It could only happen in the hi-fi business, which feeds on fads. A single exhibitor at a hi-fi show pins a sign on their demo room door that was probably funny at the time: ‘Diana Krall-Free Zone’ and before you know it, copy-cat signs are appearing on the doors at hi-fi shows around the world, sometimes with the same wording, and sometimes with slight changes, such as ‘Bring your own music, otherwise we’ll have to play Diana Krall.’
If the joke had been limited to a few signs on doors, it might still have been funny, but all of a sudden the joke has become serious and moved onto the internet with some people posting on such well-known sites as Head-Fi.org that Diana Krall is "talentless". (HERE) or that she's "audiophile crap" (Audio Asylum, HERE) or that some people only play Diana Krall because it makes their systems sound good. (Part-Time Audiophile)
Come on guys, you have to be kidding! Krall is an outstanding pianist with a lovely contralto voice who composes great songs. And just for the record, she was playing piano at 4, playing professionally at 15, won a scholarship to Berklee College of Music, and is the only jazz singer to have had eight albums debut at the top of the Billboard Jazz Albums chart… and yet some smart-arse audiophiles want to say that what she creates ‘is not music’? That’s just plain ridiculous.
What happened is that Krall’s first album sounded so great that it became ubiquitous at hi-fi shows around the world, as well as in the showrooms of hi-fi dealers right around the world. So in essence, every time anyone wanted to demo a hi-fi system, they’d play Diana Krall. So who was responsible for Diana Krall’s over-exposure, the hi-fi industry or Diana Krall? Yep, you guessed it: the hi-fi industry. Yet now that same industry claims that it’s all Krall’s fault, that what she plays ‘isn’t music’, and that because of this it shouldn’t be played when demonstrating a hi-fi system. Unbelievable hypocrisy.
The simple fact is that if any piece of music is played too often people will eventually turn their noses up. In the classical world, there is no better example than Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It’s a truly lovely work that any composer would be proud to have composed, but play it now and classical aficionados will question your musical taste. In the more modern world, John Darko, in an article whose working title started out as "Enough with the Diana Krall Already", makes the valid point that "everybody knows over-familiarity breeds contempt" and also created a Spotify listing of demo tracks he'd play if he were a 'hi-fi demo guy." (HERE)
The fact is that the hi-fi industry has been over-playing demo albums since hi-fi shows began. In the 60s (curiously enough, the only time jazz would get a look-in until Krall came on the scene), the industry over-played Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and Dave Brubeck’s Take 5 with these albums on permanent rotation (literally… it was only vinyl back then). In hi-fi’s hey-day (the 70s) Hotel California and anything by Thelma Houston echoed down hotel corridors. In the 80s it was Money for Nothing and Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat. The 90s saw Holly Cole enter the fray with Don’t Smoke in Bed. And some of the most hellish demo discs were made by hi-fi companies themselves as free giveaways for their dealers. This list includes Paradigm, Mission, B&W, Marantz, Philips, Harman, KEF, Jamo, Klipsch, Dynaudio, Clearaudio and (strange but true )Toshiba.
So by all means say Diana Krall is over-exposed, but don’t blame her, don’t dare say she isn’t talented, and if I hear you saying that what she plays ‘isn’t music’, you'd better watch out, otherwise me and me Aunty Jack will 'come around and rip your bloody ears off!' # greg borrowman [email@example.com]
(This editorial originally appeared in the Sep/Oct issue of Australian Hi-Fi Magazine, Volume 45 Number 5.)