Music Dump - Lana Del Rey's Skrillex Abuses Lady Gaga's Cee LoTheVine's weekly recurring Music Dump feature returns in 2012, highlighting the most interesting music articles we found across the web this week.
In The KISS Navy by Elmo Keep (The Hairpin): Wherein Ms Keep discusses her experiences on a KISS-themed cruise ship adventure, featuring KISS themselves! KISS seem to inspire a lot of dedicated fandom, and Keep's description of the band as Bruce Springsteen in makeup is interesting and rings of truth; where Springsteen sings working-class anthems of the everyday, KISS sing working-class anthems of escaping the everyday. To see all the members of the KISS Army in one place is a fascinating thing, along with the way that the members of KISS seem to negotiate the strangeness of the situation -- a well-observed and sympathetic piece.
Your Chemical Romance by Nitsuh Abebe (Pitchfork): Personally speaking, Nitsuh Abebe and I both live in a sort of indie music bubble, where we're only dimly aware of bands that get called 'emo' or 'scene music', the kind of band that plays to a huge amount of fans at Soundwave despite their probably never getting played on radio in Australia. And indie music bubble types like me also make up a bunch of the types to write for magazines or internet publications. So when a musician like Skrillex comes along, who sort of makes dance music for emo kids, such types are sometimes often a little confused by what the fuss is about. Because those kids are now old enough to be making their own emo-inspired music about their experiences of life, we're probably going to see a lot more music like Skrillex, which is influenced by emo scene stuff without adhering to the original sound.
Lana & Me: Our Dark, Abusive, Co-Dependent, Relationship On The Content Farm by Carles (Hipster Runoff): Carles is either the internet's sharpest cultural critic of music, or a shameless whore for website hits. It's impossible to tell, because it's hard to tell when Carles is trolling or serious. But as far as he's concerned, Lana Del Rey is gold. She really does bring people to his website. And because of this, he has a weird sort of co-dependence with her -- the more that he drools over her or criticises her, the more hits he gets, but also, the more publicity she gets, and so it's sort of in both their interests for him to be an arsehole to her. If it gets people talking about her, maybe it's in her interests to sing badly on Saturday Night Live?
Muddy Waters And Mozart: On The Late Great Townes Van Zandt by Aretha Sills (LA Review Of Books): Sills is an old-time fan of country music, who used to run a fanzine in the 1990s, and she interviewed the singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt in 1994, not too long before he passed away. Van Zandt, the scion of a Texas oil family, was a damaged man who lived a famously self-destructive life that he chronicled expertly in his songs. And Sills here wrestles with just how damaged Van Zandt was, and to what level people who idolised him for his self-destructiveness (like her) contributed to his myth, and kept the cycle going. I'm also a fan of Van Zandt, but I was only really dimly aware of just how self-destructive he was until I'd read this article. To me it seems like Van Zandt's talent is to be able to portray feelings like self-loathing, ennui, and despair in the most elegant way possible, and I'm not sure Van Zandt needed to be self-destructive in order to really write those songs, but certainly he needed to give off the impression that he knew what those emotions felt like.
In Lady Gaga's Wake by Lisa Robinson (Vanity Fair): Lisa Robinson clearly thinks Lady Gaga is the most amazing thing in the world, and so there's a bit of hagiography to this piece. But you do get the impression here that, because of Robinson's clear worship of her, Stephanie Germanotta lets her guard down a bit; she invites Robinson into her house to meet her family - her father has Springsteen records and her mother clearly encouraged Gaga's attention to detail. And the section where Gaga discusses her unhappy relationships with men are fascinating; while Gaga initially claims it's because they're intimidated by her amazing talent, one suspects that it's more because she gives so much of herself to her fans that she's not quite sure how to just be a private person anymore.
Cee Lo Green Strikes Gold, Without A Gold Album by Ben Sisario (New York Times): So, you all know Cee-Lo Green's big tune, 'Fuck You'/'Forget You', right? In the US, that song has sold over 5 million downloads (it's one of the most downloaded songs of all time). But Sisario estimates that Cee-Lo's 5 million downloads only equates to about $600,000US for Cee-Lo. And this is a man who Sisario estimates made $20 million in 2011. For Cee-Lo Green, selling singles downloads is the worst money earner he has. And his album hasn't even sold half a million copies - most people just want 'Fuck You'. Instead, Green makes most his money by appearing on television, sponsoring products, by selling his songs to advertisers, etc. If you're wondering why artists sell out these days, this is why - if Cee-Lo can't make a million dollars by having one of the biggest downloads ever, what hope does, say, Skrillex or Azealia Banks have?
Azealia Banks And The Charge Of The Women MCs by Paul Lester (The Guardian): Now that Nicki Minaj is a legitimate pop star, after 'Super Bass', women MCs are popping up everywhere. Azealia Banks, who went to Minaj's high school, is the next big thing, and she has a fascinating mix of bravado and vulnerability (both are on display in the video for her tune '212', where she's obviously somewhat embarrassed to be in front of the camera but also exudes amazing amounts of charisma). In her interview with Lester, she comes across as exceedingly savvy in a lot of ways - she talks about wanting to be very very famous indeed, and seems very aware of the mechanics of music industry - but is reduced to tears when Lester inquires after her troubled childhood.
The Year In Pop And Profanity by Ann Powers (NPR): In 2011, pop music got ever more naughty - think of Katy Perry gleefully singing about alien sex, or, well, just how gleefully Azealia Banks says the word 'cunt'. Why is this, asks Powers? The theory she has - and it rings true - is that, in America, pop music is the main avenue people have for discussing sex or for unself-consciously expressing their feelings about sex. And the US is a society where there are some exceptionally confused messages about sex. Right now, a reasonably popular Republican presidential candidate called Rick Santorum is saying that contraception (let alone abortion) should be illegal because it encourages sex acts that are not to do with reproduction. Yet, girls can't post on half the forums on the internet without dudes saying 'TITS OR GTFO". Navigating between these two extremes and trying to be true to yourself in the process is not easy, and so it's not surprising that music coming out of the US right now reflects this.
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