This afternoon my husband and I went to see I’m Not There — the new Todd Haynes (director of the brilliant Velvet Goldmine) movie about the myths surrounding Bob Dylan. Six “Dylans” played by six actors. The movie was remarkable in the literal definition of word. And so…I feel compelled to remark.
First, I need to clarify that I do not think I: a) am old enough, b) am clever enough, and c) have ever done enough [read: any] recreational drugs to make much sense of the whole movie. That said, I came away from it firmly reiterated in the belief that music can do something no other art form can fully achieve. Music can transport you to the point where you actually experience nostalgia for a moment and time and place and feeling that you never ever experienced.
You weren’t there, but you’ll believe you were, if just for 5 minutes and 1 second (the playing time of “Shelter From The Storm,” my current iPod-continuous-play obsession).
It’s vicarious living, and it’s seduction is difficult to explain in terms beyond “it makes me feel like…” And similes, while handy, can also be unsettlingly vague to the masses, and particularly the press, when offered up as explanation. If something is going to move people to the point of tears, action, declaration, protest, sex, rage, depression, etc… I think we expect the artist to offer up some kind of explanation for their creation.
Why did you write this song? What do you think of when you sing this song? What does this mean to you? How does it feel to know your music affects people; that your music may actually have consequence?
Subtext: Is the way your song makes me feel, right?
The Scorsese biography No Direction Home: Bob Dylan is also on TV tonight. In it, you see Dylan (real Dylan) in the same confrontations with journalists as the character of Jude in I’m Not There. The reporters get visibly frustrated with Dylan’s cryptic and occasionally caustic answers to their leading questions, to the point where one essentially asks him to explain himself, his music and his popularity. Dylan balks. The reporter presses, with increasing irritation. Nervous titters flutter about the room. From a purely journalistic standpoint, the reporter was looking for the quote, wasn’t getting it, and was getting pissed off.
I think the deeper implication (and desire) in that line of questioning was that there be one indelible answer; an equation that, once plugged in, will make everything clear.
My aim in all this is not to divine that answer. I simply want to know why no one asks Fergie to explain herself when she sings that she is “Fergalicious.”