In pop music, there is a curve. “Easy-Listening” on one end of the curve (Barry Manilow, Kenny G, Billy Joel, etc) and on the other, we have “Challenging” i.e. people like Frank Zappa or Diamanda Galas (doubtless the younger folk here will have their own curve as well, but you get the picture).
This easy-vs-challenging dichotomy is pretty universal. Take your pick, one or the other, depending on your mood, depending on how high you want to rank on the hipster scale. Pretty standard stuff.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
In fact, for a time it wasn’t.
In the mid-1950s, for about a decade, the jazz scene was creating all these classic records that were both easy listening, (great background music for a groovy party in your groovy pad), yet if you actually sat down and listened carefully, were amazingly deep, rich and complex. The college kids loved it, and so did the critics.
Miles Davis’ seminal “Kind Of Blue” is probably the best example. As a work of art, there is simply none better- not from this Century, anyway. But there were plenty of others. Stan Getz. Art Pepper. Bill Evans. Dave Brubeck. Astrid Gilberto. Thelonious Monk. All hitting that sweet spot.
Then the Beatles came along and put an end to all that overnight. Dylan and the Stones did the same. Nothing lasts forever.
The lesson here? In the business world, we are mostly trained to think in terms of either-or. Quality *or* quantity. Sales *or* operations. Customers *or* shareholders. Expensive ingredients *or* low prices.
But then some clever person comes out of nowhere with their own version of “Kind Of Blue”, and blows everyone else out of the water. It’s glorious when it happens; it sucks to be on the receiving end of it.
Something worth thinking about.