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Feels or Perfection? What Are We Striving For In Music?

In art, every artist faces the reality of choosing between something full of feeling and something flawless.

Flaws bring things to life. A scar tells a story, a laugh in the middle of a take invites humanity, and a crack in the voice at an emotional moment authenticates communication.

When I listen to my favorite music, the pieces that truly feel alive, I am not looking for something that could be machine-made. I am seeking something that breathes, which means there is a crack in the exterior, as poets and artists have observed over the ages.

“The wound is where the light enters” - Rumi 
“The crack is where the light gets in” - Leonard Cohen 
“Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light” - Groucho Marx 
“Only the wounded physician heals” - C.G. Jung

The life and nature in something is what touches us, it’s what we relate to, and it’s how we see ourselves in the expression or the expression in ourselves. In this age of AI, tweaking, and correcting, music is stuck in an existential vortex: to pitch correct or to smooth, to make "perfect," or to leave the tremble and the falling note? It becomes a battle between expected norms and authenticity.

So, what do we want from music and from life? Do we want the illusion of perfection? Or do we seek a connection with truth? Do we seek art that brings out and resonates with our own human experience?

What happens when an artist is faced with a strong, untouched but nearly flawless take, without any bells and whistles, and another that feels at times frail and inconsistently slightly wobbly but also so real, in the context of a song? This is the question that is currently snagging my thoughts this morning. I am having this internal debate about 39 seconds of a 5-minute 34-second song. I have sung two versions of an intro. One almost trembles in the awesomeness of the lyrical concepts in the storytelling but feels delicate and tentative like a butterfly on a petal. The other is flawless, slick, and strong. Neither take is treated. One is imperfect but touching; I feel something when I listen to it. The other is vocally perfect, hip, and strong with more technical prowess, but it doesn’t move me as much. This is a tough choice. Do I choose “perfect” or “emotional?” — I will always hear the other version in my head after I choose to go with one.

There is another song on this album where I faced this choice. I recorded the song both ways and, in the end, I chose the emotional take, leaving the perfect one on the shelf. This was without any filters or treatments, pure performance.

In some ways, it feels like an act of rebellion against an airbrushed world where everything needs to appear plasticized and devoid of humanity. I leave the freckles in because I love the beauty of a hard-earned life story. That freckle came from an afternoon in a field of flowers on a sunny day. That scar came from a bike ride on a dirt road in the woods. That scrape on my shoe came from a fun day out living in the city walking all over town and that is where the story is. The story that touches the human heart on a relatable level is not something a machine can create alone. And if it did, would it intentionally add in flaws? For believability?

There is an intentional “weakness” left in this song, which supports the story. This song was released on streaming services today. It is about the moment of connection when eyes meet and energies, like ripples, overlap.

There are lines in the story: “You glance my way and suddenly you caught my eye,” and “you pass by sending ripples in the air.” If you listen closely to the vocal, it sounds like the breath is shallow. This is not a deficiency in my breath control; it is a creative choice. What happens when something literally “takes our breath away”? Something like this happens. I chose to leave it sounding like that rather than use a more powerful vocal take that carries less feeling.

If you would like to see the video that accompanies this song it is here. Full of humans being human.

As an artist, being human is a superpower. Being in touch with our frailties and the range of our emotions makes us better artists. That's where I land on the topic. Where do you land? I would like to know. Please send me a note, or leave a comment. Until then, wishing you the full range of beauty and joy.



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