Bob Dylan – Christmas in the Heart
The Work of an Advanced Artist
By Ben Allen
“Oh my god, you have to hear this,” I exclaim as the sound of laughter fills my house. My roommate, The Admiral, enters the living room and sits down. “Uh yeah, this doesn’t sound so great. . .poor Bob.”
We are listening to Christmas in the Heart, Bob Dylan’s new holiday album. I listen intently, but quickly become horrified and end up laughing uncontrollably. Is this really what Dylan’s career has been reduced to? A collection of cheesy Christmas songs sung by a guy who sounds like he’s guzzled a bottle of Wild Turkey and chain smoked two packs of Marlboros? I visualize a grizzled Dylan being escorted into the studio after a night of heavy partying and belting out these songs in one take, with minimal effort or thought.
Why would Dylan even release a record like this? He’s not motivated by money – all domestic proceeds are being donated to Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity. Perhaps he was just bored on tour one night and thought, “you know what would be funny, if we released a full album of Christmas songs and tried to play it off like we are serious.”
I prefer to believe that Christmas in the Heart is a statement by an “Advanced” artist. According to Advanced Theory creator Jason Hartley, “Advancement is a cultural condition in which an Advanced individual – i.e., a true genius – creates a piece of art that 99 percent of the population perceives to be bad. However, this is not because the work itself is flawed; this is because most consumers are not Advanced.” To sum it up, it’s a way to understand the least celebrated works by some of the most celebrated artists in pop culture.
I had my suspicions that Christmas in the Heart was an Advanced work, but wanted to confirm. I checked out Hartley’s blog, and sure enough, he mentions the record in at least three different posts. According to Hartley, both the music and the album cover are “Advanced.”
Throughout his 50 year career, Dylan’s made all sorts of unconventional decisions – choices that were not widely understood. From going electric at Newport in 1965 to his late 70’s born again phase, he’s widely regarded as the most Advanced artists of all time (with the possible exception of Lou Reed). So go ahead, try to understand what the hell Dylan is doing, just don’t be surprised if his material either sounds bad or you don’t get it. Just remember, the man is Advanced, and you most likely are not.- (4/10)