Music Dump - How Dr Dre's Boy Bands Changed The Smiths' Michael Jackson Depression
Ke$ha Is The Last Great Rockstar by Jonathan Bogart (The Atlantic): If rock and roll is about mayhem, about sticking it to the man, about living in the today, then Ke$ha is a rockstar, and well, Marcus Mumford is not. Rock is no longer transgressive, in other words - it's by and large safe and predictable. Pink plays at being a rock star, and likes the imagery of it, but Ke$ha is pretty rock in the sense that she's likely the pop star that most terrifies the parents of teenage girls. She sings 'found out you're full of it/ and i'm over it/ so suck my dick' and collaborates with Iggy Pop, and her music is deliberately designed to be as irritating as possible to parents. Like Jerry Lee Lewis or Johnny Rotten, argues Bogart, Ke$ha is basically trolling civilised society, and this is a good thing.
The Enduring Allure Of Boy Bands by Maura Johnston (New York Times): Like it or not, boy bands come and go. One Direction aren't the first, and aren't the last. 13 year old girls in 1964 were mooning over the Beatles. 13 year old girls in 2020 are going to moon over some other boy bands. What's interesting is that when you look at the kind of arguments most people make against boy bands, musically, it often comes down to "this is music for 13 year old girls". For Johnston, however, this music has a distinct purpose - teenage girls (and boys) trying to figure out what they like, trying to figure out where to draw boundaries, and what they should be looking for in their chosen gender, use boy bands as a sort of palette to experiment with.
The Making Of The Chronic by Ben Westhoff (LA Times): 1992's The Chronic, by Dr Dre, is one of those seminal rap albums that people bang on about because it changed how rap music sounded - it's pretty much directly because of this album that fundamentally harmless rappers like MC Hammer felt they had to go gangsta (with comical affect). It's the album that introduced Snoop Dogg to the world, and Westhoff's oral history is fascinating, gathering quotes from most of the key players (or playas?) including Suge Knight, Dr Dre, Snoop, and Tupac. By the sounds, everyone was hungry, with a lot to prove, and Dr Dre seemed expert, to Snoop Dogg, at least, at getting the vibe exactly right: "I'm like, this motherfucker is a precisionist."
Fiona Apple, Artist Of The Year by Sady Doyle (BuzzFeed): Fiona Apple has come a long way since 1998, when she had a hit with a song called 'Criminal'. And, in a way, argues Doyle, the best way of summing up how far Apple's come is watching her perform 'Criminal' in 2012. Where the song was kind of an invitation to fuck with her in 1998, it's now the opposite of an invitation. When she sings it live in the footage Doyle embeds, she seems to be summoning up bile from the bottom of her stomach, shaking side to side, full of pent up rage. She is no longer somebody to fuck with.
Michael Jackson's Thriller At 30: How One Album Changed The World by Steve Greenberg (Billboard): In 1982, when Thriller was about to come out, the music industry was in a big slump. Kids had stopped buying music, people thought, and had instead started putting their coins in arcade machines! And worse, top 40 radio stations had faded away; instead of listening to whatever was on the charts, kids were instead listening to niche radio stations, playing rock music specifically, or R&B specifically. And worse, white people seemed bored of black music in the early 1980s - plenty of #1 hits on the R&B charts didn't even break the mainstream top 40. This, argues Greenberg, is what makes Thriller so special. If you watched MTV, you saw Michael Jackson. If you listened to rock radio, you heard Michael Jackson. If you listened to R&B radio, you heard Michael Jackson. If you listened to pop radio, you heard Michael Jackson. Somehow the album transcended all the formats. It brought the world back to the days when Americans all heard the same music.
The Smiths: Best Band Ever? by David Daley (interviewing Tony Fletcher) (Salon): It's rare to have bands that are so intensely loved the way that people love Morrissey and the Smiths. It's also fascinating to hear about the Smiths' history; by the time Morrissey and Johnny Marr started the band, Morrissey was treading water, really, living with his mum, writing letters to the NME. You get the impression that if the Smiths hadn't worked, Morrissey might well have given up on music. And, Fletcher argues, Morrissey and Marr were one of the great partnerships; they respected each other's talents and basically let the other do their thing; Morrissey wasn't really musical, and Marr didn't have Morrissey's way with words, but both came from similar backgrounds and liked the same music.
Cap The Old Times: The Story Of Interpol's Turn Out The Bright Lights by Ian Cohen (Pitchfork): There's a deluxe edition of Turn Out The Bright Lights now, and Pitchfork's (predictably) done a suspiciously timely oral history of the band and how they arrived so fully formed; turned out they'd got together 3-4 years before the album, and were basically disenchanted goths who'd discovered the mod aesthetic, dressing up in suits. The thing I find incredible about this oral history is that, in the same sentence, an Interpol member both claims he was a big scenester and that there was no scene ('I was in the same bars with the guys from the Strokes-- there wasn't a group of people being like, "We're part of the scene."') For some reason, this reminds me of the difference between granfalloons and karasses in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle; a karass is an actual meaningful group of people, and a granfalloon is a fake, artificial group of people based on a false premise.
Listening To Kanye by LaToya Peterson (Racialicious): People didn't seem to really know what to say about the way Kanye West talks pretty openly about being depressed. I mean, dude released 808s And Heartbreak, but most of the talk related to that album was about the use of AutoTune and the weirdness of it, rather than Kanye pouring his heart out. Peterson argues that the machismo and nihilistic boasting in a lot of hip hop is actually depression in disguise, and that the reason people didn't know how to take Kanye talking about being depressed is because it punctures hip hop's bubble of 'keeping it real'.