, and judging people by the music they listened to. It was so important. Now I see all these musicians, artists, as just people who are trying to make a living in a difficult industry, give 'em a break. Some are always more interesting. Don't know Ed Sheeran, but I'd say feel free to judge, some are truly better than others.
fair to say

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Re: Art, Ed Sheeran and the rest

Post by Eduk » January 24th, 2018, 7:38 am

I would say there are a few things to consider.
As humans we have a shared subjectivity but not a perfectly shared subjectivity.
Our own knowledge of our own subjective experience is something that we, normally, claim expertise and an unalienable right upon but we are often wrong. We are imperfect judges of ourselves.
Everything is ultimately existential (whether that is 'right' or 'wrong').
So within the context of humanity then yes some art is better than some other art for humanity as a whole but there is variance within individuals (and legitimate variance too). So in the case of Ed Sheeran then yes his lyrics and music are what you might expect from Helmholtz (from Brave New World). So for most humans his music will lead ultimately to dissatisfaction but for some humans it might be genuinely good. Of course many more people claim it is good than are right to claim it is good.

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Re: Art, Ed Sheeran and the rest

Post by Steve3007 » January 24th, 2018, 12:10 pm

To me, Ed Sheeran's lyrics sound roughly how I would expect the lyrics of a 20-something songwriter to sound to a cynical 50-something: like adolescent poetry. If I was a teenager I might think differently. When I was a teenager I loved the music of The Smiths. No doubt 50-somethings at the time thought it sounded like adolescent poetry. And so it goes on back through the generations.

Ed Sheeran went to school with some relatives of mine and grew up in the town of Framlingham, Suffolk, England. His song "Castle on the Hill" is about his experiences growing up in and around that town. (The castle of the title is the 12th Century Framlingham castle which was, among other things, used by the Catholic Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII, to gather her forces ready for the assault on London in 1553 to seize the crown and kill lots of Protestants.) It's clear from the lyrics of the song and the accounts of my relatives that the lyrics are a sincerely written portrait of his youth. They're not meant for old cynics like me.

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Re: Art, Ed Sheeran and the rest

Post by Eduk » January 24th, 2018, 12:46 pm

Me and my friends have not thrown up in so long, oh how we’ve grown – “Castle on the Hill”
"I was looking for a job, and then I found a job / And heaven knows, I'm miserable now / In my life, why do I give valuable time to people who don't care if I live or die?"
I like the Smiths. But you don't have to like them. If you think Beethoven is better then you aren't wrong.
Singing isn't just about lyrics. It's also about performance. For example Johnny Cash sounds like he believes what he is singing.

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Re: Art, Ed Sheeran and the rest

Post by Steve3007 » January 24th, 2018, 1:23 pm

Eduk wrote:Singing isn't just about lyrics. It's also about performance. For example Johnny Cash sounds like he believes what he is singing.
Yes indeed. Morrissey's performance usually involved waving a large bunch of gladioli around and wearing a hearing aid as a fashion accessory. Great stuff.

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