Simon Vozick-Levinson
July 25, 2007 AT 12:00 PM EDT

When Paul McCartney became the first artist to sign to Starbucks’ Hear Music record label this year, it felt like something historic might be happening. A Beatle, one of the most legendary musicians of all time, was ditching the music-biz establishment for an imprint run by a bunch of coffee shops. Was it a sign of the impending apocalypse? A bold step toward the future of entertainment (and caffeination)? Well, Hear Music announced today that its second artist will be Joni Mitchell — and now that they’ve established a pattern of snatching up aging boomer greats, somehow the whole phenomenon seems far more mundane than it once did.

That’s not a knock against Mitchell by any means. Her talent is beyond question, and I’m glad she’s coming out of retirement, no matter who or what convinced her. Seeing as I was one of the many who thought that Macca’s frappuccalbum was actually pretty amazing, I’m not worried about Mitchell’s art getting contaminated by the corrosive commercial influence of Starbucks, Inc. But neither will I be surprised if all that ‘Bucks-provided buzz adds up to just slightly-better-than-average sales. McCartney’s album, after all, has yet to go gold; for all the talk about shaking up the industry, it sort of turned out to be a non-event on that front. Truth is, Starbucks isn’t doing anything so revolutionary. They’re a lot like anyanother mainstream label: Seeking out the safest bets possible and marketing the living daylights out of ’em. In the end, your listening experience won’t be affected in any way by the tiny Hear Music logo on Joni’s next CD — much less the small-print “Hear Music” tag on its iTunes Store page. And that, as the baristas say, is The Way I See It.

But, hey, do any of you See It differently? Does this news make you want to hail a “Big Yellow Taxi” out of this corporate world?

addCredit(“Joni Mitchell: Mike Guastella/”)

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