kill yr. idols

I have a personal bias against rock, classic rock, that is borne of the Boomer generation, and the continued reverence of it by my generation. It is regressive to constantly re-hash and pay tribute to our parent's (and grandparent's) tastes. The cult of Springsteen is the prime example here. Rock ideology is one of success and fame, white male charisma, counterculture as money spinner, etc. etc. But mostly, it's just sad because it means we basically confirm that old "back in my day" bullshit ourselves, by being like, "yeah - the past is where it was at musically, let's just play blank homage to it".

As such, my bias is not just a typical 'indie kid' stance, and this article by Zach Baron at Slate drives that home - in many ways, the indie and rock ideals have crossed - a certain version of indie is now the cultural mainstream, and it's bands and style are taking on the same bullshit myths and cultural centrality as the Stones, Beatles, etc. Reading this article kind of depressed me then - should I be holding up indie as the alternative when now it clearly isn't?

Nevertheless, two issues present itself here.

First, is Baron's claim that
There are very few successful young bands today that don't play some variant or descendent of indie rock. And the alternative musical culture that spent most of the '80s and '90s as the exclusive property of college students, critics, and independent labels is now a fairly uncontroversial, major component of pop music in general.
really that accurate? Is pop not still defined by, on the one hand, (electro) pop in the vein of Britney, Kesha, Gaga, etc. and hip hop and R&B on the other hand? Indie might be encroaching, but I think it's a slight delusion to argue that very few bands are successful without an incorporation of indie rock. As such, even if indie is dead (as an ideal - definitly not as a commercial genre, in fact that stage of its life is moving into full swing), then I still hold out genuine hope for more general pop as a potential site of generational difference and definition.

Second point, and further to the first, is that the success of indie is, as I said, a certain version of indie - namely 90's indie-rock. That's why Baron focuses on the Pavement reunion, and not say the success of Animal Collective (which is an entirely different story). And really, what we're seeing then is just the latest in the canonisation of a generation's music - no longer Boomer rock but now Xer indie. The trouble is for Gen Y basically to reject both.


talk like that

Intelligent music critic Nitsuh Abebe has a new column on Pitchfork, 'Why We Fight', that looks at discourses and conversations we have around pop. His first post begins to dive into the very thorny question of where the music ends and the discussion begins, and how the latter increasingly impacts the former with everything online:
Because on the web, there's no such thing as silent dismissal, the invisible shrug of this-is-not-for-me: everything's verbalized. Casual dismissal-- "this bugs me," "I can't stand that voice"-- starts to look more like active criticism. People snipe or worry about whatever seems to be at issue, even if what's at issue has more to do with our arguments than what's happening in the music.

Beyond that, it seems to me that Abebe is grappling with the very thorny issue of how exactly to
write about music. Clearly his notion of criticism transcends mere evaluation (criticism as consumer guide), but as soon as issues of representation are brought in, then with it comes the question of whether pop (I'll leave out indie for now) should even be amenable to intellectual discussion. Or, to put it more simply, isn't it just about the music maaaan? Of course not, but whether picking the eyes out of popular texts either by constant bitching - "simply locating what's different or notable about a given act and then chipping away at it, finding the most efficient way of mocking it, ferreting out the exact interpretation of what's happening that best allows us to critique it" - or by treating it as a given semiotic system just waiting to be unpacked, as academics do, really amount to anything different is another question. I cannot say in any way, shape or form that I'm not guilty of this exact thing, but I think criticism (mine included), needs to find a way to incorporate intellectualised discussion with appreciation for - and moreover, articulation of - the pure affective force of pop, and music more generally.

I was thinking about this when reading Robin Jame's wonderful post on 'Single Ladies' and the way she couched the discussion:
BeyoncĂ© is an amazingly talented artist who plays around in very subtle and nuanced ways with “serious ideas” – all while singing some damn catchy hooks. It’s REALLY HARD to make delectable pop that also problematizes ideas in ways that are interesting to academics.

And I wondered to myself, 'is that what pop music
should do? Make itself "interesting" to academics? Isn't this kind of depressing?'

Anyhow, I'm not sure if this whole issue is just one that anybody thinking about pop music in a theoretical or philosophical way inevitably comes up against, but I'd very much appreciate anyone's own experiences and take on the whole thing, please, to help clarify my own.

I'll leave the final word to Philip Brophy:
Time has well passed for the need to analyse pop culture, as if it were a frustrating closed system of signs proliferated through each wave of subcultural commodification. Pop culture is too pervasive, rampant, eclectic and polyglottal to unravelled and remade into an academic macramé pot holder.


don't stop / can't stop

Have you ever had that experience where you're in a hyper-audiovisualised location, usually a city bar or garish chain store, and there is the latest robo-pop/doof playing over the speakers, filling every bit of space that hasn't yet been occupied by commodities, whilst numerous flat-screens in the same place play a video music channel with the sound turned down? It's a crazy, aberrant synaesthetic experience, listening to - as I found myself, a few days ago - say Ke$ha's 'TiK ToK', whilst watching the video clip for Ne-Yo's 'Closer', but one that strangely seems to make sense. Recreate the experience for yourself below, and see how it actually took me a good ten or twenty seconds to realise that I wasn't listening to the audio of the video but an entirely different song:

Listen to this...

... Whilst watching this:

There are strangely a number of quite logical audio-visual connections in this song, to the point where they seem kind of interchangeable on one level: shot cuts seem to roughly follow the beat, Kesha sings "don't stop" as Ne-Yo mouths "can't stop", handclaps sound out on 'TiK ToK' as they appear on the video... I'm not entirely sure what this might point to - the ultimate formal similarity (both musically and visually) of all pop? Or simply a forced intertextuality? Either way, weird coincidences.