Thursday , February 22 2024
My cultural references are just as good as your cultural references.

Fakin’ It in the Sweet Calcutta Rain

I'm a big fat faker.

Heck, even that statement is false. I'm not fat at all!

When I read other writers' music criticism, I marvel at the number of artists and bands they refer to, often including lots of bands I've heard of but never heard, as well as bands I've never even heard of, but every one of which — if the tone of the review I'm reading is to be taken seriously — I ought to be thoroughly familiar with.

Almost all of us feel like fakers at times. At job interviews, as creative people, as professionals, on dates — we so often feel like we're making something up in order to impress someone, whether it's an audience or a potential friend, boss, or lover.

One of my personal issues is that because I was born back in 1963, a whole lot of "indie rock" passed me by. The last time I felt fully engaged with a pop-music movement was the early 90s, with the heyday of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains, and my "formative" music is a good deal older than that. So when I review a new recording, the comparisons that spring to mind are older than those a younger reviewer would think of.

But while my references may be a few decades in the past, they're easy for me to come up with, and they're also (I like to think) as apt as any. Which tells me something:

Not a lot changes. There's very little truly new under the sun, especially in popular music. The ways we communicate and connect, and listen to music, have evolved some in the digital age, but the factors that make a good singer good or a memorable song memorable have stayed basically the same. And not just since the 1960s. Since at least Mozart.

So who cares if "Everything's Goin' My Way" on the new Mark Stuart CD reminds me of Leon Russell's stuff from the 60s and early 70s? No doubt it would remind you of something different, maybe something much more recent. My cultural references are just as good as your cultural references. Yours are just as good as mine. Each one of us is just as insecure as the next person. It's natural. Only the stupid are utterly confident. But we needn't be so anxious. Each of us is a fully entitled citizen of the world. As an ancient rocker once wrote:

   California sunlight, sweet Calcutta rain
   Honolulu starbright – the song remains the same.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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