The Student Newspaper of Westminster Christian Academy

Emma Harris

Perfect Imperfections & Genuine, Emotional Art

Something I love about art is that it’s messy. Art is a reflection of the painter, which means it’s of human essence and therefore should not be perfect either. Perfect, pristine paintings don’t sit right with me. I like it when the brush strokes are staccato and suggestive rather than perfectly neat, or when sketches are composed of scribbles. I like it when pieces aren’t matted and the artwork flows past a clear shape in a patchwork-like manner, when you can see the process. I like it when whatever material being used as a canvas is fraying on the sides, or the scene contained inside of it is disorganized, such as a messy stack of papers or an old book with a page slightly sticking out from under the cover and its fading colors. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all artwork and there are always exceptions. But I just love it. It feels genuine and completely human. 

This is the same reason I like an occasional muted string in a raw and emotional acoustic song, or a guitar string breaking during a powerful solo (a throwback to my second most recent blog post). I can’t help but smile whenever singers audibly struggle to contain their laughter or accidentally let out a small chuckle in the middle of a song (The live U2 and Bruce Springsteen cover of ‘Stand By Me’ is the perfect example of this- it isn’t on Spotify, but you can find it on YouTube). I love Bob Dylan’s bootleg series and how he literally coughs in one song, but instead of being left out, it was included in the album and humorously named “Suze (The Cough Song)”. If something goes wrong in a music video, like someone nearly slips, I am inclined to think more of the musician[s]. 

I love little mistakes. It makes the music feel more genuine and authentic, humanizing the musicians and reminding you that there’s a real person behind those lyrics and that voice, there’s a real person behind that instrument. Because mistakes are generally not found on professional albums and shoots are retaken in music videos if containing mistakes, it instantly makes you feel like the musician[s] let you in on a little secret and trusted you enough to be vulnerable and honest. And if they don’t care about putting on a perfect front, they certainly don’t care about appeasing the public for the sake of appeasing the public opinion, they likely won’t lie about anything, and you can connect with them because you aren’t questioning if what you see is really them at all. It’s refreshing.

Because I value this vulnerability and openness, finding it inspiring and admirable, I honestly don’t mind it when voices aren’t “good” either. I rather listen to a “bad” voice than a good one that’s either noticeably auto tuned (which both takes away emotion from a voice and is disingenuous and fake, the two things I would consider the greatest enemies to art) and/or has no emotion or character to it, no personality unique from others. In fact, I’ve mentioned this before, but I actually like Bob Dylan’s voice simply because it feels incredibly genuine and has a lot of personality behind it. It’s not good, but it’s real and it’s different. Conor Oberst- whose lyrics I would say comes closer to Dylan’s lyrical genius than any other musician I have found- doesn’t exactly have a great voice either, but again, I don’t mind it because it’s passionate. He can’t sing, but he’s got soul. When there’s a mistake or flaw in a song or live performance, there’s almost always an emotion that caused it. To me, emotion in any form of art is the most important part of it. If something doesn’t spark or contain some sort of feeling, I don’t remember it and I can’t connect with it, something I think goes for everyone. If it does, it will linger with me for a while. All of my favorite singers are my favorite not necessarily because they have incredible voices, but because they have incredible emotion or personality behind those voices. I like Bob Dylan’s voice and Conor Oberst’s and Billy Corgan’s, and I love the voices of Adam Duritz, Bono, Damien Rice, Patty Griffin, Rob Thomas, and John Rzeznik (Thomas and Rezeznik are two voices that unfortunately lost their appeal to me after the entrance of auto tune on later Matchbox Twenty and Goo Goo Dolls albums, but are ones I absolutely adore on earlier albums)(also, don’t ask me to pronounce Rzeznik- I have no clue). Art with mistakes is art that is human, something all art should be. 


Be true, 

Emma Harris


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