Y'all. I'm creating a playlist for the University of Minnesota's lit blog. Songs & their meanings to me, & their meanings to my writing, & writing in general. Here's a sneak preview. Stay tuned for the full list.
Arthur Russel on Earnestness ("Lucky Cloud")
Something is missing in a lot of new music, and it is the same thing that's missing in a lot of new writing. It's Earnestness, also known as Sincerity, and I miss it. I know, I know, we've been talking about Earnestness' antonym, Irony, since 2004 (too long now). And I know, I know, Earnestness is the new Irony in many circles (Miranda July & friends). But there's nothing like sincere sincerity, the kind of sincerity that came before the Ironic Invasion, the kind that allows itself to say unabashedly "lucky cloud your sky / a little rain / a lot of fun / ohh yeaah," and when Arthur Russel sings this, you can't deny your impulse to move your body in awkward yet good-feeling ways. Russell's lyrics are so simple they're complex, so off they're on, and through all their oxymoronic pulls, they remain so true to themselves it's addictively poetic, like when a baby draws with crayons. It's the authentic and uninterrupted genius that comes out in the best artists: those who have taught themselves to unteach themselves. This song presents an essential lesson in creative approach: learn how everyone else does something (Russell dabbled in disco, for a weird moment), and then look back into yourself and ask: but how would I do it if nobody else was alive?