I think this is going to be one of those semi-confessional posts… every now and then I have to do one of those. This was truly inspired by the BBC documentary that we posted the other day about Michael’s influence. But really this post is not about Michael per se, but more about how we view music, success, what’s disposable and the never ending debate about whether or not you can be critical without being labeled a “hater”.

I’ll begin with this so called well worn notion of what is and what isn’t “haterism” or any derivative of that tired, tired moniker. I know that’s a whole other post but just the word alone makes me cringe because it has been so heavily co-opted and commercialized that I’m truly waiting for the commercial when Ronald McDonald smacks down the Burger King while he cautions: “Don’t hate on my fries, playboy” or something like that(anything to sell you something that’s ultimately not good for you) but I digress…

My issue is with this notion that somehow artists become above criticism based upon the number of units they sell. Somehow if an artist of limited musical ability happens to sell a lot of music and you are critical of their output you’re not being critical, you’re being a hater.

What saddens me about a lot of artists Michael included is that they are/were under the so much pressure to prove themselves viable and the only benchmark that has been in place for years is record sales. Yes of course it’s a business, of course you want to be successful, but there have been a lot of things that have been popular that aren’t necessarily good. To use another McDonald’s analogy: Who’s has sold more hamburgers than McDonald’s, no one , but are the hamburgers really that good? Are they good at all? Besides the money and the influence in the populace what’s the legacy of McDonald’s? Wal-Mart? I could go on and on here but I won’t bore you with my thoughts on consumerism.

Michael kept striving to be #1 that’s why he aligned himself with some of the very questionable musical collaborators, that he did. He wanted to be McDonald’s when many who love and admire his music wished that maybe he could have gone the Wolfgang Puck route. Probably wouldn’t have sold as many records but the musical meal would have been very memorable. Same thing with Quincy Jones and so many others, just trying to capture that value meal crowd when they clearly can align themselves with the five-star dining set.

Call it whatever you want, call me whatever you want… certainly what anyone likes in music is subjective, it truly is a matter of taste. I’m just afraid that so many people are making music for today, without any concern for that nerdy kid who might discover what you created ten years later. I mean if we post a link to a mixtape five minutes after some other blog “we’re late”, isn’t the point that the great music get out there, whenever, the point is that it is out there.

Finally, in closing(I sound somewhat like a preacher… put me in Ab) I was a witness to some pretty inspiring and some pretty ignorant debates on Twitter this week surrounding the “success” of the release of Nicki Minaj’s album Pink Friday everything from revisionist history, to just good ‘ole downright “WTH?”

I don’t own a record label so I don’t care about “numbers” and when did all of these so-called musicians become accountants with MBA’s? If you are going to make music, make music. If you are going to count beans, count beans. But please, please, please in the name of James don’t you ever come to me and say how good your music is based on the number of beans in your pocket because quite frankly if you have to do that you don’t know Jack.

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.