Saturday, August 05, 2006

An Open Letter to Mat Kearney

Hi, Mat,

I saw you perform recently. I hadn't heard your music prior to that evening, and the concert was free, so I didn't have any expectations. Admittedly, Pari and I had misidentified your guitarist as the lead singer of your act based on his retro-Western shirt and his truly stylish instrument, versus your trucker cap (yes) and white polo shirt (what?). He looked like a star, and you -- not so much. But my main concern here is not really about the strong words you should be having with your stylist.

What concerns me is what happened when you started -- let's call it performing.

Seren: He's not.

Pari: Not what?

Seren: He's not. He is. He's white man rapping.

And you were. And you did. You proceeded to rap through pretty much every song in the set -- except for the choruses, where you sang (and I say this unreservedly) beautifully.

White man rapping. I don't mean Eminem rapping. Eminem just raps. White man rapping is something else. White man rapping to an acceptable level is, like, Shawn Mullins going temporarily spoken word on "Rockabye." (He endangers his project with the whispering, though, it must be admitted.) White man rapping to an unacceptable level is William Shatner on "Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man."

The concert experience was like riding with a student driver: my enthusiasm would start and stop and start and stop, depending on the frequency with which you would sing. ("Nothing Left to Lose," for example, all singing -- love. Or as Pari said it: "There's a reason that one's on the radio.")

Start. Stop. Start stop start. Stop. For more than an hour. I was a little bit seasick, to be frank. (And then the reason we were there came on stage and made it all better.)

The next weekend, I happened upon your new CD at a sharp discount at a used CD store. I thought, Okay, I liked that one song. And the choruses. Five bucks.

And here's the thing: I cannot stop listening to your CD.

Against my will. Against the advice of friends. Against my better sense and all my aesthetics and artistic integrity. In my mind, when I listen, somehow I sort out the parts that I hate (see: white man rapping, above) from the parts that I love (choruses, whole songs where you knock my socks off with the quality of your voice). But I want to love the whole, not just the parts.

So I ask: Why? Why the white man rapping, which you clearly believe is rap rapping?

To start with, you're from Eugene, OR. I'm from Utah, originally, but I live in Oaktown now, so I know the difference. And Eugene -- not really a ghetto. There's a river and a university and it's really clean and really white and -- maybe I'm sheltered, but I'm not so familiar with the rap community in Eugene.

Secondly, geographical considerations aside, you are bad at it, whatever you consider "it." In this case, white man rapping. You are not good. You rhyme "heart" with "heart." And also, heads up? You cannot "impart" a "heart." Just saying.

And as bad as the rapping is on the CD -- dude, you are so much worse live. I speak from slightly nauseated experience.

Is it because you've been listening to too much Fort Minor? Because I have. And you sound nothing like them. (I know this critique is anachronistic -- your album predating theirs, but still.) And also, having two different voices, one singing, one rapping, seems to make more sense to my ears. You singing and you rapping? It's like, Get over it. You're no Billy Corrigan, and it's not like his penchant for playing every instrument made him very popular either. And also? The rapping. You are not good.

The singing? Yes, you are good. The singing? Yes, more, please. The rapping? No.

(I'm going to carefully put to the side the issue that your undersophisticated rhyming is meant to glorify Jesus. I'm not going to touch that. Except just a little: Really? You'd take a bullet for Jesus? And now I'm going to hell.)

I'm not a musician. I am not a music critic. I'm just a music listener, and I don't always have the most urbane and justifiable of musical tastes. Why should you take advice from me? It doesn't hurt that I'm not alone in this dismay over your rapping. But the real difference between me and the critic from Rolling Stone -- I'm still listening to your music.

So, please. For my sake, just sing.

5 Comments:

Blogger TadMack said...

...maybe I'm sheltered, but I'm not so familiar with the rap community in Eugene

Weeping. WEEPING with laughter,I tell you.

WMR: yet another deficit disorder to add to the list.

Mon Aug 07, 03:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Pari said...

Wow! I also am wiping the tears from my cheeks -
hilarious! And bold! Not only do I love love love being part of the post ;) but I feel that it will give Matt Kearny serious pause, and the rest of us the best laugh we've had in a long time. You were in the flow with this one, Seren! ;)

Tue Aug 08, 12:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Seren said...

Thank you, both. Even after this? Still listening to the album. What is wrong with me? Maybe I need the intervention, not Mat.

Wed Aug 09, 03:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger MeiMeiLn said...

Oh my lord. (And I said that because it seemed appropriate). When you said you couldn't stop listening to the CD, that was the best thing I heard all week. COuldn't stop laughing. And now that I've finally read this post, my sides hurt. The fact that Matt K. does Christian rap is ... priceless--given your love for Christian music. :)

Thu Aug 10, 09:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger TadMack said...

The hysteria heightens... somehow MISSED that this was a CHRISTIAN effort. And I say effort quite meaningfully.

No need to take a bullet for Jesus, Mat. He's been there, done that one. Just... walk away from the CD, Seren. Walk away...

Fri Aug 11, 03:32:00 PM EDT  

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