Sunday, October 15, 2017
Kansas City Conundrum
I’ve taken a beating in 2017. Locally based rock musicians, rappers and jazz artists outraged by my criticism have repeatedly lashed out at me. That’s fair. If I dish it out, I have to be willing to endure the consequences. Partly because I’m the only critic in Kansas City who regularly writes candid reviews of the albums and performances of area musicians, my opinions are often met with howls of shocked indignation.
I do it because I care.
Unlike peers who coddle the musicians who are their friends and neighbors, I gauge music by a single standard. Using different metrics for locally based musicians would be disrespectful and condescending. Yet I can’t cite a recent instance of another local observer who has publicly applied a censorious analysis to the music of a Kansas City artist.
Not only does unrelentingly breathless praise quickly become meaningless, the lack of objectivity has dire consequences. When almost all of the coverage in an artist’s home market consists solely of rave reviews, there’s less incentive for improvement.
Aside from the rapper Tech N9ne, the blues-rock artist Samantha Fish, the pop-oriented Kawehi and the classical ensembles the Kansas City Chorale and the Kansas City Symphony, no locally based act has achieved a substantial national following during the last ten years. A handful of other artists have had minor hits and/or prestigious label deals, but precious few are presently capable of attracting audiences of 250 or more in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles or New York.
There’s a direct correlation between the dearth of frank criticism and the scarcity of Kansas City artists successfully competing at the national level. I hope to see more truth-telling and less cheerleading in 2018. Until then, I’ll resign myself to being perceived as a lone villain.
(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)