Our conversation is so lost in this idea of loops and trends -- linking the sale of iTunes singles back to the 78s of yore, linking singer-songwriters of today back to the Brill Building -- that it's hard, maybe impossible, to see an off-ramp. You assume that because everything looks the same that it is the same, and you look to history to explain it and lead the way into the future. But this isn't a cyclical development, it's a radical departure -- not to say "singularity" -- that challenges every single one of those assumptions, because you're still putting a price on something that is already free.
The arrow is pointing toward a meritocracy, in which rising above the noise is as simple as making a quality product and working for the traffic and interest that validate it. Monetize that -- witness YouTube partnerships, Kickstarter projects, etc. -- and you'll beat the monster and get paid for your art. And right now that looks incredibly depressing, like a farmer's market or barter system, like Etsy for musicians, like weird self-published romance novels, like sad low-budget derivative web sitcoms. That's how every art starts, because more people want to say something than really have something to say, but at this moment it can look like the apocalypse happened and we didn't even notice. That's because that is exactly what happened. It's not even worth crying over it, because we have to deal in What Is and not What Should Be. You can't expect the dinosaur to rebuild itself or reconfigure or fall apart into a brand new beautiful day: You build your new machine in the cage of its bones.
THE IMPOSSIBLY STRESSFUL LEADUP
All of the people in the audience talk about their truths and their connections to the songs. Even Nick -- though it pains him -- must admit that Sonyae's song was amazing. Other people praise other songs, sometimes you can tell which one they mean and other times not so much. Melissa looks absolutely stunning; I actually rewound it so I could look at her some more. Damn, girl.
Once the room has cleared out, the Contestants assemble.
Kara: "Jes, was that the best song you ever wrote?"
Jes: "I feel like maybe it was."
Kara: "You've become very good. We liked how your lyrics were appealing and cool and commercial. It's fun to care about what you say."
Leona: "I liked how you could cover it in any genre."
Keith: "Jes, thanks for finally making sense to me. The central conceit about coming alive was whatever, but the rest was great."
Kara: "I love how you have changed into a better version of yourself, because you're so talented and it's so great to finally see that, as a person listening to your music."
Jewel: "Pre-chorus could have been better -- [demonstrates how, in a very Kara way] -- but seriously, we're shocked at how good it was."