I can’t count the number of times I went on Genius to decipher lyrics, to annotate a couple of verses, to figure out how a song fits in the entire album, or just to enrich my hood vocab.
But I recently have come to resent the website and what is stands for. (this has nothing to do with my low IQ. I swear)
It all started when I saw this video of Sampha, one of my current GOATs:
As I watched the video, I found it unsettling and awkward. In trying to understand why, I quickly realized that Sampha’s discomfort is not caused by his shyness but rather from the irrationality of the whole situation. Asking an artist to explain his choices completely defeats the purpose: He somehow managed to capture the way he feels and convey it through his music and we ask him to translate them in plain words. It doesn’t make sense!
When I read his annotations, I realized even more that not only is it useless and besides the point to capture his take on his own work, it actually ruins the fun. When he said that he was actually running in the studio, I felt so uncomfortable because his breathlessness in the song seemed so genuine to me, when I heard it, like he was having a panic attack or something. The fact that he had to fake it, by running around his studio is part of the process that I shouldn’t hear about. I feel like “the process” should be a silent part of any artistic endeavour. I am supposed to wonder how he got there but I am not supposed to know.
I could have realized this watching any other verified video, but I very much enjoy the irony that I have come to this realization watching a video on Sampha’s new album which is entitled “Process”.
If you think about it, there should be no difference between a regular Genius user annotating a song and the actual artist doing so. But I think that watching the artist struggle with the vicious circle of explaining the feelings that motivated him/her to chose the words that s/he chose to express his/her feelings really shows the limit of what Genius is trying to do.
It’s kind of sad to see that Genius changed from being a platform to share different perspectives and interpretations of what a piece of Art means to a platform with “verified accounts” and “approved annotations”. Instead of showcasing the richness of the meaning, it restricts it to a single explanation that was given by the artist himself, or the producer or a close friend.
Once I realized Genius’s growing Pensée unique, I started seeing the same trend in many other things: personality tests, the MBTI, horoscopes, buzzfeed quizzes enlightening you on the kind of bread you are and of course, the eternal questions of “Are you a Tia or Tamara?” “Zoe or Zelda?” “Are you Ross or Chandler?” Too many questions that we want binary answers for without bothering with nuances.
I really think this is symptomatic of the kind of society we live in. A society that is obsessed with choices. One where we reject the transient, indeterminate nature of things around us, including art. One where we prefer answers to questions. One where we want to find but we don’t want to search. Where we want to be told who we are instead of discovering how we change. We seek finite answers because we can’t deal with ambiguity.
I guess what I am saying is that I wish there was more room for uncertainty. I wish we were more comfortable with chaos and less obsessed with shallow order.