14 Dec, 15

J. Edward Keyes

What kind of impact does music have in our world?

There's been so much chatter about music being a "lifestyle accessory" these days, but I don't buy it. All you have to do is look at a record like To Pimp a Butterfly to see how music is still an active, vital part of the cultural conversation, and can still push aesthetic boundaries to create new worlds.

That's always been the music that's excited me the most, when artists question the accepted - in culture, in song structure, in production methods - and tear everything down so they can build it back up again in their own way. One of the things that's been most exciting to me is the way the borders between underground and mainstream have been decimated in so many ways - pop artists like Beyonce and Nicki Minaj and Lorde and Kendrick Lamar are using their music to poke at the status quo and are inspiring conversation in a way that pop artists in the '80s and even the '90s weren't able to. That's what gets me excited - provocation - and I think we're seeing more and more of that in really interesting ways.

What can we do to ensure that artists' voices are heard?

I've always had kind of a non-traditional approach to criticism and music journalism, where I feel like part of my role is to be an advocate for smaller artists who maybe aren't getting loads of press, but whose work I feel is important. So for me, I tend to naturally tune out bands once they get to a certain point in their career and start shifting focus back to smaller artists. It's important for the critic to actively engage in popular culture and serve as a voice in that regard, but the thing I've always loved about writing is when I discover a new band and get to help them tell their story. That blurs the line between objective criticism and A&R, I know, but I do view part of my specific role/passion as a journalist the act of getting people's eyes on new things.

By J. Edward Keyes, distributed under a Creative Commons CC-BY license.

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