Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Read All About the Banality

Some time ago when I finally sat down to write my little short story about the ephemerid vampire which had been knocking about my skull for a while, I ran a little late. Yet I wanted to force myself to actually finish something for once, so I kept on into the night. I knew most of what I wanted to say, had the first half mostly written, knew the ending, and hurried to fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, that rushed filler turned out to be just that: filler. And from the second day onwards I've felt guilty and stupid about the weakness of the story, especially in the second half. It boils down to my repetition of "this matters." Though I knew I'd need some sort of mantra for my character to internally monologue as he rushes toward self-fulfillment, "make this matter" is so hopelessly bland and prosaic that it comes across more like an annoying tick than a ponderous build-up of purpose.

Banality can wreck any work of art despite whatever other potential it might have. Enter Emeli Sande and what could potentially have been one of the best songs of its type I've ever heard. One should be especially careful when engaged in something so formulaic as a power-ballad, as walking that edge between power and ballad implies transitioning from the universality of common speech and common experience toward uplifting, poetic, even pompous or bombastic lyrical self-indulgence. Unfortunately, Read All About It Part 3, much like my little attempt at re-hashing urban dark fantasy and vampire stories, unravels abruptly when the chorus for the second half beings to repeat.
"We're all wonderful people" is as godawful a mantra as my own "it matters" and much as with my complaint about Free Bird, such mundane blandness destroys the "ballad" half of the overall effect of the song. But while Free Bird's intent was still carried on its brilliant instrumental composition, Emeli Sande's rather unambitious emphasis on soft vocals and common wording left no such room for error. Free Bird is a flawed gem. Read All About It is cracked.

I never know how to feel about this. What should I think when big names make the same mistakes I make? Should I draw some encouragement from the notion that I may not be so far below them as I thought, or does the inevitability of such errors imply utter hopelessness?

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