Thursday, January 20, 2005

Kat's Korner: Why Does Music Suck So Bad? Part II

Why does music suck so bad?

I dealt with when the problem is you and me in part one. Now we're going to talk about the hacks.

You probably think I mean performers but I'm talking about critics.

Dumb asses with the space to discuss an album that can't or won't because they lack the brains to. They think they're there to give a history lesson (one they don't really understand) and then find a few sentences to talk about the current album.

Prissy (Priscilla) Becker is one of those (she writes for Tracks) but there are many, many more.

Take The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones for instance. I'm looking at The New Yorker's January 17, 2005 issue. The "review" is "When I'm Sixty-Four: Aging Rockers Onstage."
The author is Sasha and he's completely useless.

If there's any life left in music, Sasha's lifeless prose will drain it out. Like Prissy, Sashie is all about "I know everything." Like Prissy, he's more interested in giving us a history lesson (which, by the very nature of a history lesson, removes us further from the reality of the music).
And like Prissy, Sashie doesn't know crap.

Now he runs a blog, Sashie does. And if he made a mistake there, who cares? Seriously. But The New Yorker is infamous for their fact checking. The fact that they let Sashie slide demonstrates that they don't care a damn about music.

Sashie has so many howlers we'll just focus on one:

In 1992, "Everybody Hurts," a dismayingly obvious but affecting ballad, found its way onto the television show "My So-Called Life," and made the band's music ubiquitous.

Sashie's words kill any interest in music. (And wake up if he put you to sleep.) But you have to write in such a self-important manner when you're desperate to pass yourself off as an expert.
Maybe his writing put the fact checker to sleep?

R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" (a great song) did come out in 1992. But it didn't find it's way onto "My So-Called Life" in 1992! It couldn't. My So-Called Life didn't come on until 1994!

Sashie the blowhard wants you to think him an expert (as opposed to someone passionate about music) but he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. And a fact checker should have damn well caught his mistake.

For the record, My So-Called Life did use "Everybody Hurts" in 1994. As did some films that year (1994) (When a Man Loves a Woman, Radio Inside would be two) and other TV shows (including Friends and Party of Five -- both of which have more viewers -- therefore more impact and reach -- than did My So-Called Life).

It's a stupid mistake by a stupid man. That the infamous fact checkers at The New Yorker didn't catch it is embarrassing.

But maybe if Sashie was interested in reviewing and not lecturing, he could tell us something. Instead he wants to present himself as an expert. An "expert" who defended Justin Timberlake's solo album as music!

When trying to justify Justin, Sashie falls into the same trap the New York Times' Kelefa Sanneh fell into: "Critics of this crap are just falling into out-moded thinking that just because they don't make music, these 'artists' aren't artists."

Hey Kelefa and Sashie, if you want to drool over Justin's abs, do so honestly. Don't try to justify the freeze dried crap as music. Music means making music.

Kelefa, to her credit, was trying to address a sexist, racist and homophobic attitude that keeps many real musicians from entering the inner critical circle. But she screws up her argument when she tries to justify mechanical "music" (samples, synthesizers) as real music. I think Kelefa fell into the "I am an expert" trap which led her to believe she understood an argument she went on to bastardize.

It doesn't matter. She's too distant and removed from music (any music) to ever convey to a listener why they should listen to something.

Sashie's the same way.

What's killing music? How about the people who can't write about it. People who think that it's more important to give a history lesson than to weigh in on what they're hearing.

See, they've either lost their enthusiasm for music or they're publications won't let them show enthusiasm. They want distant voices, not passionate ones. (Has the Times ever welcomed passion?)

When you read Ellen Willis (or more recently Ann Powers), you knew what they were feeling.
You understood when they walked you through a song or an album because they cared and they were given the room to discuss.

Over at Rolling Stone, Ed Needham is thankfully gone; however, the change he imposed on album reviews remains. In the latest issue (with Gwen Stefani, looking better than she ever has, on the cover), Rob Sheffield manages to perfectly capture the latest stink bomb from Ashanti. But it's amazing that he's able to do so in what is basically a single paragraph.

Reading the issue, I was happy to see that online voters in the readers' poll were "weighted." Thank you, Jann Wenner. From the bottom of my heart, sincerely. It's a blessing to go through the readers' top ten picks and not feel like I've picked up Tiger Beat by mistake.

But if you want to help a little more, Wenner, how about dropping the Needham instigated Blender-type reviews? Want to help Save the Music without writing a check or showing up at a dinner? Then extend the reviews.

And if a David Wild wants to write a clincial, cold review, ditch it, don't run it. Scheffield can be a real smart ass, no argument here. But he's bringing an attitude and an excitement to his writing that the cold eyes of the Wild will never reflect.

Give the guys and gals room to get exicted in the review section. That'll help music more than any charity event, Jann Wenner.

But the rest of you, the Prissys, the Sashies, the Kelefas, do us all a favor and find something you're interested in to write about. All you do is bore us and make music boring. Start writing about Broadway, maybe, but quit inflicting your boredom upon us. And stop thinking that because you grabbed a few facts online, you're now an "expert" or at least we'll mistake you for one.

Sashie, My So-Called Life had a cult following on ABC. (On MTV, it had a larger cult following.) It wasn't on in 1992. It had nothing to do with the success of "Everybody Hurts." Even if you want to now try to argue that it furthered the song, Party of Five and Friends had more viewers the same year that all three used the song. (And again, in 1994, movies were also using the song.)

You don't know what you are talking about Sashie. You're trying to come off as an expert on things you honestly know nothing about. Why even bother? Your piece ran under "pop music,"
not "histories of human kind." Drop the self-important voice and the random facts you've rushed to find so that you could present yourself as an expert. Instead, why don't you write about the music? If that task is too much for you, or for any of you lame asses writing about music, do music a favor and find something else to write about.

You're lifeless prose drains all the energy out of music. You're killing it and it's time you stopped. Jon Stewart said similar words to the people at Crossfire, I'm saying them to you.

We, as music lovers, aren't blameless (see part one), but you critics that write in a detached manner are sapping the music. Your "history lessons" and presenting yourselves as "experts" does nothing to tell us about the music. Your detachment and distance helps no one.

Self-check and change or, do us all a favor, stop writing about music releases.