Wednesday, May 10, 2006

My Head Will Soon Explode

On Slate, there are two interesting music articles. One on anti-rockism, or the nature of criticism, by Jody Rosen, entitled "Does Hating Rock Music Make You A Music Critic?" and the other is about two recent angry reactions to Stephen Merrit's alleged hatred of all music by blacks. And Justin Timberlake. You figure it out. I'm more interested in Rosen's article, because I think many critics are now at all times poised to angrily, and perhaps mindlessly jump on anyone who voices their disapproval of rap music. Rosen says this:

"I love hip-hop and commercial R&B and Nashville country and teen pop, and have spent much of my professional life listening to and writing about pre-rock Tin Pan Alley pop, a genre that rockists insult by ignoring completely. I'm not so crazy about most indie rock, never cared much for Neil Young, and will listen to the new Pearl Jam album only out of a sense of professional obligation. I think Britney Spears' "Toxic" is one of the greatest songs of the new century, that the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" was one of the great ones of the last, and that R. Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)" is as transcendent as any Holland-Dozier-Holland Motown classic I've ever heard—and what's more, most other critics I know agree."

Fair enough. I honestly would like Rosen to define "most indie rock," not out of snobbery or to make a snide suggestion, but because I'm really curious. Indie rock cuts a wide swath - the Smiths are still considered "indie" though they influenced acts as different as Outkast and Pete Torn, and so is Modest Mouse, despite the fact that the latter is signed to a major label. And if you want to trot out the usual swipes at Indie - much of it's pretentious (Fiery Furnaces, Arcade Fire), or culturally irrelevant (will Yo La Tengo alter your life? I wouldn't imagine, but what about "Toxic" will?), or most of its fans are elitist (sue us, we had disaffected childhoods), but if you admit these, then certainly you could admit that pop music, most mainstream hip-hop or country can be misogynystic (do I need to cite examples in hip hop? Okay, Eminem and 50 Cent. Yeah, groundbreaking criticism, this), utterly mindless (A few years ago, Toby Keith wanted to firmly lodge a boot up Osama bin Laden's ass. I wonder who it is these days? Ahmaninejad?), cliche (most mainstream popular things are), and generally lowest common denominator. I wonder if "rockists" and the incredibly stupid-termed "poptimists" listen to music for different reasons. Maybe we both like hooks. Do you watch the Godfather and Ferris Bueller for the same reason? That's not a good comparison, because I would imagine that many people have both in their collections. Fewer likely have the new Band of Horses and whatever is big in Country right now. But then, more likely have Common and Tapes 'N Tapes. So maybe we can all pile on country music. I don't know. Boiling music taste into some kind of philosophy tends to make everyone look like an asshole. So what am I doing here? I don't know. I'll end with this aphorism: Lou Reed was a douche bag and Jim Morrison was a douche bag, but Lou Reed was a douche bag first.


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