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Dear Joel: Why is my '80s cover band more popular than my real band?

Dear Joel,

Does anyone ever write/play in keys where double sharps are actually necessary?

Yes, but, I mean, here's the thing:

When people say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” they’re not saying what they mean. What they mean is that no matter how silly a question might sound, it’s almost always worth asking, which is true. The simple fact of the matter is that questions can be and are frequently stupid sounding. You’re, say, a salesperson at a men’s clothing store helping a gentleman try on a tuxedo for the first time in his life. He turns to you, holds up the bowtie and politely asks, “Does this hold up the penis?” Though he thankfully spoke up and, in doing so, indicated a serious gap in his understanding of the tuxedoizing process, it’s not like his asking magically makes the question not utterly redunkulous.

I actually thought about this one for a very, very long time -- two weeks to be exact, which is nearly the longest I’ve ever thought about anything in my entire life. The closest analogue I can come up with is a person who speaks English fluently or mostly fluently, but doesn’t know how to read or write it asking, “Does anyone ever say anything where a semi-colon is actually necessary?”

So, how do I answer this’n? It turns out there’s nothing I can say that doesn’t make me sound like total super-douche material. I mean, what -- any time you’re writing a piece of music in A sharp minor and you decide that, um, I don’t know, you want a fucking leading tone, yeah, I think a double sharp would be necessary. See what an asshole that makes me sound like? If this question were simply, “Dear Joel, What the fuck is a double sharp?” I could've gotten down to brass tizzacks.
My best advice to you? Ask me what a double sharp is.

Dear Joel
Recently, I started writing a musically-themed advice column and, while the questions are definitely trickling in, I feel as though I have to throw in a few ringers to get things started. Is this ethical?

You seem like a pretty thoughtful, attractive, rigorous, and honest person who can probably totally sleep with, like, a million people if you wanted to, but prefers to keep things chill and is ultimately looking for a deep, emotional connection with someone you consider your lover AND your best friend.

Writing an advice column is tricky business and getting started is rougher than a piece of sandpaper on parts with, like, tons of nerve endings. I think as long as you’re up front with your intentions and aren’t trying to put one over on the music-related-advice-column reading public, there’s no harm in throwing some psych-out shit in there to get things jump started.

I’d be lying if I told you that your buddy Joel here hasn’t slithered down the greasy pipe himself once or twice. It’s a fact: Sometimes duplicitous-ness is a duplicitous-ness-essity!

If you do slip your readers an inquisitive mickey and it’s totally eating you alive inside to the point that you’re just, like, a huge pile of lukewarm, whimpering maw, try going gonads-out-meta and stating your intentions in some over-the-top, obvious way.

The other option, of course, is to write things that don’t suck shit and that actually make people want to engage with you, which you would never do because you’re worthless and keep failing at everything even though you try really hard and don’t know how much more of yourself you can give in all of the important ways that people give parts of themselves when they want to be successful doing something that is ultimately meaningless.

Good luck!

Dear Joel:
My band recently had the experience of performing a set as a popular band from the '80s, thinking it would be a quirky good time and a cute homage to simpler, more naïve musical tastes.  As it turns out, it was the best show I've ever played and everyone was clearly having a much better time at the show than they would ever normally have listening to my band's music.  What does this say about me?  Should I give up?  Should I start blatantly ripping off bands that everyone likes in hopes of them liking my own band?
Man, we’ve all been there, Scooby Doo.
There are a couple of questions you need to answer, which I will present to you in my patented quirky, comical way:
1. What’s all my goals like?
2. What about playing music makes me say, “Yeah, that's the stuff!”
Let's look a little deeper into the eyes of these bulleted beauties:
1. It seems like your main goal with regard to music is to create an environment in which people have a great time. If that’s the case, and you’re committed to original compositions, then yes -- you should go about incorporating all of the time-tested, pop, sing-songy tropes that have historically led music listeners to carbonated products and intercourse since the dawn of the pianoforte or, say, carbonation. If, on the other hand, your goal is to make interesting, new-sounding music in an effort to add your name to the long list of brilliant composers that no one will ever hear of, then you should just keep trucking along and complain to your bandmates about how underappreciated your work is after every non-“cute homage” show.
2. What is interesting to you about music? This is a good question to ask yourself every six months or so because the guh-jillions of answers you have to it, you’ll find, keep changing. It’s the self-query/musical version of reading The Little Prince every year or every two years or however often an individual might decide to revisit that wonderful, tragic story. Here are some of the ways I’ve either answered this question in the past or feel that I would currently answer it:
A. I get to create something new.
B. I feel like I’m offering my take on music to a broader musical/cultural dialogue.
C. I enjoy seeing people motivated in a positive way from music I’ve made or some musical topic I’ve explored in an advice column.
D. I don’t want to make music anymore but feel pressured to do it by other people.*
E. There is a chance that I can make money playing music.
F. I just plain enjoy music. The end.
G. I enjoy receiving accolades.
H. I enjoy the structure in a mathematical way.
And a slew of others that have, at one point or another, popped up in the 45 plus years I've been making music within the 20 or so years that I've been making music.
So, really, you need to -- what do you call it -- check yo’self before you wreck yo’self up in this business transaction. Figure out what your end game looks like and then make the world go in such a way that it leads you to it. At the very least, I can nearly guarantee that by the time you get there you’ll be dissatisfied in a new and exciting way.
k c u!

*I should point out that I am decidedly NOT currently feeling this way.


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Dear Joel: Why is my '80s cover band more popular than my real band? | December 30, 2008
Answered: Are my friends musical geniuses? Did he write that song about me? | December 17, 2008

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