Clean or Dirty? Creating Art That is True

It’s Always Sunny in Tijuana asked a simple question: “What’s everyone’s thoughts on clean vocals?”  For those of you not familiar with metal music, the genre is dominated by screaming, grunting and growling vocals. Those who can perform these vocal acrobatics with precision are worshiped. Clean vocals can carry a stigma and possibly disqualify a vocalist from consideration as a serious metal artist. So this question voices an existential dilemma that I want to address for all creative people.

Whether you write fan fiction, paint with dog feces, or sing clean vocals in an obviously metal song, you have to ask yourself two questions. (1) Does performing this creative act nourish you? (2) Does the end result complete your vision?

Question One

A creative act is an act of Divinity. It should nourish your alienated, battered, constantly evolving soul. You should feel closer to the Source. You should dig so deep inside that your guts are laid out on the table for a close and thorough inspection by anyone who cares to look. That’s essentially what the creative act involves.

You want to feel like a string plucked by the hand of God. If you write something, and you’re like “Bazinga!” then you have connected with the Source. If you sing something and your whole body resonates with the notes, then you’ve answered the first question.

Art as Big Bang on a smaller scale...

Art is a Big Bang on a smaller scale…

Question Two

Vision is a misnomer. Vision isn’t just what we see but could be described more accurately as ambiance, atmosphere, or evocation.  When you have achieved vision, there is a resonance between you and the work you have created. It is like looking at your child and marveling that you produced something so freakin’ awesome.

Vision implies completeness. Vision leaves no confusion.  There may be loose threads, but the existential inquiries are answered. If the story you wrote provides a gratifying ending, one that speaks to the human condition, then you’ve achieved resonance. When the wall of sound reaches a crescendo and your vocals (clean, dirty, or otherwise) add that perfect counterpoint to cause heads to bang and they’re screaming for more, then you’ve answered the second question  (think “Bohemian Rhapsody”).

Clean or dirty is a question that will always be asked as artists grapple with their fears of exposure and ridicule.  Creativity is an act of courage. Doing anything that invites others to criticize and possibly reject the very essence of who you are is tremendously brave.

As you deepen in your art, cleanliness or lack thereof will no longer be a relevant question. Clean art has no greater value than its down-and-dirty sibling. Instead, the question becomes, is my art TRUE?

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