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Posts Tagged ‘HAIM’

Ignored 79: Super festive

In Uncategorized on March 26, 2016 at 3:51 am

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Ignored 75: 100 #Bowie tributes

In Uncategorized on January 19, 2016 at 3:41 am

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Ignored 23: No cover

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2014 at 11:49 am

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The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (& Museum) isn’t much.

I get the gist of what it’s trying to accomplish in creating a singular source (and tourist destination) dedicated to the immensity of popular music. In a (non-obvious) sense, I applaud their efforts in making artistic recognition more athletic recognition-ish.

I love music. I love sports. Let’s squish them together. In Cleveland.

However, on paper, populating a Hall of Fame of musicians makes no sense since artistic appreciation is 100 per cent subjective. Any effort to quantify “everything” is ultimately going to offend in the court of personal preference, not to mention realms such as gender, creed, sexual preference and age.

The physical Hall of Fame opened in 1995 and the concept seemed massively antiquated even at that time. Once Internet became the Internet, YouTube views and Twitter followers and iTunes sales became the new (and more legit) signifiers of “making it” rather than enshrinement and/or the chance to rub elbows with Jann Wenner and friends .

However, maybe that last paragraph doesn’t speak to an apples-to-apples comparison. “Greatest” (in a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (& Museum) sense) shouldn’t be a measure of pure volume.

… and to clarify, that’s volume in the $$$/eyeballs sense and not in the “hey, Dinosaur Jr are f**kin’ loud” sense.

If we’re talking pure metrics, WWW-based signifiers would be more akin to:
– Albums sales
– Number of Billboard Top 10 singles
– Concert tickets sold

For math nerds or Nate Silver-types, these numbers are absolutes. But again, they are merely quantitative counting stats and not qualitative “greatness” measures.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (& Museum) aspires to be the latter.

It never will be.

In short, does anybody really care who gets elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (& Museum)? With the possible exception of Rush (who’s fan base anecdotally has a disproportionate amount of math nerds and Nate Silver-types), there have been few fan bases who visibly gave a (damn) as to whether their favourite artist(s) was/were elected or not.

For modern superstars like Kanye West or the Arcade Fire, is anybody anywhere wondering how their latest album or tour will contribute to their respective Hall of Fame resumes? Of course, not. The Hall will continue to induct acts who are quantitatively great (ABBA, The Eagles) and acts who are qualitatively great (Laura Nyro, Randy Newman).

It’s fine. Nobody really cares and nobody puts any real demands on the Hall. Again, nerdy Rush fans are the exception to this rule. And perhaps the staff of PositivelyCleveland.com.

… strangely, this whole Rock & Rock Hall of Fame (& Museum) spew isn’t even the point of this post. It’s moreso a set-up to assess a pair of other “greatness” measures and determine if they’re still relevant in the present.

Exhibit #A

Most artists who appear on Saturday Night Live have hit some level of critical mass. There have been a few outliers over the years but in general, it’s a pretty static measure of popularity (greatness?).

Janelle Monáe, HAIM, Alabama Shakes and Kendrick Lamar are some of the artists who made the leap in 2013. On paper, appearing on a TV show that is almost four decades old seems a hugely antiquated measure of anything. However, the shareability of these performance via YouTube (and GIFs) gives an SNL appearance a cultural resonance that goes way beyond the original airtime.

Exhibit B

What about the cover of Rolling Stone? In general, nobody buys magazines anymore and Rolling Stone is almost a decade older than SNL. However, back in the day, a Rolling Stone cover was typically a guaranteed measure of both qualitative and quantitative greatness.

… In spite of this and this and this. Can’t win ’em all, I guess.

Circa now, the only time a magazine cover tends to get noticed is when controversy or nudity is involved. Boston (the city, not the band) freaked last year when Rolling Stone put civic bomber Jahar Tsarnaev on its cover, he looking very much like Syd Barrett in the process. Boston’s mayor got mad, a ton of people wrote about the controversy. Etc. Etc.

A hypocrisy ensued because on the one hand, we are conditioned to believe that nobody cares about magazines any more (statistics and this Twitter feed support this). And yet on the other, we are supposed to feign outrage when a player from within this (supposedly dead) medium does something irksome.

Parallel: the public outcry in Toronto over the sale of Honest Ed’s. Arguments rooted in neighbourhood preservation and community are completely valid. But the store itself? Kinda brutal and no doubt teeming the kind of sweatshop-supplied “goodies” that’d make Walmart seem righteous in comparison.

Anyway, the point is that magazines might be dead and/or dying but in the right context, a magazine cover story can still have a broad impact.

So what is the real value of a Rolling Stone cover in 2014?

I think the value is largely rooted in intent. Back in the day, a lot of Rolling Stone cover stories sought to lift the curtain on our heroes. Popular themes: substance abuse, the rigors of the road, grappling with fame, relationships, troubled childhoods, more drugs, more drinks, depression, drugs, rehab, a few more drinks, stronger drugs and death.

The writing had a lot of gravity (not in a bad way). The word “fuck” was typically left in (in a good way). Sometimes the articles were great and insightful. Other times, they were beyond pointless.

A 2003 Rolling Stone cover story on the Strokes is a good example of the latter. Tough assignment for journalist (and The Game purveyor) Neil Strauss, trying to get anything quotable from a band bred to look and sound bored. The full feature can be found here but more interesting is the play-by-play from Strauss’ notepad. Dude gave it the ol’ “college try” but this was an obvious “blood out of stone” scenario. Strauss should be commended for not hurling his pad towards Julian Casablancas’ face.

Again, the value of this brand of puff-y modern journalism is the intent, not the content.

In the present, lifting the curtain is a technique that publicists have reclaimed from journalists and bloggers. Wanna give your fan’s a peek at something? Put a snapshot on Instagram. Release a live recording on your website. Have your bassist tweet something wacky or offensive. Call TMZ.

The content is technical authentic but also completely fabricated. It’s so real, it’s fake.

On the flipside, subjecting oneself to a Rolling Stone cover feature is now (somehow) a post-modern means of letting go. By speaking to this under-read magazine, an artist is making this statement…

Hello. I am temporarily put my image in the hands of this writer. The resulting article will be largely irrelevant unless I say something provocative, stupid or racist. In short, the content doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this interview is an act of trust and I am comfortable with exposing myself in this manner. I hope this makes me look real. Because I am either real or want to be seen as real. Ideally.

This isn’t new. Trust has always been the subtext of any interview. What’s different is with so many more controlled options available to market oneself in the present day, there really is no need to pursue publicity in something as disgustingly antiquated as a (wretch… puke) magazine. Unless you’re consciously trying to make a statement about relinquishing control in a “I have nothing to hide” fashion.

The willingness is a statement. Everything else isn’t much.

Ignored 20: Perfectly sane music

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2013 at 2:04 am

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Much has been made of Black Panties, the lewd new album title from R. Kelly. Come to think of it, much has been made of R. Kelly in general, the lewd not-new guy.

Many feel that R. is mentally unstable or wildly creative or both. His benchmark Trapped in the Closet hip-hopera is largely to credit/blame for this opinion. However, it is my belief that this effort should be filed into history under the “widely talked about but seldom heard” category. Not unlike the Stooges’ poorly-received 2007 comeback record The Weirdness or non-traditional output from mega-stars such as the Flaming Lips, Beck or Rick Ross.

I don’t think anybody actually listened to the entirety of Trapped in the Closet, much less understood it. Upon learning about it, most would assign the “you so crazy” tag and then move on, maybe to joke or rant about it later.

There is a tendency to review this kind of art largely based on what’s been said about it rather than, I dunno, actually listening to the songs. It’s an inherent laziness that many music fans (and people, in general) have. A more recent example: hot young buzz band HAIM are similar to the Bangles since it’s a bunch of cute girls playing guitars. When (obviously) in reality, the true equivalent is the Pretenders in sound and Hanson in hair and face. I repeat: obviously.

Anyway, I digress. R. has made some “interesting” choices in his lifetime, no doubt. Namely this and also this. However, purely as a recording artist, his output has been fairly linear and exceedingly sane for somebody who has been affixed with the problematic label by far too many observers. Trapped in the Closet took some choices and fell flat/weird but in the broader context, it’s a relatively small part of the R. Kelly experience.

For fans of mainstream R&B or Top 40 or 1990s music, R. is just a superstar who made some bad decisions. Not unlike Michael Jackson or Snoop Dogg or whoever. However, R. seems to also be regarded by a totally different segment as something of a punch line-cum-savant who releases his post-Trapped output somewhere between a “come-on” and a “Come on!?!”. Note: there’s a third entendre I could probably throw in here but I won’t for the sake of good taste and SEO. Example.

His guest appearance at the 2013 edition of the Coachella Festival didn’t help diminish this image issue that exists between legit R. Kelly fans and thousands of R. Kelly observers. Taking the stage alongside headliners Phoenix, R. plowed his way through a mashed-up version of his smash “Ignition” as a sea of music fans and corporate guests looked on. Blog coverage was predictably unoriginal in its description of the #amazingness with plenty of implications that his appearance was some kind of grand self-aware gesture by R. himself.

R. was taking the stage on THEIR turf so thusly, he must be adhering to the same class of groupthink that most Coachella attendees subscribe to.

Right? No. Not right.

It would be narrow minded to think R. would think in these terms or possibly even be aware that this kind of contemplation exists at all. He’s sold 50-million albums. Why would his perspective align with a bunch of bloggers looking for bragging rights and  few Instagram shots?

Personally, I doubt he gave it much thought beyond the notoriety and the pay cheque.

Smash cut to a few months later and R. was brought in to c0-headline the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival in his hometown of Chicago. The move seemed to be a bit of a hedge for the Pitchfork folks and perhaps a sign of concern that a traditional “indie” headliner might not draw (fellow headliners Björk and Belle and Sebastian were the counterweights). Various accusations were lobbed at Pitchfork, from the increasingly-popular charge of “cultural appropriation” to the never-ending (and boring) debate about what constitutes irony. Note: we all need to recognize that irony died after 9/11, stupid.

The logic of festival organizers was somewhat sound:
#1. If R. completely flopped, Pitchfork concert goers would get to witness a “stunning” train wreck that they could later tell their fellow micro-brew fans about.
#2. If  R. nailed it, they could, again, revel in the #amazingness and have a little social media fodder for flaunting both their exquisite taste in music festivals and their heightened (and superior) degree of cultural sensitivity.

All told, it was a complete win/lose-win/lose scenario!

#2 occurred and yadda yadda yadda, we’re now a week away (!!!) from Black Panties dropping. It’s an amusing album title but really , is it any more or less provocative than Isaac Hayes releasing an album called Black Moses or Prince releasing something (in the nude) called Lovesexy? It’s not that notable in an LOL sense and it shouldn’t be seen as the latest chapter in that fake “you so crazy” narrative.

Somehow vis-à-vis Trapped in the Closet, his legal issues and the aforementioned live appearances, R. has become positioned in part as an insane-but-lovable rascal for hipsters to feign mini-outrage over but ultimately forgive and embrace in a skewed sense of self-importance and “open-mindedness”. A small bolt to his broader, less-notable public persona and one that should cease to be interesting to anybody aside from that small circle talking amongst themselves.