Friday, February 22, 2008

Buzzkills and Catfights

"We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thought. With our thoughts, we make our world." ~The Buddha

A few days ago I posted a list from 2002 of the 50 greatest bands since the 1960's from SPIN magazine. This particular post spawned a discussion about why some bands were not included...as such a list is likely to do (click on yellow letters to read list and comments). A couple of folks felt outrage that smaller regional genre bands with specialized seclusive audiences didn't make the list. I blame the specialized seclusive audiences.

There is a really good chance that a U2, Sonic Youth or The Sex Pistols fan listens to Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Clifton Chenier. It is highly unlikely that the seclusive purist fan of music such as many fans of classical music, Dylan or Cash listen to a wide variety of music. Period. In fact, those seclusive music fans will likely be the first to start listing all the music they hate. Why?

In the last few years we've seen a return of the Variety Show on tv. Dancing With The Stars began as a summer "filler" programing but touched audiences and became unexpectedly popular. I believe that the era of families and neighbours getting together to watch Variety Shows has spawned a cynicism among many people towards movies, music and art. An activity that used to celebrate all varieties of performance and entertain entire families between generations was passe for decades. In those former Variety Shows a family might watch a jazz band, a pop staror teen idol and some comedy routines and a stand up comic. Perhaps granny didn't like Elvis or Richie Havens but she enjoyed the polka band. The whole social group enjoyed the general response and an evening of dancing and snacks. Tv programs have begun to emerge with a format that attracts group and family audiences once again...it's not unusual to go to a bar and see people cheering and voting on Survivor or American Idol like spectator sports.

The band that performs during Dancing With The Stars interprets music from all genres and styles and is one of the best features about the program. This band fucking kills. They perform every song like it's the most beautiful piece of writing ever...no hating.

When I was a young teen ager...I hated country and western music. I thought it was "square" and represented a redneck mentality that I grew up in and was struggling to reject. Sometime in my late teens...I was exposed to a bunch of friends who were ethnomusicologists..."the study of music of different cultures" and I started listening to a much broader base of music along with many evenings of intense, even rigorous, discussions about music. These discussions centered around concepts like "stature" "taste" "identity" and careened into anthropology and science and communication.

This time period in my life was a massive overhauling of my upbringing and my prejudices and I hate to admit it...but looking back a kind of "punkposturing" I had become. It's not unusual for teens and young people to adopt beliefs that they feel separate them from mainstream and make them unique...in fact teens often have a desire to feel "special and unique". The punk scene at one point was one of the most divisve entities...Joe Strummer talks about this in the biography The Future Is Unwritten (a must see for music lovers)

I remember having the overwhelming sensation that my best feelings were at concerts where everyone danced and shared a communal experience. When I lived in small town B.C. there was a time when I was not so rigid about music and taste...in these small towns all the kids would land up going to the same concerts and movie despite the genre or style. Entertainment was a hot property and rare in these awful stuffy small towns. Kids would go see heavy metal, folk, punk, big bands and jazz and there wasn't a big hate-on against what style or popularity of the band. The mob said, "Live music lets go!"

Dismissing music styles is something that my friends who studied anthropology and ethnomusicolgy tuned me on to being aware of...it was common for music from other places in the world to be rejected as an extension of xenophobia. I started to see that rejecting music was a reflection of ones sense of social position and as prejudiced as thinking aboriginal ancient music was "primitive". A kind of prejudice was developing for many people thinking that Barry Manilow or Britney Spears was primitive for "ignorant audiences". When people are hating on music they are perpetrating a kind of war between generations and classes and countries. They are trying to express that "they are better than someone else". Instead of music being it's usual universal language...it is enforced as a money making machine for one group over another.

I love the Grammy's, I've watched them every year no matter what...often because it was the only program that was directed like an old time Variety Show that my family used to watch together when I was a little kid. I love seeing Alice Cooper and Pat Boone give out an award together, Prince and Beyonce dance together, or Alicia Keys and Frank Sinatra perform a song "together" and this years Grammy show was one of the best ever.

I was very shocked and disappointed when I read some publicity releases from two classic performers hating on other musicians. I am so sickened by this poor taste and fall from grace. You know, Kanye West I have come to expect him to be a hater against his peers...and he did some hating during the Grammy's. So sad, first he is so gorgeous and talented...and then he speaks. All hate all day. He is a complete buzzkill. But I never expected Aretha Franklin to lower herself to hating...to hear two women who likely struggled for acceptance ina man's world and usually a mans world of jazz music and rhythm and blues to come down on other performers was really really sad. Plus, they were attacking women who were much younger than themselves and still growing and learning.

You can't put an old head on young shoulders (and why would you want to?)

“I don’t think she should have won. I think it sends a bad message to our young people who are trying to get into this business, the ones who are trying to do it right and really trying to keep themselves together,” said Cole, 58. “We have to stop rewarding bad behavior.”

Of Winehouse, 24, who is currently in rehab in England, Cole says: “I’m sorry. I think the girl is talented, gifted, but it’s not right for her to be able to have her cake and eat it too. She needs to get herself together.”

On the seriousness of Winehouse’s troubles, Cole – who over the years has battled her own substance-abuse problems, successfully – observes, “I mean, she could die. This isn’t something that’s cute and fun just to throw around in the press. The girl really has a problem, and I think for those of us who have been in the business long enough, we know the sacrifice it takes. This is about discipline and hard work, and you don’t get to just do your drugs and go onstage and get rewarded.”
Natalie Cole in People magazine.

"I am not sure of whose toes I may have stepped on or whose ego I may have bruised between the Grammy writers and Beyoncé. ... However, I dismissed it as a cheap shot for controversy." Aretha Franklin about Beyonce introducing Tina Turner as "the Queen" at Grammys.

For me, I listen to all kinds of music...sometimes the weirder the better...Sonic Youth, John Zorn...sometimes very middle of the road stuff or pop music...Elton John, Madonna, I love folk music and have followed Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan right up to Feist and Eliot Smith.

Because I loved Joni Mitchell didn't make me hate a newer artist like Eliot Smith...I mean why would I? Isn't there infinite capacity of the human ear? Of the listener to explore new audio sounds?

I've seen Diamanda Galas, New Order, Muddy Waters, The Jam, Laura Nyro, Psychic TV, Alien Sex Fiend, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Rosemary Clooney, Madonna, Run DMC, Prince, The Beastie Boys, Cecil Taylor, Wu Tang Clan, Pete Fountain, Queen Ida, Gwen Stefani...

I mean I love music why would I not see and expose myself to as much music as possible?

Why do we create polarities within the trades and crafts and arts?

Record companies spend a lot of time marketing music into genres and categories and reject anyone who is out-of-favour with a new style or genre. When fans polarize and segregate music they are killing it's preservation. Fortunately musicians aren't as prejudiced as their fans: bands like U2 working and performing with BB King and Johnny Cash did more to preserve music than any "purist" diehard fan of either musician. (U2's Zooropafeaturing Johnny Cash, 1993. American Recordings released 1994. Delia's Gone video directed one of Madonna's directors and supermodel Kate Moss got MTV play)

Did you know that the strongest languages on earth are English and Chinese? The reason these languages are so strong is because they incorporate and assimilate new words from other languages and slang.

One of the weakest languages is French...and it has been surrounded by "protectionism" and "purism" in an attempt to legislate longevity. Doesn't work...segregating and protecting genres and art forms is the kiss of death...and quite often it is the fans of music who are "purists" who help kill music and exposure and preservation.

Thank god for most musicians...aside form the unbecoming catfighting of Natalie Cole and Aretha Franklin...most artists and musicians listen to and perform with other musicians regardless of genre and sometimes despite genres...this collaboration and exposure makes music stronger and protects small bands that might get lost in the corporate mindset of segregating and marketing music.

Why should music fans be marketing and perpetuating segregating genres and bands with purist notions of stature? Music is a universal primal entity...and one of the most basic human enterprises that unites people...except for when record executives get involved...and money. I suppose Aretha Franklin was worried that her stature would be compromised...or she might lose record sales? Is money really worth hating music and hate on anther performer? Beyonce didn't qualify what Turner was "the queen" of...could have been rock-and-roll which is a general consensus, while Franklin is considered "the queen" of soul. When we hate a style of music we are dismissing hundreds and millions of other people who love it...and that is just bad karma in my book.

Why not channel the hating to politicians and social injustice instead?

"Don't hate, Congratulate!" Rev Run from Run DMC.

This post is dedicated to Music Is Art and Integral Options Cafe.

4 comments:

big D said...

I'm with ya on the lameness of "musical xenophobia" but after you start developing preferences and tastes it's only natural to see things fall to the wayside.

Like - once you figure out that Bop moves you more than Big Band you tend to listen to more Bop. And when you hear Bop artists that move you more than others you gravitate more to them. I think it's just natural.

Then, there's things that fit you for a period of time. And I don't see anything criminal about that either. I mean I pull out a Kreator record every once in a while to take a trip down memory lane ... but I don't buy nearly as much Thrash/Speed/Death Metal as I used to. My tastes have changed some over the years. Taste & fitness ... I don't have the energy to attend those shows anymore.

Sure I could stand in the back but that's no fun. And I've discovered my love affair with Thrash was tied up in the whole experience - not just the music. Although I recently stumbled across a band called SCUM that is a wonderful blend of Punk & Metal hardcore ... but anyhow.

There's some soul-less boring music out there that eats up time I could be listening to something good. At one point - maybe American Idol would make me appreciate the music I dig even more ... but there's too much stuff to enjoy to torture myself with that.

I've been spoiled growing up in Chicago having access to many styles of music and the opportunity to see a multitude of bands on any given weekend - so our experiences are a bit different. I know that not everyone in this city has taken advantage of these offerings and that's too bad - but it's as far as their musical horizons are comfortable expanding to.

As far as the Amy Winehouse bashing goes ... she's interesting & the band is smokin' & Back to Black sounds great, but she isn't "all that".

And it's funny - It's been nearly a year since I've posted on my wordpress page. I started last night, polished it up and posted this morning with a bit about Amy.

Then I came across your 50 top bands post and I left a lil comment. This afternoon I thought I'd swing by & see if you responded and now I see this one ... hmmmmmm.

Candy Minx said...

Hey Big D...we've missed you in Blogland...so glad you posted...I saw your comment in the previous topic related to this post and responded.

I totally have gone through p[hases of music...I mean my god, I don't lie around depressed listening to Mitchell or Dylan or Springsteen like I did as a teenager. I'm a happier person and tend to listen toa lot more dance music...I've gone through phases of getting rid of stress I pull out system of a Down...

Do you want to listen to one music all the time, no way.

It's like food for me. I like all kinds of food andrecipes and mix it up.

A dinner party...oh god don't plyay classical or the blues...the guests will die of conversation void. Doesn't mean you don't liek blues or jazz..it just not appropriate for a dinner party...

Play something more lively,


I don't force anyone to love techno or Madonna or punk. There is always something that is exploring new areas and innovative that all our friends will want to check out.

My feeling with thispost is about the "exclusion" of bands and genres from ones diet.

It is as I wrote in this post..no accident that the amazing mainstream album by Johnny Cash titled "American Recordings" came out after he did a collaboration with U2.

The only people not at the party getting the fun and the joke...are the people who are hating on bands and music and closing their ears to variety...those "purists"..and they are the death to music ironically!

Gardenia said...

I agree that music prejudices can be a kind of immature elitism. I hated country and western at one time myself. But as I've matured, I've found much delight in so many genres of music....one reason I love "my group" of bloggers is that some have introduced me to a wider world of music (and other things) to love.

Candy Minx said...

Gardenia, actually that is a great point about blogging. You really do get introduced to more music and movies and stuff. Kind of shakes us out of our own ruts huh? Well music prejudices are the stuff of record executives...every genre and every fad or style...they want to box up and package all to make money. It is natural for the "ego" to want to control our own personas...but I think if we want to get out of ruts...or always stay open to new things...we have to analyse why our egos want to segregate music and each other into stature and genre...just a thought...