Chuck Klosterman writes for ESPN’s Grantland.com and in today’s column, he asks: “[I]s there a mathematical way to calculate how essential a given musician is to his or her band, and would it then be possible to extrapolate that artist’s value in comparison to other artists in competing groups?”
Albert Hammond Jr. serves as the case study after Klosterman explains his system for Gross VORM, which is the way to measure the importance of a musician. The point system is as follows: Songwriting (40 points), sonic contribution (20 points), visual Impact (10 points), live performance (10), attitude (5), intangibles (15).
An artist can score 100 points total. Here’s Klosterman’s breakdown of Albert’s worth to the band and within the musical scene as a whole…
Here’s how Hammond scores within the five categories we just outlined:
1. Songwriting (6 out of 40): On the early Strokes albums, vocalist Julian Casablancas wrote almost everything (J.C. would probably get a career score of 25 in this category). But the most recent Strokes album (Angles) gives songwriting credits to all five members equally, and Casablancas wasn’t even in the studio (he mailed in his vocal tracks electronically). Hammond is now a registered factor. He also made two solo records that sound like decent Strokes facsimiles, so one assumes he must play a role in the creation of actual Strokes songs. As such, he gets 6 of the remaining 15 points that didn’t go to Julian.
2. Visual impact (4 out of 10): In the past, I would have given Hammond 6 points here, as he’s traditionally been “the most Stroke-like” Stroke. That will remain true over time, since the image of the Strokes we’ll all inevitably remember is how they looked in 2001. However, Hammond recently went to rehab, lost a bunch of weight, and cut his hair; this costs him two points of visual impact. He gets a 4.
3. Sonic contribution (3 out of 20): The two most distinctive aspects of most Strokes tracks are Casablanca’s woozy-sloth vocals and Fab Moretti’s precision drumming. Moreover, one could argue that Hammond is the second-most important guitar player in a band with only two guitars. He only gets 3 points here, which hurts.
4. Live performance (6 out of 10): When you watch the Strokes perform live, Hammond is usually the only person who seems excited to be there. He supposedly selects clothing that makes dancing easier, and he sometimes makes jokes during interviews that are authentically funny. He gets the lion’s share of these points.
5. Attitude: (1 out of 5): All the Strokes get 1 point apiece. In this regard, they are equal.
6. Intangibles (7 out of 15): Hammond’s father recorded at least one song (“It Never Rains in Southern California”) that’s probably better than any song the Strokes have ever made. Al Jr. wears three-piece suits on warm days, holds his guitar like Buddy Holly, is pictured smoking (!) in the liner notes for Is This It, and has not dated Drew Barrymore. In a broad sense, Hammond’s role in the Strokes is inherently intangible; as a result, he dominates this category.
We now have Albert Hammond Jr.’s Gross Rock VORM: 27 (this is slightly higher than two of the other three Strokes, but lower than the irreplaceable Julian, who pulls down a 41). But this is only his gross score; since there are five members of the band, we need to divide by five.3 This is how we establish the Adjusted Rock VORM (ARV). Hammond’s ARV is 5.8, which denotes how much more valuable he is compared to any random rhythm guitarist the Strokes could pull off the streets of lower Manhattan. We work from the premise that our hypothetical replacement musician would earn an ARV of 1.0, which means Hammonds is 5.8 times better.
Go here to read the entire piece. We’ve been over this probably about 100 times in the comments section, but Klosterman’s column begs the question: How important is Albert to The Strokes?
More importantly, is Klosterman’s VORM a logical way to compare musicians or is it just a way for him to make a couple hundred dollars and keep his editors happy?