March 31, 2004

Slate On The Singer-Songwriter Mythos [5:50 pm]

Simply Simpson: Why pop songwriting’s not what it used to be - a look at the music business, sort of, but also a chance to slam Jessica Simpson and other pop poseurs. (Although these excerpts don’t show it, the article author does acknowledge the singer-songerwriters of the 1960s — ancient history to many, I know <G>)

Pop singers used to be mere entertainers; songwriting was largely the domain of professionals who rarely performed. Today, they want us to believe they’re auteurs—singers who are also capable of writing their own songs. [...]

Why this shift? Strangely, the celebrity gossip industry of the late ’90s and early 2000s may be responsible. Artists, especially those who are expected to talk about their latest creative effort in People and on Access Hollywood, need a story to tell, and an auteur makes for a better interview. Marketing yourself as a singer who bares her soul is much easier than marketing a singer baring a songwriter’s soul

[...] More than ever, record companies are looking to sell artists as auteurs. From a business perspective, singer-songwriters can save record companies money that would’ve been spent to pay professional songwriters. Pop stars are able to cash in on the fat royalty checks earned from their songwriting credits and enjoy the recognition that they gain from their creative endeavors. And the camp of pop singers not as lyrically inclined can reap the same benefits by purchasing material from an independent writer and pawning it off as their own—a longtime practice in the industry, for which Elvis was infamous.

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