Art Is Hard – Unpacking the Satire of Struggle in the Music Industry

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Cursive's Art Is Hard at
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. A Hard-Hitting Commentary on Artist Exploitation
  5. The Sisyphean Cycle of Creativity
  6. Redefining Authenticity: Irony as a Lyrical Weapon
  7. The Hidden Meaning Behind ‘We All Know Art Is Hard’
  8. Memorable Lines and Their Resonance


Cut it out – your self-inflicted pain
Is getting too routine
The crowds are catching on
To the self inflicted song

Well, here we go again
The art of acting weak
Fall in love to fail
To boost your CD sales

(And that CD sells – yeah, what a hit)
You’ve got to repeat it
You gotta’ sink to swim
If at first you don’t succeed

You gotta recreate your misery
‘Cause we all know art is hard
Young artists have got to starve
Try, and fail, and try again

The comforts of repetition
Keep churning out those hits
‘Til it’s all the same old shit

Oh, a second verse!
Well, color me fatigued
I’m hiding in hte leaves
In the CD jacket sleeves

Tired of entertaining
Some double-dipped meaning
A soft serve analogy
This drunken angry slur

In thirty-one flavors
You gotta’ sink to swim
Immerse yourself in rejection
Regurgitate some sorry tale

About a boy who sells his love affairs
You gotta’ fake the pain
You better make it sting
You’re goin’ break a long

When you get on stage
And they scream your name
“Oh, Cursive is so cool!”

You gotta sink to swim
Impersonate greater persons
‘Cause we all know art is hard
When we don’t know who we are

Full Lyrics

There is a perpetual rush in the music industry to canonize the suffering artist, the one who bleeds for their art, channeling suffering into a masterpiece. Cursive’s incisive track ‘Art Is Hard’ from their 2003 album ‘The Ugly Organ’ dissects this romanticized narrative with a venomous wit that could easily escape a casual listen.

‘Art Is Hard’ orchestrates a clever, cynical critique on the commodification of artist agony and the music industry’s ravenous consumption of personal tragedy. The lyrics penned by frontman Tim Kasher, combine biting satire with a layer of self-aware introspection that are worthy of a deep dive, exploring what truly fuels our cultural thirst for the ‘tortured artist’.

A Hard-Hitting Commentary on Artist Exploitation

Tim Kasher doesn’t mince words or metaphors when revealing the ugly gears of the music industry. His tongue-in-cheek jabs such as “The art of acting weak” and “Fall in love to fail” suggest that vulnerability is often weaponized as a marketing tool – where the more tragic one’s life, the deeper their art is perceived, thus ensuring better sales.

The notion that the sincerity behind the art itself has become secondary to its sellability is ubiquitous in Kasher’s lament. By stating, “You’ve got to repeat it, you’ve got to sink to swim,” he implies that the replication of this torment becomes a strategy for some artists to remain afloat in a sea of expectations and market demands.

The Sisyphean Cycle of Creativity

In a world that rewards novelty yet paradoxically craves the safety of the familiar, ‘Art Is Hard’ captures the essence of the artist’s struggle against the ‘comforts of repetition’. The brusque line “Keep churning out those hits ‘Til it’s all the same old shit” suggests a weariness with the industry’s push for artists to remain constant hit machines, leading to a sense of creative stagnation.

This reliance on a successful formula, once discovered, can lead to artists feeling trapped, unable to grow or change for fear of losing their audience. It’s a modern-day tragedy where artists are Sisyphus endlessly rolling the boulder of their creativity uphill only to watch it tumble down in the form of mass-produced banality.

Redefining Authenticity: Irony as a Lyrical Weapon

Throughout ‘Art Is Hard’, irony sears hotter than the overt frustrations expressed. The ceremonial sneer “Oh, a second verse! Well, color me fatigued” lays plain Kasher’s scorn for the expectation that artists must routinely reveal deeper layers of their struggle to fill albums, even when the well of personal turmoil has run dry.

The lyrics mock the contrived depth of an artist’s narrative, likening it to a “soft serve analogy” and a “drunken angry slur.” Here, we see Kasher challenging the status quo of authenticity, where reality and depth are not as important as the performance of those traits.

The Hidden Meaning Behind ‘We All Know Art Is Hard’

Kasher’s repeated refrain, “‘Cause we all know art is hard,” ventures beyond the superficial reading of an artist’s torment to unveil a layered critique of identity within the creative process. Art becomes a mirror, reflecting not only society’s predilections but also an artist’s struggle with self.

When the song climaxes with the realization that “we don’t know who we are,” it echoes the troubling reality that in the quest for recognition, artists become caricatures, lost in impersonations “greater persons.” The real struggle, hidden beneath the sarcasm, is not just about creating quality art, it’s about maintaining an authentic sense of self in a field that incessantly asks for more.

Memorable Lines and Their Resonance

Few lines capture the blend of defiance and disillusionment found in ‘Art Is Hard’ as succinctly as “You gotta fake the pain, you better make it sting.” The biting imperative calls out the disingenuous manufacture of emotion for the sake of appeal, highlighting the often ingenuine relationship between artists and their audience.

Furthermore, the sardonic cheer “Oh, Cursive is so cool!” reflects a self-awareness of their own participation in this cycle, acknowledging the applause that comes at the price of this curated pain. Through these memorable lines, Kasher etches an indelible mark on the listener’s perception of what constitutes genuine art and the unspoken expectation of suffering that accompanies it.

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