“If you’re gonna write a hit song,
make it a short one.”
Years ago, I saw Yann Tierson perform live on my birthday in Brighton, England. Between “comptine d’un autre été,” “j’y suis jamais allé,” and this Takeaway Show of new material, I was super excited. During a break in the music, all disconcerting takes on songs I had never heard, someone yelled out, “Play Amelie!” and he gave the crowd the most disgusting sneer I’ve ever seen from a performer.
“I don’t play songs I don’t like,” he said.
Then he played a really crap experimental version of Palestine.
I mean, yes, be an artist; make art, not money — and I do totally get hating those songs after playing them and playing them and playing them. I do. But don’t forget in your success that you have money because people paid you. They didn’t pay you for existing — they paid you because they were enlivened, enriched, entertained by the art. Arrogance is an ugly and unfortunate thing.
Art isn’t about you, Yann. Once you take it out of your basement, once you perform it for profit, then art is about bringing beauty and solace to the lives of the people who took hours of their lives, turned them into money, and then gave that money to you. A working artist has an obligation to their audience, not the other way around.
When I’m rich and successful, please remind me of this: No matter how sick you are of playing to the common denominator, it’s not okay to forget there are people here who chose to spend their birthday with you. I don’t care how French and Famous you are, it’s never okay to be a spoiled, self-centered dick.
That’s not at all what I sat down to write. After some reflection, I think I either believe what I’ve written here, or the complete opposite. The truth, I suspect, is somehow both.
Anyways, enjoy the Takeaway Show. What I do believe for sure is that what matters is the art, not the artist. Whether Yann Tierson is a poor tortured soul, ground down by profiteering capitalist pressures, or an obnoxious piece of shit, made vain and obscene by fame, is fundamentally irrelevant.
What matters is the art — and this art is fantastic.