How far is too far, when paying someone a compliment? Can the person who’s trying to say something really good and sincere about someone end up doing damage?
I’ve been struggling with these questions for the last month after getting an earful from a good friend and writer for this mag. This friend of mine took great umbrage with the fact that in last month’s reviews I compared an artist to Bob Dylan and Neil Young … well, to be fair, what I said was “I’m not afraid of the backlash by haters who will lambast me for calling the artist the Bob Dylan and Neil Young of our time.”
In my mind, I’m paying this artist the highest compliment, saying that his songs are thought provoking, poetic, romantic and strong enough to withstand the test of time.
My friend, however, saw it another way and wrote me a long e-mail stating, in part: “When you say that someone is the ‘Dylan of our generation’ or ‘(Insert Name) of our generation’ it makes me very skeptical of them (rather than open minded) because I immediately compare them to Dylan or that person. It is an unfair comparison and in the end the artist you are trying to help always loses. No one is going to be the next Dylan. I probably would have liked him had you not used that comparison. I listened to his album with the thought of this guy being the next Dylan and Neil and after four songs was like, ‘O.K., here is another over-hyped artist.’ Had I not had that comparison in my head I probably would have enjoyed him and the album more.”
Well, my retort was quick and short, saying that he was the one who was close-minded and that he was way too sensitive if a simple reference to a legendary artist when discussing an up-and-comer made him closed off to the artist.
But then something really, really strange happened the night of the band’s show. As I was getting a pre-show beverage I was talking with the group’s drummer, who said simply, “We’re not that good.” This is one of the guys I was paying respect to and he didn’t even like the compliment!
He agreed with my buddy that the compliment was over the top. What the hell!?
So, I’ve gone back and re-listened to the album, I’ve read and re-read my review of it. I stand by my comments, but also understand where these guys are coming from. The one thing I still can’t wrap my head around, though, is why does it work in some instances to compare artists, but fails so miserably in others and when is a compliment too much? I’d love to hear more debate on this.
Comment away in the blog-o-web!
See you at the shows.