Rob’s Work. Is it working?

It is the last weekend of May, the last working day of 2nd Quarter, a working adult in the business environment would typically be required to provide some reports to tabulate past figures and activities, do some forecasting and recommend some strategy for the future. 

I assume Rob is very busy with life in general, what with juggling work and life, so as a fan I am taking over some of his responsibilities, especially in reviewing his side music business venture.

Artist-in-charge’s assessment of duties performed: She had publicly expressed (Link #3 & Link #6) that she is happy and this relationship is worthwhile.

These are articles and reviews given by professional journalists and publications respected in their fields (Pitchfork for music, the Guardian (sometimes questionable) and Telegraph for mainstream UK news, New York Times and Huffington Post (also sometimes questionable). I say ‘sometimes questionable’ because they tend to err a tiny bit and give credence to tabloid sources. All in all I think I have followed my own principle of not giving an ounce of attention to tabloids’ headlines. It was tough wading through the media and news article for decent reports on either FKA Twigs’ or Robert Pattinson’s career these days. 

Putting my emotional investment in all things Robert Pattinson concerned aside; as a music lover, a professionally trained musician, a frequent concert goer, in other words the ultimate consumer I have to say FKA Twigs’ career roadmap does not look too bright. And it is all because of incorrect product positioning. (i.e barking up the wrong genre tree). To start with she cannot be classified to belong to any genre, the best is to go with ‘experimental R&B artiste’ (as in performing artist). 

Lucky for me, I am not paid to write reviews so I will just spill from my guts. Her vocals are weak, if she said she sung opera before (as I heard from her BBC radio interview) it is certainly not showing. Her song compositions are monotonous without much chord progression and over produced, her lyrics are unintelligible (by ear). Then again art and music are very subjective and personal; people may find the appeal in the whispery sensual voice, and the deep instrumental bass echoing throughout. 

As Ben Ratliff( from the New York Times) upon attended Congregata in Brooklyn Hanger recently, pointed out that ‘The heart of FKA Twigs’s enterprise is physical movement. It drives her songwriting; her spare and drip-drop percussive arrangements; her light, high singing; her startling videos; and the live transmission of her music. It’s the locus of her power.’ (Link #7 )  but ‘…her music maintained its severe distance from commercial pop’. 

I have never bought an album for their dance movements, and I don’t think I ever will. I have however paid good money to attend theatrical works all over the world. (I am almost too embarrassed to admit those few years of childhood classical ballet did nothing to me in dance appreciation). However, I still have to thank Robert Pattinson for bringing in FKA Twigs in educating some roots about dancing, especially Vogue dancing, krumping, and other forms of street dancing. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogue_%28dance%29 ) However it has not enlightened me nor made me gain appreciation to this art form because there is a seriously lacking component in FKA Twigs’ enterprise, i.e. Connection

The last concert I attended gave me a high feeling for a few days; 3 hours of rock solid singing and musical performance, no pre-show, 16 piece band, songs after songs which connected a crowd of 16000 people, screaming and singing along to the songs they know and could relate to, swaying to the music. That is my definition of good music, musician and concert. Theatrical works moved me too, not in a sense that made me want to get up and dance but it put me in a trance, a moment where in that space and time I thank God that He made this artiste and thanked Him for the talent. From the short clips I have seen of FKA Twigs’ Congregata performance and other on-stage performances, and upon reading some professional reviews, I only sensed the world ‘frustration’ throughout (link #4). It is an ‘art song’ performance, showcasing some best dancers in their field. Will I pay money to gain that ‘provocative’ experience?  I highly doubt so. 

In short, the kind of performance from FKA’ Twigs enterprise is  :

Not elegant enough to be Bolshoi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolshoi_Ballet)
Not inspiring enough to be Riverdance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riverdance)
Not hip enough to be Stomp, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stomp_%28theatrical_show%29)
Not interesting enough to be Cirque du Soleil (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cirque_du_Soleil

These are just some of the dance and theatrical performances I have attended before.  

I have already ruled out buying LP1 due to its lack of draw for my personal listening preferences and now I am not even drawn to her best trait/talent i.e. her dancing. So where does that lead me as an ultimate consumer? Besides talking about her (that is what she wants people to do btw. Link#3 and #5) there is nothing else to do. In short, it is an effort of an underground artist trying to make it mainstream. Will she succeed? I don’t know. Crazier things have happened in this business if you go by popularity and buzz.

Being mainstream means bringing in the dough, appeal to the general public, instead of attracting a niche and a handful of ‘knowing’ crowd. Being ‘singular in view or vision about her art’ is not going to feed any starving artist or pay the bills. (Unless maybe you have very rich sponsors or admirers to sustain your niche market). It takes more than talent to stay afloat in business. Everything has an expiry date, I believe real talents will be discovered eventually and talent in abundance will take the world by storm, but short-term sparks disguised as interesting acts will melt away like fads. In all cruelty of the business world, it is all about ‘showing me the money’ even for something as simple as a football/soccer game ( FIFA scandal now ringing a bell?)

I can only wish her team Good Luck and hope that they do better next time. Here are some suggested readings for her management to get some ideas on better product positioning. Yes I mean Young Turks, XXL, Beggars’ Group etc (or even Rob) in general. It is a tough road ahead to map out a commercial success out of this enterprise you have at hand. 

https://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/digital-and-mobile/6070011/artist-development-musicians-are-now-in-control-guest 

http://www.musicthinktank.com/blog/independent-recording-artist-development-in-2014.html

On a lighter note here is a recently released posthumous music video from Michael Jackson with (a very much alive) Justin Timberlake. I could get sense a great connection to this music video despite it not being a live performance, and this is the great King of commercial success, a merging of good music, dance and collaborative artists.

https://youtu.be/oG08ukJPtR8

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FKA twigs (wearing a “Saks Fith Avenue” dress) and Robert Pattinson - NYC (05/19/2015)

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FKA twigs (Using a Coogi Brand Zipper Cardi) and Robert Pattinson - After the gym in LA (05/11/2015)