Posts from 9th July 2000

9
Jul 00

Selling Millions On A Sour Note

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Selling Millions On A Sour Note: pre-Grammy’s article (a bit late, sorry) on the pop industry’s dislike and distrust of the music it’s currently pushing. I disagree with virtually every opinion expressed, especially Carlos Santana’s blatantly misguided suggestion that his abysmal album is “a rose coming up through the concrete”: if you want a rebuttal to this kind of sentimentality and conservatism, read Surface Vs Depth’s excellent Pop 2000 essay. The only thing I’d add to that is that there’s already tons of indie music in the charts – Toploader, Muse, Blur, Coldplay, Oasis, and Radiohead are pretty much guaranteed top ten singles with anything they can release, and a host of others will automatically go top twenty. Which means the knee-jerk complainers have even less to whine about.

You want over-intellectualisation?

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You want over-intellectualisation? I’ll give you over-intellectualisation: “Top of the Pops made radical, filled with fury against exploitation and injustice would not transform Britain but a Top of the Pops filled with disco, the empty heart of Pop music, misses the opportunity to spread passion, thought and creative energy and thus to enhance the quality of life.” Disco, huh? There oughtta be a law against it. Oh wait, there is. Still it’s obviously apolitical because of the lyrics.

People like John Robertson, professor of something at Paisley, read a shitload of Marcuse and Barthes but apparently read very little pop criticism. Still, that’s OK, because Barthes tells you all you need to know about “the crushing impact of media institutions such as television, film and advertising on individual capacity to make critical responses”. Unless you’re John Robinson or someone similarly well-read, obviously: he makes a good few stabs at ‘critical responses’ over the course of this article, including a hilarious reviewlet of U2’s unspeakable “Discotheque”, which he of course likes, the smug old fuck.

This is simply an irritation-blog. My apologies.

Mental! Mental! Mental

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Mental! Mental! Mental: It’s the Crawley Love Parade, brought to you by Popjustice!.

“The point is to like pop as well as everything else”

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Skip this entry if you don’t want to read editorial metastuff: music content minimal.. Tim has some very interesting things to say about the the quality of pop 2000, and one absurd but flattering thing to say about NYLPM (I can’t even define pop satisfactorily so I wouldn’t like to take a stab at a paradigm, plus 200 hits a day doth not a paradigm make!). One thing I’d like to point out is that Aaliyah’s “Try Again” isn’t really that alien or weird – it’s an R & B single with an acid wobble all over it. It’s bloody good and in a very effective way innovative but not strange or abstracted or ‘difficult’, even for pop music.

As for thirteen year olds and pop, sod them: the point isn’t to like pop music by itself, the point is to like it as well as everything else, and by and large they don’t (for obvious reasons). I do have a weird nostalgia for when I was eleven because I had much broader tastes then than now (broader being expressed by a music liked divided by music heard equation), and this was down to me coming to music without any context. In my happy prelapsarian state I didn’t know whether something was pop or rock or dance or cool or not or who it was ripping off, it was just there on the radio and I listened to it. That still seems a pretty good way to hear music to me.

No, that’s naive. There was loads of personal context, but I couldn’t have articulated it. The point, anyway, is that I can be nostalgic for this without wanting to go back to it. One thing that pisses me off a bit is when people say I “listen too hard” to music or “over-intellectualise” it. Sorry, I don’t try and be ‘intellectual’ (whatever that is) about music. I’m an adult and I think about stuff. I hear music: I think about that too. It just happens. There’s lots of music I hear which I think nothing at all about (some Coil track playing currently, for example), which doesn’t make it any purer or better, it just makes it less written about here.

I think sometimes I give the impression that I don’t love music, possibly because I don’t have some intro page where I talk about how much I love it. A friend e-mailed me recently to say that he thought Freaky Trigger is “more about not liking music than liking it” – I’d be interested if anyone else thinks that’s true. I also think that I give the impression that I like pop – in the Top 40 sense – exclusively, or at least more than anything else. That isn’t true either, though I may well have been guilty of stressing pop a bit in reaction to the general tendency of the online music world to big up indie rock and little else.

summersalts

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summersalts is an online music zine produced by one person who sits and reviews records and writes about music and harasses idiots in AOL chats and generally does all your standard indie-rock things. I liked the front page and the articles, I liked the reviews inasmuch as I’d never heard anything he reviewed and probably still won’t. He’s refreshingly honest about the frustrations of never getting any hits, so let’s hope this link helps.

DMX

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DMX

“What’s My Name?” asks DMX, a curious question since the only thing he raps about is his bloody name. Can it really be that he doesn’t know? A trend of some concern in rap music, this use of songs as 3-minute business cards: Dr. Dre, for example, complains that motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre. Now generally I’d be right on the side of these motherfuckers, but in this case they must indeed be pretty stupid, since Dre’s previous single had no purpose other than to inform us that he was “Still DRE”, and had not changed his name, to, say, “Dr. Twat”. Having rammed home (well, punily repeated) his monicker, who was he rapping about in “Forgot About DRE”? His pet goldfish?

Though even a five-second memory wouldn’t be enough time to ignore the fact that DMX is, indeed, called DMX. Why he feels the need to repeat this is beyond me, since it’s one of the worst names in hip-hop. But Tanya, all hip-hop names are silly, what makes DMX’s worse? Well, the point of repeating your name in rap tracks is this: it’s a peasy way to get a rhyme. When NWA ‘reclaimed’ that naughty N-word from the racists (who, uh, actually still use it quite a lot), they were not in fact doing so as a powerful blow for black identity, they were doing it because they were tough gangster types but were a teensy bit stuck for a word that rhymed with “trigger”. For similar reasons, Jay-Z refers to himself endlessly as “Jigga” – it makes him sound like a Pokemon but when the rhyming crisis strikes such considerations are swiftly forgotten.

So to DMX. But nothing rhymes with DMX, a child could see that it’s all consonants. That’s why it’s a bad name, and why DMX is forced to just spend all his songs yelling it. But wait! Maybe there is hope, because something does rhyme with DMX….“What’s my name? It’s DMX / I’ve got a ten-speed BMX” Phew! Saved!

A couple of corrections

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A couple of corrections:

i. Yeah, Ned, it was “In Bloom”.

ii. The link to the NY Times story was from the untilthebreakofdawn blog, which is juicy and good and obviously has a cool name too.

My Science Project

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My Science Project is one of my favourite blog names but I don’t read it as much as I should. Especially considering that shared love of Neighbours. Anyway, the reason for this post: Napster treasures. Sure, “Oops The Real Slim Shady Did It Again” is a big Napster hit but it’s hardly anything new* is it? The real Napster hits that I’ve been enjoying recently are the Eminem parodies. In descending order of interest…

Skittles – “The Fake Slim Shady”
Christina Aguilera – “The Real Slim Shady” (“Won’t the real Slim Shady please shut up? Please shut up! Please shut up!”)
Milkbone – “Presenting Milkbone”
Eminem – “My Name Is… Darth Vader”
Howard Stern – “My Name Is… Stuttering John”
Eminem diss – “Fuck The Real Slim Shady”
Eminem parody – “The Marijuana Mix”

(Note: only the first three are really very interesting.)

By the way, I’d just like to point out that my StopNapster post was written with no knowledge of My Science Project’s previous post. We did manage to write exactly the same things, though. Great minds. But please take that awful Nu Generation song off your playlist this instant.

*I wonder how far my 5ive vs Indeep “If Last Night A DJ Getting Down Saved My Life Baby” cut-up’s got around Napster…

Phallic cymbals

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Phallic cymbals: “David Lee Roth, ex-frontman with Van Halen, is excoriated for consorting voraciously with female groupies, yet Jimi Hendrix, just as sexually insatiable, was merely displaying “an innocently baroque gusto”. Innocently baroque? Best not go there.” – Steven Poole demolishes Ruth Padel’s I’m A Man. Excellent, intelligent music writing: go look.

A little more on ATN

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A little more on ATN — inspired by Tom’s link and discussion, I figured I’d float by there again to see what was up. I was never anything like a regular reader — my initial sense of ATN when I read it was not of groundbreaking this and that but suffocating classic rock smugness along with equally suffocating college-rock-that’s-not-quite-commercial-alternative smugness. A deadly combination when it came to 1994, and not much better this time around.

But one thing I found intriguing about the article was how they’ve carefully elided history. It makes it seem that it came out of nowhere, but in fact they received initial hosting, technical support and more from what was far more arguably the first true home of digitized music for all on the web, the Internet Underground Musical Archive (IUMA). A lot of the dreams and goals of the ATN bunch wouldn’t have happened without the IUMA crew, and yet the only clue of their role in the whole thing is the brief mention of Santa Cruz at the start of such a self-congratulatory retrospective.

A minor point? Perhaps, but it says something about how the Internet is perceived and valued that this claim is being made now, a kissing cousin of Al Gore’s claim to have invented the whole thing. Being the first is what is important, it seems — to have been there on the cutting edge, the bleeding edge throughout, to have defined things for upcoming generations, blah blah blah. It makes for a lovely resume item for the writers, as well as making themselves feel like they count for something in the universe. Did it really have an effect? I’m distinctly doubtful. I don’t see Garbage’s sales achievements as resulting from one net feature, for one thing.