So, here’s how it all went down: I was early for an appointment in San Francisco, so I stopped off for a cappuccino at this run-down little joint called Wicked Grounds. (I know, I know, I should have known better, and I did, I swear, but my distended bladder made other decisions.) Supposedly, this place is some kind of kink palace by night. I personally have a hard time imagining how well cock rings and coffee interrelate, but who am I to judge? (The coffee was terrible, by the way, I do not recommend it.) The chipper young lady behind the counter asked me how I was doing. I responded that I was quite well, thank you. And, of course, polite midwestern bloke that I am, I inquired as to her well-being. She said, and I quote, “Anytime I can come into work and listen to music like this, it’s a good day.” So far so good. I listened for a moment… it sounded familiar… so I asked who the artist was. (Now here’s where it gets dicey.) She said, “I don’t know, it’s Pandora.”
Let’s try that a few different ways:
I don’t fucking know, it’s Pandora.
I don’t know, it’s fucking Pandora.
Fuck, I don’t know, it’s Pandora.
Each time, the statement has a slightly different connotation, but one thing remains: Pandora.
Pandora’s whole thing is supposedly giving artists an avenue to a larger audience. I cannot tell you the amount of times, however, that I have walked into a cafe, heard something I liked, asked the person at the counter who it was, and heard the inane response quoted above. The artist being played in Wicked Grounds, by the way, was The Pogues (I figured it out after the lyrics kicked in) who just happen to have been one of the most inspirational bands of the 80’s. They played a frenetic hybrid of punk and traditional Irish music with a lead singer (Shane MacGowan) that was one part Cormac McCarthy, two parts rye whiskey, and a hefty shot of 50 grit sandpaper. The original name of the band was Pogue Mahone, which was Gaelic for “kiss my arse”. Right?… My kind of band. I, of course, informed the nice barista as to the identity of the artist and went back to my table to finish my sludge-o-cino. (She did not seem to much care.) The next artist was Van Morrison and the Chieftans. The next was Richard Thompson. The next was a cool band called Cordelia’s Dad. The next was The Waterboys. I sat there falling into a deeper and deeper depression because I knew, in my soul, that, were I to ask, “Who is this?”, the answer would be : Pandora.
Time was folks would pride themselves on knowing an artist when they heard them. We’d wait until the radio DJ would finish a set so that we could hear who the artists were, so that we could go out and buy their records, so that we could hear it again, so that we could play it for our friends, etc. So what is going on now? Here’s what I think. Pandora (and Spotify for that matter) is the devil. And it is stealing artists’ identities.
Picture this, if you will, as contrast:
Bjork in her home in Whateverthefuck, Iceland, where it is cold.
Bjork going through the most painful break-up of her adult life.
Bjork chronicling it all in brittle, heart-wrenching, lyrical form.
Bjork working by candlelight, writing, with a quill, all of the beautiful string arrangements that would adorn these lyrics. (I made up the candlelight part for effect. Well, the quill too…)
Bjork reliving all of the moments of this painful experience through the catharsis that is her art.
Bjork carefully recording what would be the stunning Vulnicura and releasing these utterly personal moments into the world like so many pieces of her soul.
Now, Bjork is being played at a cafe and the barista says, “I don’t know, it’s Pandora.”
See what I mean? Wouldn’t it piss you off if you poured your heart and soul into a project for freakin’ YEARS, and you heard someone say , “I don’t know, it’s Pandora.” Wouldn’t you want to throw your coffee across the room and scream, “No! It is not Pandora! It is me! Me I say! This person residing in this skin, standing here all human and shit. It is not Pandora! They have simply stolen it from me and given it to you lame-asses for free! I now have to work at Home Depot just to pay my rent whilst Pandora execs are out in their freakin’ yachts, martini in hand, gnawing on pieces of my arm with their fat, ugly teeth!”
…or something like that…
Bjork’s new album is a beautiful statement reflecting the transfiguration of pain into art. She, wisely, kept it off of Pandora and Spotify. Here’s what she had to say, “Guess what? This streaming thing just does not feel right. I don’t know why, but it just seems insane,'” Björk said. “To work on something for two or three years and then just, ‘Oh, here it is for free.’ It’s not about the money; it’s about respect, you know? Respect for the craft and the amount of work you put into it.”
Thank you Bjork.
I’m one of those artists that Pandora and Spotify and their demonic ilk are claiming to help with their services. That is simply this: a bunch of crap. Those services are just a way to devalue art while simultaneously filling the devil’s pocketbook. I pulled my stuff off of every streaming service I possibly could. I wonder what would happen if we all did that. How long could they survive without artist’s arms to gnaw on. I, personally, like to picture this:
Police have been summoned to a penthouse suite due to an ungodly stench. Breaking down the door, they find a dried up cadaver. Gripped in its leathery skeletal hand is a remote. On the stereo, a disembodied voice repeats the following: “Sorry, that selection is not available.” The officers take in the scene: humeri, radii, and ulnae scraped clean and scattered pell mell on the Persian rug. Records and cd’s with the bizarre markings that reek of voodoo and the dark arts. They examine the corpse and one cop asks: Who is this guy? And the other replies: “I don’t know.” He points to the stereo and says, “But that is Pandora.”