Music journalists display a wonderful penchant for exaggeration – taking gross liberties with the truth and twisting the facts as we see fit, we crash through the boundaries of ‘acceptable journalistic practice’. Some genre is always dying an horrific and protracted death and there’s perpetually another ‘Saviour of Music’ on the horizon. However, with the protection afforded by the mighty NUS we fear no lawyer, and, now that we have a pirate for president, we’ll soon have cutlasses at our disposal. Nobody dares to sue if you’re brandishing anachronistic weaponry. But I digress – our journalistic quest is, of course, all in the name of ultimate truth. You see, it’s tempting to see our writing as having some kind of greater significance – so what if our columns are only published in a free university newspaper? Future generations will recognise our greatness. And that’s what’s important – artistic integrity above all else.
So what have we learned? Cynicism – I think that’s the first thing. Sure, a band may be good now, but their next album will almost certainly be rubbish. Remember the ‘next big thing’ from a few years back? He’s now stealing money from schoolchildren in a desperate attempt to finance his comeback. Paradoxically, hyperbole is an acceptable, no, applaudable, attribute going, as it does, hand in hand with our friend exaggeration. Described two albums as ‘the greatest album of all time’ in the same column? That’s quirky. Forgot that the androgynous singer from the latest indie favourite self-defines as female? You were being ironic, intentionally exposing the prejudices of the general public. And this brings us neatly to the second ‘Most Important Thing You Will Ever Learn’: It’s only a game, don’t take it too seriously.
But last week something tempted me to discard the hard won lessons of my two-term journalistic career. To summarise a point that I could have made through witty anecdotes and logical associations if I hadn’t used up my column space going off on irrelevant tangents – the Little Guy stuck it to The Man. No idea what I’m talking about? Did you notice who won the Best Song Oscar? An Irish guy with a beard and a guitar with a massive hole in it and his partner, a diminutive Czech pianist and singer. This is Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, whose independent film Once has been an unexpected success. But why does this particular success excite me? Well, Glen Hansard is a fellow Dubliner, and in Dublin, everybody knows everybody else. I mean, my friend saw him perform ‘Falling Slowly’ in front of less than 40 people in a record store in rural Galway, and another mate of mine often pops around for dinner with Hansard and Irglova. Hansard’s a brilliant musician but success outside of the Irish music scene seemed to have passed him by. But now, this ginger-haired Irishman has won an Oscar – not bad for a Grafton Street busker. So I’m tempted to drop my cynicism and celebrate with unfettered enthusiasm this reminder that beautiful music can succeed on its own merits. But don’t worry, normal service will resume. In the meantime, watch Once, the songs will change your life.