on Playbuttons & the art of vicarious living

In the past, to be a ‘fan’ of a band was to, in some significant way, be a manifestation of what the band stood for. We could also say that bands took their spirit from the people themselves. So we had rockers, hippies, beatniks, mods, punks, etc, etc. In that sense, there was nothing really great about Jimi Hendrix or Bob Dylan, or Jim Morrison of Janis Joplin. They were simply a musical rendition of what the people already were in thought and spirit - and they did do much more thinking those days too. (though it has to be said that these bands/singers also helped to develop or/and underdevelop the masses as well)

Then, of course, came the 80s. The rebellious spirit went on, though quite bereft of its ideological impetus. But even then, to wear a badge of a band was in a way a statement of our view of life, or a complement to what we already were. We might wear, say, a Michael Jackson, or Prince (my choice, though i didn’t wear the badge, but still have all the albums up to ‘Batman’, on vinyl) badge. But, you could say, they appealed to what we already were, in perspective or/and fashion - albeit not as profound as the 60s or 70s. However, as society was increasingly being educated out of the notion that there was still an ideological battle to be fought, much of the 80s vibrancy had no meaningful way to articulate itself. Thus, and thereafter, came the insensible times of the 90s to the present.

But what are we to make of this new revolution in mass band-affiliation. This ‘Playbutton’ thing.

“The Playbutton is a digital music album in the form of a badge, providing album artwork that you can wear. Pin it to your lapel, plug in a pair of headphones and you can walk down the street displaying your musical taste as you listen.”

"I thought about giving a new use to digital files by putting them in a dedicated player. It's an iconic form that gives you the chance to show your affiliation,"

says the bloke who came up with this thing.
(source of images and quote - Playbutton: Self-playing music for digital times)

‘Brands’ were once a complement to what we were. Now, it is a compensation for what we aren’t. I remember the fuss over ‘Gap’ changing its logo a short while ago, and which led to their bringing it back. People sport brands, or are made to by corporations, through oversized logo prints, prominent positioning, et cetera, as if it truly meant something. I have this Adidas track top with a big ass gold-coloured logo emblazoned on the left side - i’m finding some way to remove this stain. As far as i’m concerned, my style and personality is my ‘brand’. Says ed, in his more irate moments, “I don’t need to advertise for these profit-greedy capitalists bas****s to feel that i mean something just because they associate some logo with some attitude. (Shooting up his fore and centre finger) Tell them to associate with this and get lost.”

Show off our band affiliation? That is like showing off the bands or ‘artistes’ through whom we live vicariously.Well, it is within this context that something like the Playbutton takes its meaning. Show off our band affiliation? That is like showing off the bands or ‘artistes’ through whom we live vicariously. And to complement, and contextualise this, we have those lame-brains going for ‘Guitar Hero’, ‘Band Hero’ or whatever its called, and people queuing up to enter this or that lame ‘idol’ or ‘Britain’s got Talent’ contest. And let’s not forget the Nintendo Wii, those juvenile ‘apps’ for the Iphone, or other such variants that further the quest of the PTBs to ensure that people get accustomed to ‘vicarious/juvenile living’ to the point that when it comes to actual living, we’re just going to be content with being waged-slaves and consumers. Giving everyone a ‘fix’ of life so that once they come off the ‘high’, they can get ‘practical’ and stick to being a simple cog and wheel in a socioeconomic machinery geared toward the continued all-round hegemony of the global elite.

Is it any wonder that much bands and ‘artistes’ these days don’t have anything really meaningful or insightful or metaphysical to say? I suppose, in this sense, these ‘artistes’ are still drawing their inspiration from the masses as their counterparts did in the past. As the people become nothing more than consumers, they are left only with the primitive portion of their personas. It’s no wonder that musical whores (ass put to music) like Gaga, Shakira, Beyonce, etc, etc, can gain popularity. It’s just the beat that seems to move people now. Something like startling a nearby cat with a hand-bang on the table. Beats and Bums. That’s what its all about. Do you think a Led Zeppelin or a Ravi Shanker is going to gain as much popularity these days as they did in the past?

The Playbutton seems innocuous enough on its own. But that’s how the PTBs want you to see things. When you connect the dots, then you’ll realise that the sum of many seemingly innocuous penchants and pastimes of our ‘modern’ era totals up to you being but a ‘trend’, a jagged line on a ‘forecast’ board which gains greater predictability the more the mass it represents leave the real art of living to others, or some mustachioed Mario on a screen, or some butt swiveling artiste on a stage.

Living vicariously through others, or having life and passion being misrepresented by a Gaga or a Beckham, or some other ‘celeb’, is that which ensures that if we want to feel alive, we’ll do it vicariously, or live it meaninglessly. Think about it....and when it comes to the Playbutton, it might, at many a time, be prudential to hit the Offbutton.



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