Jewel, Tracy Chapman And The Art Of Faking Authenticity
Authenticity is important to me.
Mardi Gras, 1996, my best friend Henry Michel, took me to a party. It was held in one of the upstairs apartments right on Bourbon Street.
The place was packed and it didn’t take long for me to lose Hank. It was one of his private school friend’s party so I didn’t really know anybody. But if you have ever been to Mardi Gras, you know that doesn’t matter.
So I’m checking out all the people in their costumes when this chick comes over wearing a Belly Dancer’s outfit. She literally asked me to buy her a drink. I told her the drinks were free and soon we were dancing to whatever music the D.J. was playing.
Finally a sofa opened up and we sat down. Since my friends and I had not yet figured out the art of getting laid, I was surprised and happy to see that she was not mad when I, in an 18-year-old-trying-to-be-casual-way, put my arms around her shoulders.
I thought she really had had too much to drink because a few minutes later, despite (or because of) the debauchery going on around us we started making out on the sofa.
Then I heard a voice in my ear.
“We have to leave.”
It was my friend Hank. I ignored him. He then got between me and my belly dancing goddess and said, “Tell your friend that we have to leave.”
I could see he was insistent. I was confused and angrily asked why.
“Because that girl is really a guy.”
It took a few seconds for it to sink in. I just stared at her/him.
“You’re a dude?!?” I muttered bewilderly.
She batted her eyelashes and said, “Now what’s a little something like that between friends?”
Needless to say, since then I’ve been a stickler for authenticity.
Even before “keeping it real” became part of the lexicon I would get pissed off with small things. Like breakfast cereal which taste like a different breakfast food. It creeps me out.
Everyone nowadays claim to want the authentic.
But the authentic can be faked.
When both of their records were released to the public they were pushed as folk singers.
Both were singing about the hardships of modern life.
Since I’m an authenticity junky, hearing one of these singers would always piss me off because she was discovered at the highfolutin’ Tuft University by her classmate who’s dad happened to be Charles Koppelman, who, at the time, ran SBK Publishing, one of the most powerful companies in the music business. (Charles is now the Vice Chairman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc)
The other chick, Jewel, who no one really respects as an authentic folksinger, was actually living her van when an A&R guy put in her tape by accident looking for something else.
Because Authenticity is based on Consistency.
If you’re going to build “a network based on quality writers”. Then you better always give us quality writers.
If you claim to be “The source for blog related news”, then you better always be the source and not start talking about the state of videogames.
We, the people, expect you to lie.
We know that almost everyone is full of shit and is just after our dollars.
That’s why we are more willing to give our money to someone who is ‘consistent’ bad than someone who may or may not be good.
There’s some truth and authenticity in “consistent” anything.
Jewel’s music was pushed to pop, adult, and now country radio. No fan knows who she is trying to attract so it doesn’t matter how good the songs are she can never have a steady base.
Tracy Chapman has been singing the same lie from the beginning and people like that. She’s consistent. Which makes her authentic.
Once you decide who and what your network stands for, stick with it. No matter what. It’ll give you a leg up on the competition.
And what’s a little something like that between friends?
[today is the last day of mardi gras. please keep the people of new orleans in your hearts and minds]
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