"But I do wonder about what happens to our popular culture in a world where everyone contracts artistic schizophrenia. There's a virtue to concentrating on what you're best at, refining your skills and deepening your vision. If everyone has to go out and prove they can do anything, what works of art aren't going to get made?"
I thought about this quote when my ipod got around to playing Jamie Foxx' new album and I sat through Foxx's best Drake emo singer impression on "Fall For Your Type:"
And my thought is: What happens to our art when a multitalented artist treats one of his gifts with contempt?
Make no mistake, one could have a serious debate at what Jamie Foxx is "best at" – acting or music.
Or, at least, one could if Foxx bothered to make music that displayed the fact that he's a classically trained musician with a beautifully expressive voice instead of making music that poorly appropriates the sounds and innovations of younger, less gifted artists.
Unlike Alyssa, I'm not so concerned about people wearing multiple hats. I'm concerned that the entertainment industry isn't really suited to giving artists room to be great and so, right now, anyone can do just about anything even if they have absolutely no skills whatsoever or any thing particularly interesting or noteworthy to say.
It is important to remember that the film and music industries have never been very good to "talent*." In the case of the music industry, talent is still largely just a vehicle to make songwriters, engineers, producers, labels, and publicists rich.
So of course Kim Kardashian can make an album. Because such an album only exists to make labels rich and feed her delusion that she has anything remotely artistic or useful to contribute to the world. Win/win.
But I'm really concerned about gifted artists wasting those gifts on work that is beneath them, chasing trends in such a crass way that there is no way to view the work as experimentation or expansion.
Jamie Foxx is really just the most obvious example. He's an Oscar-winning actor who gives great performance after great performance, but when it comes to music it seems that he just goes into the studio and sings whatever the label puts in front of him. Even if he weren't a gifted musician in his own right, a star of his stature should be able to call anyone in the industry**.
However, nothing on Jamie Foxx's last three studio albums says anything about him other than the fact that he listens to the radio, the big artists of the moment don't mind giving him their worst best concoctions, and he just wants to have a good time.
The truth is that we are living through a particular historical moment in which corporate black music is completely honest about the fact that the music that you are being force-fed exists solely to make all those involved rich. The contempt that corporate black artists have for their audience is fascinating, particularly since their audiences seem to not even realize they are viewed this way.
But for someone like Jamie Foxx, such a view is just bizarre. By all accounts, music is his first love. Is this really how you treat a great love? You don't even have to make music, dude. I know that his largely self-written 1994 album, Peep This, completely bombed. And that's gotta hurt. But when you have nothing really to lose now, why not give it another try instead of calling Drake and T-Pain?
*Gotta use "talent" in quotes when having a discussion that also includes a completely useless individual like Kim Kardashian.
**If I had his number, I'd call him up and tell him to hire Salaam Remi, Raphael Saadiq and Just Blaze FAST.