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Old 08-07-2013, 07:35 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default When is the artist no longer really the artist?

I've been enjoying Kanye West's most recent album lately, and as I usually do with albums I like, I went and read the Wikipedia entry on it. In doing so I discovered that, like his previous overblown album, this current streamlined minimalistic one also involved dozens of co-producers, co-writers and other assorted collaborators. I wasn't really surprised but it did make wonder if I'm really enjoying Kanye West here or if I'm enjoying some of the other people involved. I realize this type of massive group collaboration is common in pop music, but Kanye West isn't a Britney Spears where everyone assumes the performer isn't really the mastermind. He's definitely considered the creator of his releases, and often praised for the things he does with music.

I'm bringing that up as an example, I'm not intending to talk about him specifically. My question, about artists in general, is when are they no longer really the artist? If you didn't do the majority of the writing or performing, if your primary role was simply getting a bunch of talented people in a room together, does it make any kind of sense to give you full credit as the artist?

What do you guys think?
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Old 08-07-2013, 07:41 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Yeah it's pretty hard to deconstruct. A perfect example is Nico's Chelsea Girl album. It's my favourite Nico album but I read that she hated what producers had done to it. It seems that much of what I liked about the album was not only not the artists idea but was rabidly rejected by her.
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Old 08-07-2013, 07:47 PM   #3 (permalink)
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It reminds me of Primal Scream's Screamadelica album.
The number of people who made that album is incredible. I remember Bobby Gillespie saying that in one song they wants a bassline that would be the sort of thing Jah Wobble would do so they thought 'F*ck it, let's just get Jah Wobble in to do it' and they did.

A lot of critics at the time said is this a Primal Scream album produced by Andrew Weatherall or is it an Andrew Weatherall album as played by Primal Scream.

I guess what I would put it down to is that I suppose you need the original artist's vision of how it will turn out otherwise it would just come out sounding like some great big clusterf*ck.
And that's they key to it, you need a good artist to stop it from becoming one.
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Old 08-07-2013, 07:53 PM   #4 (permalink)
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And that's they key to it, you need a good artist to stop it from becoming one.
Although sometimes the artist with the vision isn't the one listed on the album cover. I know this especially applies to those older soul lables where the producer would be known for a particular sound and have a bunch of session musicians that appeared on many of the records. I think in many instances the artists were just puppets or represented a particular image the producer was going for.
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Old 08-07-2013, 07:56 PM   #5 (permalink)
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It reminds me of Primal Scream's Screamadelica album.
The number of people who made that album is incredible. I remember Bobby Gillespie saying that in one song they wants a bassline that would be the sort of thing Jah Wobble would do so they thought 'F*ck it, let's just get Jah Wobble in to do it' and they did.

A lot of critics at the time said is this a Primal Scream album produced by Andrew Weatherall or is it an Andrew Weatherall album as played by Primal Scream.

I guess what I would put it down to is that I suppose you need the original artist's vision of how it will turn out otherwise it would just come out sounding like some great big clusterf*ck.
And that's they key to it, you need a good artist to stop it from becoming one.
What if there's no singular vision or concept behind it though? To use Kanye West as the example again: from what I understand the creation of the songs on the album were committee decisions made by many of the people involved, not his singular vision. Can he still be considered the artist, simply by being the one who got everyone working together? If so, does that mean someone like Malcolm McLaren is worthy of solo credit for a band they got together?
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Old 08-07-2013, 07:58 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Although sometimes the artist with the vision isn't the one listed on the album cover. I know this especially applies to those older soul lables where the producer would be known for a particular sound and have a bunch of session musicians that appeared on many of the records. I think in many instances the artists were just puppets or represented a particular image the producer was going for.
That's true, but I think that's more in the category of the Britney Spears example I gave. I don't think, generally speaking, those pop start types are viewed as the creative genius behind their music.
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Old 08-07-2013, 07:59 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Can he still be considered the artist, simply by being the one who got everyone working together? If so, does that mean someone like Malcolm McLaren is worthy of solo credit for a band they got together?
Miles Davis is probably a good example of an artist in strict control of his vision. While I have never really marvelled at his skills on the trumpet he certainly had a talent for selecting great musicians and obsessively demanding perfection from them.
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Old 08-07-2013, 08:11 PM   #8 (permalink)
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What if there's no singular vision or concept behind it though? To use Kanye West as the example again: from what I understand the creation of the songs on the album were committee decisions made by many of the people involved, not his singular vision. Can he still be considered the artist, simply by being the one who got everyone working together? If so, does that mean someone like Malcolm McLaren is worthy of solo credit for a band they got together?
Interesting point, I guess it depends on the artist even if everything was done by committee, who put that committee together? who had the final say? were the people on it thinking what they would like or what they think he would like?
I think you would literally have to take every single album individually and look at all the different circumstances around it.

I find it interesting you bring up Malcolm McLaren because he had zero input into the Pistols song writing. I remember Lydon saying that his only idea was writing a song about Submission so they wrong a song about a submarine mission just to piss him off and after that he left them to it.

It's also interesting that Bernie Rhodes had a much bigger input into The Clash's songwriting yet he's forgotten about and it's always McLaren that gets bought up.
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Old 08-07-2013, 08:18 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Interesting point, I guess it depends on the artist even if everything was done by committee, who put that committee together? who had the final say? were the people on it thinking what they would like or what they think he would like?
I think you would literally have to take every single album individually and look at all the different circumstances around it.

I find it interesting you bring up Malcolm McLaren because he had zero input into the Pistols song writing. I remember Lydon saying that his only idea was writing a song about Submission so they wrong a song about a submarine mission just to piss him off and after that he left them to it.

It's also interesting that Bernie Rhodes had a much bigger input into The Clash's songwriting yet he's forgotten about and it's always McLaren that gets bought up.
That's why I used McLaren as an example actually, because he wasn't involved in writing the songs, just vaguely "getting the people in the room together".
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Old 08-07-2013, 08:33 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I posted a really good response, but unfortunately, it didn't go through for whatever reason.

I heard an interview with r. Kelly mentioning that it's great to collab because you basically learn things you didn't know. Things are always changing, so it's awesome to collab with people who can make a song amazing that would otherwise be outdated!
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