In the end, I was only motivated to write this because I wrote something in response to a dumb and deeply irritating article over at The Guardian. Channel 4 are promoting a young singer but on the basis that she's the first amputee pop star. The article was similarly well meaning but in a completely patronising way. I always feel that it's a crass approach to both music and to disability. Anyway, I wrote the following, which I guess will get zero votes and will probably be deleted by the morning. The Guardian seem to hate my comments. At least I can now say I blogged Sunday. Monday I'm going into LIverpool. Might cheer me up. Might not.
My comment in response to this.
The world would be a far more enlightened place if we could concentrate on the quality of an artist's music rather than judging them on something we're encouraged to overlook.
'Forget what you know about disability'... [The first title in her video.]
Bit of an oxymoron, isn't it? Forget the very thing you're choosing to highlight repeatedly in that long, pretentiously over-produced video. Isn't also somewhat presumptuous? What do you think I know about disability?
Should I forget that disability isn't an issue? Do I listen to Ian Dury because he wrote and sang great lyrics or because of his physical condition? It's the so-called 'imperfect' people in the world who often make the most beautiful music because there's not one of us who isn't broken in some way. Our imperfections are what we call 'individuality', 'character' and 'soul'. It's the very basis of great art. I suppose that's why Channel 4 paid to air this video in the break to X-Factor. Art-without-soul is the very thing the X-Factor has, year upon year, tried to persuade us isn't as important as marketing, celebrity and gimmick.
I'm not interested in vocal or physical perfection. Did Johnny Cash sing anything in his youth as great as the songs he produced when his voice was cracking and carried the scars of a lifetime? Give me Jim Morrison when he was overweight and his voice broken over the one who posed for iconic photos. Are Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder great singer/songwriters or great blind singer/songwriters?
What this article (and video) seem to forget is that in a modern truly liberal society, disability isn't a label we apply to people. We should each be judged on who we've been, who we are and the person we wish to become. When Ms. Modesta’s music begins to reflect her character in a non-facile way, then she might become a good musician with something significant to say. All I can see and hear, here, are over-produced autotuned vocals occasionally punctuating a tediously long video filled with heavy-handed symbolism. It's as indistinct from the videos of a thousand other singers equally devoid of character.
And if you think that sounds harsh, then doesn't it demean Ms. Modesta (and demean other far better artists) not to apply the same critical judgement to this song as we would to any other performance?