So, we’re in the kitchen the other day, listening to the little radio and Luther Vandross’ “Take You Out” come on. Realizing that I’m humming along, I told Wendy that, of all of the shitty Luther songs that have come out in the last fifteen years (and God knows there’s been a bunch of them), this might be my favorite. Y’know, I don’t like it, but I do find myself tapping my foot to the melody. Well, being the ever supportive wife, she starts clowning me and accusing me of losing my taste in music. According to her, I’m about to buy some smooth jazz and start wearing mustard colored mock turtlenecks. Now, it was all fun and jokes but, I have to admit, I’m always on the lookout for my sense of aesthetics slipping away.
Because it happens to lots of people. As much as I rail against how pop and disposable black music got in the eighties and want to blame suburban housewives for ruining my music, the ugly truth is that I don’t know how much the audience actually changed. The same people who bought Patti Labelle’s 1977 album, Patti Labelle and correctly celebrated “Joy To Have Your Love” as one of the greatest R&B songs ever…bought the embarrassingly cheesy “New Attitude” from The Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack almost ten years later. And I’ve always wondered, what happens to make you start liking bad music? Are you just loyal to the artist or does something actually occur that makes you lose your taste?
Y’know, when Q-Tip’s solo debut, Amplified, came out in 1999, I had a real crisis trying to determine whether or not I really liked it because it was good or because it was Q-Tip or if, maybe, my senses were slipping. The production was completely opposite from the warmer, more organic, jazz inflected work of A Tribe Called Quest, resembling the current, staccato, Swizz Beats type tracks that I hated but I liked it when he rhymed over it. I remember saying that I liked it for what it was and, even when I reviewed it, basically saying that Q-Tip could do no wrong with me because, well, he’s Q-Tip. But doesn’t that explain why someone would buy “A House Is Not A Home” and “Dance With My Father?”
I still don’t know if it excuses bad music though. Q-Tip’s second studio release, The Renaissance, is much more in the vein of his Tribe work and I like it more than the aforementioned debut and I acknowledge the difference. The problem with the later work of artists who used to produce really good work is that their fans don’t really call them on it. And it shouldn’t matter whether you can tap your foot to it or not.