Musicians and dog whistles

When Dirty Loops put out their Adele cover this week, my Facebook feed was full of it. Actually, my Facebook feed is like a Dirty Loops fan convention. Fair enough, they’re pretty amazing:

But it’s not hard to spot which kinds of people were sharing this video.

They were all, to a greater or lesser extent, musicians. Why? Not just because DL are technically impressive, but because they’re impressive in all the right ways – telepathic togetherness and “pocket”, impeccably “hip” reharmonisation. Rather than variety-show, novelty, watch-me-play-Flight-of-the-Bumblebee-in-0.5-seconds skill, this is a specific kind of virtuosity that’s perfectly placed to appeal to music college students (which is what Dirty Loops themselves are, or were, in Stockholm).

Another Adele cover that recently went viral in the kind of nerdy circles I move in was this a cappella treatment of Someone Like You.

If you’re unclear what’s happening here – the Italian vocal group Cluster have found a YouTube video of a girl singing the Adele smash while going wildly out of key, and they’ve turned it into a jazz arrangement that makes a virtue of all the unintentional modulation. But you knew that already, given you’re probably a Dirty Loops fan. I adore this video, but there’s no doubt that’s partly because I “get” the joke and am very conscious of the musical choices that have been made.

The point is, most people, most normal people just like Adele. They just want to listen to 21. And they don’t listen to the originals of the above songs for pocket, or reharm, or feel, or voicing. They listen because Adele lays her emotions bare and says it how they wish they could have said it that time they got dumped. Put it this way – most normal people aren’t Tower of Power fans.

I’m not saying that as a listener I don’t care about emotion in music (I’ve written about this before). I’m certainly not saying that musicians get more from listening to music than “civilians” (in fact I think caring too much about technique blocks musicians off from huge swathes of amazing stuff). We just have different ears, y’know?

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