Popular Culture Critique Thesis

Pages: 6 (1740 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Music

Adorno/David Cook's Permanent

David Cook: Permanent

Songwriters: David Cook, Chantal Kreviazuk, Raine Maida

Neverwouldathot Music, Sony Music Publishing (Canada) Under International License by Zenith Music Inc.

Vocal Performance at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJ1qnKKG5kI

Is this the moment where I look you in the eye?

Forgive my broken promise that you'll never see me cry

And everything, it will surely change even if I tell you I won't go away today

Will you think that you're all alone

When no one's there to hold your hand?

And all you know seems so far away and everything is temporary rest your head

I'm permanent

I know he's living in hell every single day

And so I ask oh god is there some way for me to take his place

And when they say it's all touch and go I wish I could make it go away

But still you say

Will you think that you're all alone when no one's there to hold your hand?

When all you know seems so far away and everything is temporary, rest your head

I'm permanent

I'm permanent

Is the moment where I look you in the eye?

Forgive my promise that you'll never see me cry

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David Cook and "Permanent "- David Cook, an American rock singer and songwriter, and winner of the 7th American Idol competition, is a poetic new force in American rock music. He combines the strength and passion of an early Bruce Springsteen with the poetic drama of Don McLean. His song, "Permanent" was written in 2008 as a tribute to his brother, but did not gain international airing or prominence until early 2009. Certainly it was not as popular as his "Time of My Life," but as a track on his album "David Cook," it reached number 3 on the U.S. Top Hits with sales of over 1.5 million. The album is listed as an RIAA Platinum and CRIA Gold.

Thesis on Popular Culture Critique Assignment

David was born in 1982, and raised in Blue Springs, Missouri. He currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri, not far from his parents. He was raised the middle child of three brothers, was an avid baseball player until an injury forced him to focus more on his music. David first began playing guitar at the age of 12, and, like many teens of his generation, toyed with the idea of becoming a professional musician. David graduated from college with a degree in Graphic Design, but moved to Oklahoma to pursue his dream of a music career. It was a fluke that David even auditioned for Idol, since his original reason for even attending the auditions was to support his brother, who unfortunately did not make it to the finals. After his win on Idol, David continued his success with top marks from an international audience, hungry for his heartfelt, yet homespun poetic songs and artistry.

David's brother Adam had been battling brain cancer since 1992, and unfortunately succumbed last May. The last few months of Adam's life, however, were quite difficult for David, who postponed or cancelled numerous appearances so he could be with his family. The song "Permanent," though, is a very personal and emotional message, not just to Adam, but so emotionally honest it hits a chord within us all. The pain and pathos are apparent -- just as David is realizing success and being pulled away from family the plea of anguish for his brother's pain almost overshadows his own personality.

Introduction to Adorno and his Theories -- Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) was a German born sociologist, philosopher, musicologist and composer. Philosophically, he was part of the Frankfurt School, and one of the seminal critical analysts of how art and society interact in the contemporary world. Adorno was predominantly influenced by Max Weber, later Hegalian interpretations of Marxism, as well as Walter Benjamin's philosophy of history.

Adorno was famous for a complex, dialectic style of writing; somewhere between Nietzsche and Kirkegaard -- offering complex and twisted arguments that fold back upon themselves. However, his basic view of the culture industry is that it is an area in which both critical tendencies and actualization (potentialities to Marxists) were eliminated. He argued vociferously that the mass media manipulated the population into consumerism as opposed to aesthetic pleasure, making popular music nothing but a meaningless commodity. Consumers, then, become passive; they utilize the simplicity of popular music, for instance, to escape reality. Consumer try to appear unique and different, as does popular music, but in fact, it is just a repetitious variation on the same theme as "the same thing is offered to everybody by the standardized production of consumption goods," concealed under "the manipulation of taste and the official culture's pretense of individualism" (Adorno, 2001, p. 40).

Adorno and others, most notably Herbert Marcuse, were part of a loose confederation of Marxist social philosophers who flushed out a more robust "critical theory" of contemporary society. They realized that formal Marxism had little in common with the industrial society Marx used as a basis for his theories. Instead, this group attempted to broaden Marxist theory to be more inclusive of the newer social sciences (sociology, anthropology, etc. Politically they were in the midst of trying to make sense out of Leninism and Stalinism, but it was in the choosing of Marxist thought and extrapolating far beyond conditions Marx imagined, and then synthesizing those theories within modern culture, that the Frankfurt School left its mark (Jacoby, 2005).

Essentially, Adorno's work focuses more on art, literature, and music as focal points towards humanity's mode of thought. Much as Marx saw a hierarchy of defined wealth, Adorno finds the needs of freedom, creativity, and self-actualization to be absent within the construct of mass-produced culture. Culture becomes, in many ways, its own set of industrial producers of "art" -- designed in part to appease the masses, but primarily to earn capital reward for the industry (Witkin, 2002). We must remember that Adorno died in 1969, and had yet to see what the new social medium of the Internet; MTV, YouTube, MP3 Players, Cable Television and Radio, and certainly DVD and Motion Picture changes, would have on popular culture. However, even without the rapid changes in musical culture, Adorno was a staunch critic of much of what he saw as mindless drivel that fails to allow the expression of true art (Miklitsch, 2002, pp. 43-55).

Three major points within Adorno's "Social Critique of Radio Music" are directly applicable to David Cook: 1) the idea and/or definition of what is "good music;" 2) standardization and the role of the audience in the popular genre, and; 3) the effect of presentation on the robust artistry of the piece of art.

While far too immense a topic, it appears that at the very heart of the three examples above one must first ask the undefinable: what is art? Certainly that definition changes conceptually based on location, space and time. For Adorno, though, there is almost an inherent juxtaposition of the motivations of the artist as a primary causality for "great art." Yet, numerous examples exist of defined "art" that was produced as craft (e.g. Greek pottery, medieval manuscripts), and idealized pieces of great art as commission (i.e. For money) of Bach and Beethoven, among others (Edgar and Sedgwick, 1999, pp. 150-55). This translates to allowing the aesthetic value of the art to be inexorably tied only to the motivation, rather than the product -- as if all artists should be poor and producing only what is in their soul -- regardless of what people want to view or hear.

Thus, what is good music, for Adorno, is that which passes a very rigid standard of composition -- rather than being pleasant to hear (that means the masses like it), it should be less definable and commodified and beyond the idea of popular (Adorno, in Peters and Simonson, 2004, p. 211, hereafter Adorno, 2004). Is David Cook art, then? According to Adorno, no -- but if one takes a step back to understand the conception, development, and performance of Cook's "Permanent," one finds a different standard of interpretation. First, "Permanent" is entirely original, written out of the heart and soul of a unique artist, but with the idea of utilizing his art to reach out to a broader populace and touch their emotions. The fact that Cook uses a poplar mode to express this is of little consequence, we may be certain that the "great" composers would have utilized radio and television to the fullest extent had they had the opportunity. For the essential fact of art is its ability to communicate something unique to an audience. The poetry and timbre of "Permanent," as well as the emotionality of the message clearly allows for that definition, and for the commonality of communication across cultural boundaries (Christenson in Ravitch and Viteritti, 2003, pp. 97-98).

Second, for Adorno, rather than familiarity breeding contempt, it is standardization that breeds disdain.

Since this type of music is a commodity, and standardization means it follows a pattern that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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