This makes it sound like it was some giant, glowing, amorphous blob slithering around the country, or that the tour, or the group, has flatlined. The truth probably isn’t anywhere near as interesting.
Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’
I know things are bad for The New York Times these days, what with declining circulation, online competition, editorial queasiness regarding hard to define words like “torture”, dishonest contributors, and feeble attempts to draw readers by running stories about the porn industry on the front page, but you’d think they’d know better than to open themselves to ridicule by printing paragraphs like this:
In the middle of the night, Diane Van Deren will leave her house against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She will cut west through the dark canyons with her running shoes and a headlamp, but without a kiwi-sized part of her right temporal lobe.
This is a questionable story for the front page anyway, but to open with a passage that, if it were the start of a novel, would be a candidate for the Bullwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, makes you wonder if the editors at the Times are leaving parts of their brains at home as well.
This piece by David Segal in the New York Times about the end of fame in the wake of Michael Jackson’s death is the kind of lazy editorializing that drives me crazy. The apparent disinterest in facts is bad enough (why, for instance, say that Thriller was number one for “more than 31 weeks” instead of looking up the actual number, 37, which is easily found through any number of sources?), but even more irritating is the kneejerk, conventional wisdom that fills the whole piece. Apparently, we’re too easily distracted now to appreciate an artist like Jackson. We’re overwhelmed by too much information, too many competing forms of media, too much viral cybercrap diverting our attention (ironically, the example Segal uses to cap his piece is decidedly old school: a scantily-clad woman being pulled through a crowd on a cart–at what time in all of human history would that not be a distraction?).
Segal ignores two things. First, that Jackson himself benefited from the the early ’80s own version of an information explosion: the proliferation of 24 hour cable TV channels that expanded the market for promotional videos and led to the creation of MTV, a media expansion which many at the time complained was flooding the country with meaningless information and novelty-driven entertainment (a complaint that had already been leveled at television in the ’50s and radio in the ’20s).
Second, and most important, Michael Jackson was a multi-talented genius who would have become a major star in any generation or in any period of cultural or, as people seem to prefer to think of it now, media history. Talent will out, and the fact that the viral successes that clog up the current media stream are short lived novelties is meaningless. Viral media isn’t preventing talent from appearing, it’s unconsciously sifting the talent pool in search of an artist who will justify it’s existence, turning it from just another media stream into the media stream, in the same way Jackson justified the existence of MTV.
The tired argument that the media controls the culture, instead of the other way around, has been disproved time and time again for anyone who would take the trouble to look, but it still gets dredged up by people on both sides of the media power divide: the have nots think an expansion of media will create an explosion of repressed and under-appreciated talent, while the haves are afraid that new media will cause them to lose control of a culture over which, in reality, they have no actual power.
The idea that culture, even popular culture (if, that is, it can even be separated from human culture as a whole), can be controlled in any real way for any appreciable length of time, is laughable. Popular culture is, literally, a force of nature, and Jackson became a kind of perfect storm. It’s meaningless to say there will never be another Michael Jackson–of course there won’t. There will never be another Beatles either, or another Elvis or Sinatra or Jolson or Caruso (there will never be another you or I, for that matter).
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be others whose achievements will be just as great, whose fame will be just as phenomenal, whose presence will seem as irreplaceable once they’re gone. Every generation has at least one of those, usually more. In the end, Jackson’s death is only one man’s death, no matter how sad it may be or whatever meaning or symbolism you want to hang on it (and I fully admit to having done some of that myself). But the end of fame? Some people just aren’t paying attention.
The recent interview with Eminem in the New York Times confirms two obvious points about Relapse: one, it came out of a period of intense confusion, depression and self-doubt; two, the Slim Shady stuff was done more from a sense of duty to fans than any real desire to resurrect the persona. Which explains why this record, where Eminem speaks pretty much as himself, is so much superior to the Shady-oriented material that preceded it. I have my doubts about the power ballad intro and outro, but this is a great record. Even clean and sober, though, Eminem finds himself in a difficult position. The Slim Shady stuff is old hat, but he can’t, and shouldn’t, build the next phase of his a career out of down-tempo raps about depression (leave that to the indie kids). He needs something new, something that will probably alienate large sections of his audience. As much as I respect his desire to please his old fans, he may find that they’re another dependency he’ll have to wean himself from. Are there twelve-step programs for adulation addiction?
I’ve liked some of Sparks’ earlier records, but the bombast here is too much, with whatever personality and charm she possesses overpowered by thundering drums. Note to songwriters and producers: “Umbrella”-inspired songs with choruses that consist of nothing but the title repeated over and over like an echo are old and overdone. Time for a new trick, please.
Critics, and the Brothers themselves, are attributing the darker tones of this record to “maturity” (why, they’re almost a year older than they were when they made their last album!), but it probably has more to do with spending the last few years on the entertainment industry hamster wheel. Since I assume these clean cut boys don’t ingest any substance stronger than caffeine, their paranoia is probably the result of sleep deprivation more than anything else, which would explain why the change of tone is lyrical rather than musical; their machine-tooled pop-punk is as bouncy as ever, and just as unoriginal. If I can be excused an untoward comparison, they’re in roughly the same place The Beatles were in late ’64/early ’65: exhausted, but still game. In the Brothers case, though, I don’t think there’s an equivalent to Rubber Soul waiting around the bend, and not just because they don’t smoke dope.
Cobra Starship featuring Leighton Meester—“Good Girls Go Bad”
Coming on the heels of Lady GaGa and 3Oh!3, this single suggests a new trend: bombastic electro-influenced records about women losing (or intentionally throwing away) their inhibitions. This one includes an appearance by a member of the cast of Gossip Girl, which should cement the idea in the minds of culture watchers nicely. If this becomes a hit, there should be a piece in the New York Times Style section before the summer is out.
I’d be more than willing to ignore The Fray if they saved their self-indulgent warbling for their own material, but this act of desecration forces my hand. Say goodbye to Hinder and Nickelback, because these guys are now officially the Worst Band in the World. Question: Does this mean “You Found Me” would sound good if Kanye sang it? Answer: No.
Many people, including me, complain that country is still lost in the late ’70s, or maybe the early ’80s, but this roaring piece of female raunch is as modern as it gets. That is, it’s main influences aren’t the Eagles or John Mellencamp, but Kelly Clarkson and, especially, Katy Perry. This may sound horrible to you, and it certainly isn’t what most people would call country, but Nashville professionalism and attention to lyrical and musical detail make it more interesting than most of Clarkson’s and Perry’s stuff. Sexier, too–and a lot dirtier.
Rucker’s first two country singles possessed the lyrical specificity and detail that makes up for a lot of rote arrangements and fruity singing in Nashville. This one doesn’t. He sounds almost as vague as Hootie.
The Pussycat Dolls featuring Nicole Scherzinger—“Hush Hush”
A terrible record, and when it shifts into “I Will Survive” you can feel the desperation take hold as the Dolls slide back into the oblivion from which they came. The only thing that keeps this from being the worst single of the year is the existence of The Fray.
Trey Songz—“I Need a Girl”
Chris Brown having sabotaged his career, Trey Songz steps into the gap with the oldest trick in the pop book. He needs a girl, and ladies, you could be the one. All you need to do is hollaback, preferably in the form of buying this record, the album, concert tickets, and associated merchandise. Not a bad song, but the blatant pandering is a bit much.