Youth doesn’t impress me

Something I’ve noticed about myself recently: I’m not very impressed by prodigies. I dislike the very sharp curve on which society grades young performers. Joss Stone is indeed a great soul singer for a white teenager from Devon. But she’s not in the same league as Etta James, Bettye LaVette, or Janelle Monáe. Johnny Lang, Nikki Yanofsky, Avril Lavigne, the never-ending parade of hardworking kids on YouTube–they’re just OK. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they’re doing what they’re doing. Good-looking kids with both broad pop appeal and genuine skill help initiate new listeners into rich musical traditions. But if you take their ages out of the equation, I don’t think any of the folks I mentioned are really brilliant.


2 thoughts on “Youth doesn’t impress me

  1. Charlton says:

    Age and experience produce a sureness that youth never seems to have. It’s as true if you listen to modern performers like Odetta (who managed to see Obama elected, if not inaugurated) and Eric Clapton — there’s a sort of practiced efficiency, where they know how to get the most out of the least. But it’s not laziness, it’s the sort of art that remains when everything inessential has been taken away, or simply not done in the first place.

    Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Mozart had lived beyond the age of 35. His music is technically brilliant, but there’s still so much deedle-deedle-deedle and flashiness in it. What would have happened if he had the chance to live to his mid-60s, as Bach, Brahms, and Lassus did, or his late 70s, as Haydn did? In late Bach, late Brahms, late Lassus, late Haydn you see music where there is not a single superfluous note, where a single musical gesture contains more impact and more meaning than in entire passages of their younger work.

  2. Jazz lover says:

    I think Nikki Yanofsky is pretty brilliant actually. Check into her music online more. She’s more than just the singer of I Believe. Listen to her version of “Airmail Special”. Pretty incredible stuff.

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