Saturday, May 29, 2010

Paul as an "Advanced Genius"

In an article for The Wall Street Journal entitled "When Bad Works Happen to Great Artists," author Jason Hartley proposes a momentarily interesting but ultimately very unconvincing theory about "genius" artists of previous generations who are still active and whom many view (Hartley would say incorrectly) as well past their prime. To advance his argument, he dissects Paul's 9/11 tribute song, "Freedom."

So how does the man who wrote “Eleanor Rigby,” “Helter Skelter,” and “Band on the Run” lose the ability to write good songs? It’s simple: he doesn’t. The truth is that McCartney, like Bob Dylan, Leo Tolstoy and Orson Welles, is an Advanced Genius. The Advanced have a gift so great that it develops with age to the point where they are incomprehensible to others. As a result, their art appears self-indulgent, uninspired, or just plain bad when in fact it is more interesting than that of their youth. You’ve heard of “so bad it’s good”? Advanced Geniuses are so good they’re bad. And this brings us to McCartney’s post-9/11 anthem, “Freedom.”

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