With today’s ease of access to media, the traditional idea of an audience has changed. This has given audiences an increase in control over their consumption habits by controlling the when, where and how (Walmsley, 2014).
One of my most memorable experiences as a part of an audience was seeing Chicago’s most promising upcoming artist, Saba, live in Sydney during his Australian tour. The concert was sold out, though couldn’t have been more than 600 people. I was able to get front row for his intimate set and I remember thinking to myself how surreal this must feel to him.
In 2017, Saba’s cousin and founding member of Pivot Gang crew, Walter Long Jr. was stabbed to death in Chicago (McGhee, 2017). A year later, Saba released CARE FOR ME, an album that beautifully illustrates the grieving process by manoeuvring through feelings of loneliness, anger, trauma and nostalgia (Pearce, 2018). Confronting his own mortality through his diaristic storytelling, Saba is able to structure a project that comforts himself and his listeners; and acts as a form of meditation for them.
This is where I found myself in awe – How is it that I can resonate so much with such an album? As a white Australian, who grew up with plenty of support and resources, there’s no way I could relate to lyrics like “Life don’t mean shit to a n**** that ain’t never had shit” (Genius, 2018). But it’s not these one liners that define the audiences connection to the album. It’s the universal feeling of loss, isolation and the brutally honest portrayal of healing. From tracks like LIFE, an angered response to the cards dealt by God, to the glimpse of optimism in HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME, the audience is taken on a journey of healing (Pearce, 2018). A journey every audience needs and something that I think is most powerfully conveyed to a traditional audience.
One of my favourite tracks off the album (and of 2018), was BUSY / SIRENS featuring TheMIND. The songs rawness will always to be an enormous comfort to me in times that I need it. And watching Saba perform this song, you could tell the comfort it brought him, watching an audience from the other side of the world who couldn’t possibly relate to the tragedies he’s faced, sing with him about the loneliness we collectively felt for one reason or another.
As a media audience, we somewhat shared a similar experience while listening to the album in our own time. However being together in one place as part of the audience, I valued Saba’s music and no longer felt such an intimidating feeling of loneliness. Despite this, you should still definitely be a part of the media audience and enjoy the beautiful work of Saba’s CARE FOR ME.
Genius (2018) Saba “LIFE” Official Lyrics & Meaning | Verified. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Xk8kc53XgY (Accessed: 14 March 2019).
McGhee J 2017, ‘Man Charged In Fatal River West Stabbing Of Pivot Gang’s John Walt’, DNAinfo, February 9, viewed 14 March <https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20170209/austin/john-walt-stabbed-dinnerwithjohn-dead/>.
Pearce, S 2018, ‘Saba: CARE FOR ME Album Review’, Pitchfork, 12 April, viewed 13 March, <https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/saba-care-for-me/>.
Walmsley B 2014, ‘The Evolution of Audiences and How We Measure Them’, Fourth Source, 26 September, viewed 13 March <https://www.fourthsource.com/online-video/evolution-audiences-measure-17791>.