Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Kenny G: The devil is smooth

A few weeks ago, I was assaulted*. Aurally that is. As I stepped into the restaurant, the attack was immediate. I had the opportunity to walk right out, but instead I stayed only to be aurally abused for the next 20-25 minutes. An entire Kenny G album was playing at Vegan House on this particular day. I ate fast and left a little of my meal so I could get out of there sooner as I really couldn't stand it. I almost asked them to turn it off. While you would think a vegan restaurant in the hip Los Angeles neighbourhood of Silverlake would cater to their clientele, the folks at Vegan House seem only concerned with providing delicious vegan food, aware only that people in this area are more likely to eat this food, but otherwise know nothing else about them, or the rest of mankind in general. I am always amazed at any public broadcasts of Kenny G's music as I thought the widespread disgust for this sound, while appreciated by some (including the woman who bore me), was a universally known joke.

Kenny G seems like such an easy target, it seems almost silly to mention it. It's so "goes without saying" that saying it seems futile to discuss it further. It is because the disgust for Kenny has become so autonomous that I feel I must really flesh out the problem as to why this music is more widely loathed than loved, no matter how many plebeians claim to be fans.

In case you needed a new reason to loathe him, here's this...

Admittedly, music and taste are subjective and with so many millions of G albums sold, he must be appealing to someone on some level. But I feel that among fans there is a "goes without saying" sensuality about his music that doesn't really "go" at all. Instead, I find it "sensual" in the same way as having one's overweight, large reddened-nosed boss come up from behind and put that music on while he does something "beautiful" to you. Only you don't want it. It's fucking gross and wrong. Yep, I think it's beautiful in the way molestation is beautiful to the molester. Hearing it makes me feel molested.

That's how I feel when I hear Kenny G. Violated. This feeling which I get when I hear even a few seconds of his music is what leads me to write this. In hearing it, I can understand why someone with a poor understanding of good music could be wooed into thinking it's "beautiful" but it seems like a complete perversion of the word. To me, it's as beautiful as when Aussies have "curry night" and make some bastardised version of a curry with apples and raisins and a few specks of curry powder and think they are eating a great curry (I'm from a curry family. I know what a curry is supposed to be). Or when someone from a small town in the midwest goes "oriental" and wears a tacky kimono for a bath robe that they bought at the local craft store. It's taking a great thing and ruining it and not realising what's been done. People who don't know any better or don't have a real taste for better things will be appeased, even moved by these things. But when you do now better, you can see how fucking wrong they are. It is for this reason that I think the horrors of Kenny G go beyond a matter of taste and is actually, without question, simply BAD.

Here he goes, butchering more beloved songs. I can never forgive him for what he did to "Over The Rainbow". What a cunt.

Again, I'm aware that taste in music is subjective, but I feel that it is safe to say that Kenny's music is out and out bad. It's a fact. Am I an asshole? Possibly.

Here is an interview I did with multi instrumentalist, Bär McKinnon of Umläut, more commonly known for his fabulous sax playing with Mr. Bungle. I thought it wise to get a real sax player's views on this controversial issue.

Hello Bär, and thank you for giving us your time and insight on this important and delicate subject.

How do you feel when you hear Kenny G?

When I hear Kenny G my first thought/feeling is..Do these people around me actually LIKE this ..? Also, car-sick.

Do you feel Kenny G has given the saxophone a bad name?

Yes. Kenny G has given the soprano sax a bad name to a certain extent. (And don't dare have the same hair or fashion sense as him, for God's sake!) But only if the player is playing something Kenny G-ish. There are successful offenders of taste on probably every instrument, though. It has more to do with how he plays and his choice of notes that make him an easy target. His technique is arguably pretty good. Pretty, ..pretty, good.

Do you think Kenny G has led to bands shying away from using the saxophone due to the bad reputation he's given it?

I think he's definitely carved out a certain niche that all players can easily identify/avoid. Sax isn't the first instrument a cool band might want to add to their line-up, I reckon. The Rapture seem to get away with it. So did David Bowie. People like K.G. have made me use my sax less and hopefully with more interesting/worthy results.

How different do you think the saxophone would be perceived if Kenny G had not existed?

It wouldn't be so easily caught out as a potentially dorky instrument.

Have you ever started to play something and stopped yourself feeling it was "too Kenny G"?

Yes, I'd say I was guilty of that. It's easy to spot, and as such, should be easy to avoid. Having said that, I think cheesy, "sexy" sax playing in small doses can be ok and possibly even ironic in a good way.

Would you say you were a sax maniac?

Is this a pun..? I guess I am since I've invested so much time in it up to this point. I can't give up now, ya know?

Thanks you for your insight, and may I say you have never produced anything with your saxophone that has made me cringe.

I found out this is based on golfing skill, not musical.

*I hope this doesn't create a "boy who cried wolf" scenario for me. I swear if I ever declare assault again without immediate follow up to the actual nature of the situation, then I really was assaulted.
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