Love the singing, not the singer.
Love the acting, not the actor.
It’s great to appreciate and even respect a person’s work and to acknowledge that there is an actor/performer behind the character/music. It feels nice to share mutual feelings with people who like the same thing you do. But people get incredibly overzealous about it. OMG YOU GUISE SHE IS FLAWLESS AND I KNOW ALL ABOUT HIS PERSONAL LIFE AND I HAVE HUNDREDS OF INSIDE JOKES ABOUT A PERSON WHO DOESN’T KNOW I EXIST. Like, chill out.
There’s appreciating their work and then there is putting someone on a pedestal and viewing them more like an entity than a person. “Meeting them” briefly at a show is not the same as knowing them intimately as a person.
The reality of the situation is, I’ve loved Alison Krauss’s music my entire life. My parents would play it along with the many other country and bluegrass music I knew so well. Eventually I began listening to and exploring the music of AK by myself. And I loved the sound so much. I had no idea who was singing it and I didn’t really care beyond the extent of ‘how do I get more of it?’ Not until I was a freshman in highschool did I get the idea one day to google pictures of this woman, her bio. And while I found it mildly intriguing, it didn’t change the fact that her music was profound to me. I love her sound, not her. I don’t know her.
It’s great to have knowledge about the musicians, artists, and actors you are into; I am an avid advocate for making oneself an informed and educated member of the planet. But guys, there comes a point where you start loving the idea of this person more than the reason you fell in love with them in the first place.
And that, at least for me, seems counterintuitive.
Here’s the thing about me:
I’m not you.
People have different personality types, and thus form attachments and relationships to other people and to music in different ways. I’m an INTJ, which means that all the value I find in the world, I find through figuring something out. Nothing is meaningful to me unless I can analyze it, unless it keeps making me rethink things and keeps revealing new facets of itself to me.
When it comes to people, I don’t form emotional attachments on the basis of how nice they are or how much they care about me or how well I know them, but how interesting they are, how much they make me stop and think - not even by saying anything profound, just in the tiny things they do - and how much I see something in their personality that connects with something in mine. Needless to say, I don’t give a shit about most people. Some people fascinate me for a short time until I figure them out. But a few people - like Alison - fascinate me endlessly. I don’t think I’ll ever figure her out. That’s why she means something to me. It doesn’t mean I literally think she’s perfect, or I want to be like her or insert myself into her life. It’s possible to just appreciate another person’s existence without having some ulterior motive.
There’s this idea that fans who focus on the artist somehow “got away from their roots” of pure music loving and started projecting onto the artist, and they just need to go back to caring strictly about the music. But some of us don’t actually experience music that way. For me, no, I didn’t fall in love with the music “in the first place” and then somehow move away from that pure essence of fandom into an impure fixation on the person. For me, the two always went hand-in-hand, music and artist.
You, and other people who emphasize being a fan of the music over being a fan of the person, might not feel any need to find out more, to analyze, to make connections about the artist behind the songs. That’s okay. But I feel that need about everything. I can’t watch a movie scene without trying to analyze not just the characters’ feelings, but the actors’ feelings in portraying them. I can’t really get into music without wanting to know about the artist behind it. It’s just how I make sense of the world.
But then, other folks relate to people in even different ways. I can’t really speak for anybody else, but I know to Africa it means a lot when someone is nice to her and praises her and give her a hug. I know she’s personally interested in AKUS as fellow musicians, how their personalities affect the way they play. OTOH, I don’t get musicianship, and I don’t give a shit about whether Alison hugs me or not; I mostly just want to sit and pick her brain. But we have all these diverse reasons for caring about these people, and yes, it all comes out as gifs and obscure jokes and hyperbolic squee, partly because that’s the common language of internet fandom. If you’re not that into internet fandom, then it’s gonna seem overreactionary to you.
And partly because those superficial reactions are what’s easiest to show to the public. The more serious stuff - long discussions about the evolution of Dan’s solo picking and the meanings behind specific songs - isn’t as easy to carry out over Tumblr, and is too personal to put on FYAK.
There’s a fine line, when you’re dealing with a real person. You do have to be respectful of the person and her privacy. And actually, when it comes to Alison, I get pretty twitchy about that because she is so private. That’s why, in NYC, when you guys wanted to take a group picture, I didn’t. I wanted to leave her alone, because I don’t feel comfortable asking her for things like autographs and pictures. But I accepted that, for some of you, those things are important. It’s all about realizing that fans have differing connections with the artist and want different things from her.
Ultimately, I think trying to understand each other’s particular brand of fandom is as impossible as trying to understand why my brain works differently from yours. In the end, the only thing that matters is the people you’re fangirling and their families, and whether they feel uncomfortable or not. We’re pretty damn careful to be respectful of Alison in person and on FYAK, and since we’ve never gotten any hint that she’s put out by the things we do and say, I’m not particularly worried about whether other fans understand us. I just hope that we can all accept each other and share the things we agree on, and get over the things we don’t.