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The Jaden Smith Musical Fallacy

| Sunday, March 2, 2014

jaden_musical_fallacy_WEBMaria Massa

This past Sunday, Jaden Smith was bestowed the glorious ‘worst actor’ Razzie award for his ‘performance’ in the mind-blowingly terribad film “After Earth.” Now, I don’t know much about film, but I do know something about Jaden Smith — from his Twitter account. The young man is famous for his, er, philosophy. In case you’re not familiar, here are some choice tweets for ya:

  1. How Can Mirrors Be Real If Our Eyes Aren’t Real
  2. “It’s Your Birthday” Mateo Said. I Didn’t Respond. “Are You Not Excited To Be 15” He Asked. Reading My Book I Uttered “I Turned 15 Long Ago”
  3. Most Trees Are Blue

Despite my limitless knowledge of Jaden’s wisdom, it’s safe to say I’m not a guy who checks Twitter often. But today, I just had to see if Jaden had responded to his Razzie ‘win’. Clicking on my favorites bar, I flew over to Jaden’s page and began drinking in his recent tweets. Disappointingly, he hasn’t tweeted since February, so there was no response to be found. Instead, I found his two-line review of Kid Cudi’s new album:

“Kid Cudi’s New Album Is Next Level. I’m Starting To Have Hope For Modern Music Again.”

Now, I’ve heard a lot of people say that modern music is rubbish. As a huge fan of modern music, I usually feel like unsheathing my great musical sword when such a thing is said. Given that many such people are either friends, family, or random people on the Internet, I usually just hold my tongue and move on. But Jaden Smith, pretentious faux-philosopher of the Internet? His tweet, and his ignorant dismissal of modern music, need to die.

With a feverish intensity, I set my fingers to the keyboard to defeat Jaden’s claim. However, one problem arose immediately — the claim is vague. What, according to Jaden, would be non-modern music? When, according to him, were the good old days?  I needed to find out who Jaden’s favorite composers or artists were.

It wasn’t long before I found Jaden’s music. The man is a rapper, or at least talks to a rhythm over several beats. Unless Jaden is aiming to make music that he himself thinks is bad, he must mean older rap and hip-hop when he talks about non-modern-music. To narrow it down to which artists in particular he admires, I needed to do more searching.

What I found was baffling. Jaden’s mixtape didn’t harken back to ‘80s or ‘90s hip-hop. It didn’t look back upon ‘60s psychedelic or ‘50s big band, and it certainly didn’t go back earlier. Instead, Jaden’s mixtape was ultra-modern. With slick, heavily-produced, atmospheric beats, Jaden’s music was rather similar to the average contemporary hip-hop song. Yet even more than that, Jaden chose to rap over two beats built on samples from extremely forward-thinking, chic electronic artists Purity Ring and SBTRKT. Jaden’s claim that of Modern Music was hopeless, sans Kid Cudi, just didn’t match up with the music he himself made.

When I took on Jaden Smith’s claim about modern music, I thought I’d end up with something to argue against. As it turns out, the claim was groundless. Jaden Smith loves modern music and he wishes to create it. It inspires him. What, then, was there to learn from this dead end?

As it turns out, Jaden’s musical fallacy is something we often claim ourselves. When we talk about music, we’re pretty dismissive. When an artist or time period of music comes up in a group conversation, people usually choose sides, saying that said artist or time period is fantastic or terrible. However, there are so many songs by a particular artist and so many artists in a particular time period. We’re often straight-up incorrect in assuming that we don’t like artist X or time period Y.

I know I suffer from the Jaden Smith-style fallacy; maybe you do too. Next time a friend or passerby brings up music you think you don’t like, stop and think about it for a minute. Maybe there was a catchy chorus or a special song in the pile you once thought was trash. If we can all learn from Jaden’s fallacy, musical world peace may one day be possible.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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