Thank u, next

This week, I have mostly been thinking about listening to music.


And, I hate to seem a luddite here, but it was better in the past. The listening that is, not the music. Allow me to explain…


You see, for me anyway, albums were a big thing. I loved nothing more than putting on a new album, pouring a glass of something fitting for the genre, and losing myself for between 45 and 60 minutes. Maybe a little leafing through the CD booklet at the artwork. Possibly a soupcon of lyrical appreciation. Maybe even identifying the songs that were “growers” (i.e. “quite poor the first time round”) You get the picture – Properly getting every nuance of the album. Just as the artiste meant it.


That’s not me now. Streaming has put every single song in the world at my disposal. Do I seek out new albums? Enjoy them like I used to? Lose myself? Use the word “nuance”? Give “growers” a second, third and fourth chance?


Nah. None of the above.


I listen impatiently to the first few seconds of a new song. Not feeling it? It’s getting skipped. Next. Come on new song. Grip me. You’ve got 15 seconds tops to make win me round, or you’re getting skipped too. I think that’s what “Thank u, next” is about. Though I can’t be sure – I didn’t listen to all of it.


If I’m honest, I’m not terribly proud of my new lack of patience with music. Though I don’t think I’m alone. I don’t think the Spotify Generation have much time for growers.


Does this have a bearing on close up magic?


I reckon. If audiences watch magic in the same way that I suspect they listen to music, then they need gripping pretty instantly.


“I’m sorry Jack, astonishing trickery that may be, but it hasn’t captivated me enough to keep me from flirting with that tipsy bridesmaid / photocopying my arse / sticking my face in the chocolate fountain /  posting my photo booth picture to social media / minesweeping the buffet / inhaling the contents of that helium balloon etc etc*”

(* delete as applicable. There can be lots of distractions during magic gigs)


So, what to do?


Well, there can be no room for growers in this lark. No album tracks. Nothing to skip. The magic has to be gripping from the off. Stage magicians have it easier here. Stroll on stage with a cage on fire or a trolley of swords and you’ve got a gripped audience. Approaching a crowd with a sharp waistcoat and a deck of cards is going to take something intriguing to keep them hooked.


“Choose a card. Go on. Any card. It doesn’t matter which”


“IT DOESN’T MATTER?! Then what’s the point of choosing one? I’m afraid you’ve lost me already. Hold my trousers and pass me that copier pass”


See. In a world full of distractions, magic has got to be gripping. And It’s got to matter.


“You know, in the NYPD, there’s an urban myth that if you stare into the eyes of a homicide victim, you see a reflection of the killer. Go on, choose one of these cards and really stare at it…”


“Ooh. That’s intriguing. I had an appointment with a chocolate fountain and a bridesmaid, but I think that can wait a little…”


No one wants to be skipped past. Those first few seconds matter.


Also, albums matter. Listen to them properly. Every Nuance.