I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The World Zach Braff Created

Zach Braff has been considered a quadruple-threat of film and television. You probably know him best as Dr. John J.D. Dorian on TV's Scrubs or maybe as Andrew Largeman in the 2004 film Garden State. On top of being an actor, he's a writer and director (Garden State), but also a soundtrack producer.

How threatening is this quadruple-threat? Not very. I compare Zach Braff to Snoop Dogg. Snoop Dogg isn't very good at rapping or acting or dancing or singing, but he is good at being cool. Being cool is that one thing that drives Snoop Dogg's career. Now I'm sure some moony teens and twenty-somethings are going to take a great deal of offense by this statement, but Zach Braff is not really any good at acting, writing or directing. Zach Braff's one thing that made such a ripple in this ocean of mass media is that he's good at making music playlists.

If you can't name (or hum the tune of) a single song from either the Garden State or Scrubs soundtrack, then you weren't present for the last decade of popular culture. Whether or not you consider this a true statement, the question remains as to how this world we are in right now is the world Zach Braff created...

Because of a series of factors in the music industry and otherwise, this will be the first decade without pervasive trends in music, at least not in the most important category of all: rock and roll. If one could find a dominant trend it would have to be called something like "hipster," or "Brooklyn scene" or "indie," but this one category of music encompasses a variety of bands that have little to nothing in common. The only common thread between these bands is that screamo enthusiasts think you're pretentious when you talk about them. Bands like Muse and White Stripes have continued to push guitar rock, and Radiohead has changed all the rules time and again, but these are not part of any new trend. They are the outliers. As a result of this diversity of bands, a factor that is getting more and more complicated with the diminishing necessity for big record labels and free music distribution through MySpace and Youtube, the single easiest way to keep on top of today's music is to have at least one friend who dedicates his or her life to listening to the newest, most trendy music. This friend creates a mix CD and distributes it to friends.

I've been making mix CDs for some time, incorporating the use of newer songs that people perhaps don't know about with either older album cuts or popular tunes that people have forgotten. This is something I've really gotten into as of late, requesting album art from artistic friends and arranging songs just right so that they flow into one another. The world is ripe for the DIY album. Just give people a track listing and album art, maybe some liner notes with an essay included, and they can construct their own album through iTunes (legally) or torrents (illegally). Poets and authors such as Stephanie Meyer (Twilight) publish playlists that can be used in order to amplify the mood of their writings. As a matter of fact, I handed in playlists with each of my final papers during my first semester in grad school. I really think I could have gotten a better grade if my professors not only read, but felt what I am conveying in the paper. Thom Yorke and Berlin could have really helped me with that if my professors were more into downloading and less into getting grades in on time.

My prediction for the music industry is that the only way for music to remain profitable is to find creative ways to sell it to people. Some years ago, compilation CDs were released for various reasons, but the price and content of the albums always had a great deal to do with the rights and availability. If the compilation CD was released by Columbia, for example, chances are that you wouldn't hear any songs by a Geffen artist. Imagine being a band like Aerosmith with albums under both of these labels. The idea of putting out something as simple as a greatest hits album becomes incredibly difficult. We don't have those problems anymore. You're allowed to have any mix and match of songs from various record labels on the hard drive of your computer. I think the next means of making music fun to buy is going to revolve around buying mix CDs compiled by celebrities and other influential people. many people follow Rainn Wilson, best known as Dwight K. Schrute from TV's The Office, on twitter. How many of those people would buy a digital mix CD compiled by Wilson through iTunes? Whether you love or hate Sarah Palin, it would be one heck of an icebreaker to tell the people in your car that her mix is playing on the speakers. Palin likes Gaga? I never would have guessed.This movement would create personalities known only for making mix CDs, people who just make the best mixes and are now celebrities as a result. This is what I want to do.

This is a world of mix CDs and playlist sharing, a world that has only ever had one king. That king's name is Zach Braff.

I hope to be the one to overthrow him.

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