Last night, we went to see Ben Folds at the Ryman, and before I write my little rant here, I’ll first say that it was a great show. He had a full band with him, and it’s great to see him rock out instead of the piano recitals that have become his solo shows. He also played a lot of old songs (Kate, Lullabye, Underground, and Fair to name a few), and it was great to hear him live. We were also on the third row, which didn’t hurt!

Having said that, Ben’s gotten awfully pretentious is his old age. The newer songs usually lack the humor that his early stuff had, and when the humor is there, it seems more mean spirited now. I think it started with “Rockin’ The Suburbs” and his obvious disdain for white middle class America. That song is actually pretty funny, but that attitude has continued to grow stronger in his music, and he really outdid himself with this whole fake album thing. Releasing fake songs to the internet is one thing, but playing those songs in concert is another. It seemed like an insult to the fans in a way, as if he was saying, “I wrote these shitty songs, but you’re going to listen to them and love them anyway.” And doesn’t it take an insane amount of ego to think that fans want you to play songs that you wrote in less than an hour as a joke at a live show?

But you know, I think this is just the music business in a nutshell. Writing music for a living requires a lot of ego (why else would you think that anyone wants to hear what you have to say?), and it leads to weird crap like this. And just from my experience working in the music business, I know it’s easy to become jaded towards both the career and sometimes the fans themselves. White middle class America is an easy target, and hey, at least Ben is targeting himself most of the time too. I think white middle class America is pretty lame too most of the time. It just seems like a bit of anger and disdain have replaced the good natured ribbing that was there on the early records.

Back in the old days when I was writing songs, I know that I gravitated towards certain themes, and I think all writers do. Maybe it’s just inevitable that when you write about the same issues for a long time, you’re bound to lose some of your sense of humor about them. Or maybe I’m just one of those guys that only likes old music. Maybe Ben is evolving with the times, and I am content here in the past. Or maybe I just worked in the music business too long, and I assume the worst of musicians.

No matter what it is, I am not afraid to say it: I like the early records better. For pretty much every artist of all time.

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