thread to track Poptimism 2.0

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

Going to combine a lot of the conversations we're having in other threads surrounding Timberlake into this one

Here's an excerpt of something I posted last year

An actual poptimist critic would be riding for the pop music that America actually, actively embraces and enjoys like the Chainsmokers, Meghan Trainor, Twenty One Pilots, Lukas Graham, Flo Rida, Mike Posner, Shawn Mendes, etc.

Instead artists who work in the pop genre just started releasing albums and "statements" like rock musicians do and we look at them through that rockist lens because there's no fucking rock bands any more. The end.

I really do think the way a "pop" artist can be critically loved right now really does mirror classic Rockism. For a lot of them You need to either:

A) Releasing a big album statement like a rock band (Beyonce, Rihanna, Kesha)
B) Basically *be* a rock band (The 1975, Harry Styles, Paramore)
C) Be a not-as-famous underdog people can champion like an indie rock band (Carly Rae Jepsen, Jason DeRulo, Jeremih)

Lorde doesn't track into any of these, but she's pretty big too.

I think the way a "pop" artist can be hated right now is, as Jordan pointed out, is even the slightest perceived dip in quality – Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus – is now license to do flying trampoline dunks on their career, even though critics really got behind all of them not all that long ago...

I dunno, I definitely feel like the critical window w/ what pop music is "good" is becoming increasingly narrow, it's interesting to watch.

Whiney G. Weingarten, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:06 (two weeks ago) Permalink

no way sna

Whiney G. Weingarten, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:10 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Are people still listening to Lukas Graham at all?

Ned Raggett, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:11 (two weeks ago) Permalink

B) Basically *be* a rock band (The 1975, Harry Styles, Paramore)

i guess i should note this doesn't map onto fall out boy (who prob are closer neighbors to twenty one pilots here anyway). i also don't think the 1975 are really *there* yet, or at least in my experience there's been heavy resistance

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Monday, 5 February 2018 17:13 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Doesn't the "flying trampoline dunks"-approach extend beyond pop, and is more media jumping on and off the hype train? Arcade Fire got the same treatment (perhaps for going pop; though their quality dip was more than slight)

Le Bateau Ivre, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:13 (two weeks ago) Permalink

xpost Ned, I guess I could update that list to be, like, Ed Sheeran, Halsey, Imagine Dragons, Chris Brown and Charlie Puth

Whiney G. Weingarten, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:13 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Where does Bruno Mars fit in all of this?

MarkoP, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:15 (two weeks ago) Permalink

when was the last time critics were behind eminem

ufo, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:16 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I'm also confused as to what point critics were actually behind Katy Perry, as I remember her first two albums getting relatively negative reviews at the time.

MarkoP, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:18 (two weeks ago) Permalink

all i remember is the Teenage Dream title track showing up on a few EOY lists in 2010

ufo, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:20 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Doesn't the "flying trampoline dunks"-approach extend beyond pop, and is more media jumping on and off the hype train?

ah yeah this does remind me of clowning on movie trailers

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Monday, 5 February 2018 17:21 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Yeah, that's fair re: Katy P

Whiney G. Weingarten, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:21 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I feel like Ariana Grande is a decent counterpoint to this though - her singles and her last album have been generally well liked by critics and she isn't any sort of underdog nor is she making big album statements

ufo, Monday, 5 February 2018 17:31 (two weeks ago) Permalink

We are in an an era of unprecedented chartpop conservatism imo. The algorithms have churned out Imagine Dragons and they'll keep churning out similar

imago, Monday, 5 February 2018 18:03 (two weeks ago) Permalink

this thought experiment brings up a question i've had for a long time: does poptimism imply a kind of classically liberal stance, in which the choices of the market are necessarily aesthetically valuable, or is it a populism that doesn't necessarily match up with chart trends? the former seems like it's got support in various industry trendpieces like Carl Wilson or Chris Molanphy's stuff, whereas the latter feels like it's the driving force behind the rise of semi-pop artists like CRJ and Charli XCX, not to mention Allie X or MUNA.

austinb, Monday, 5 February 2018 22:56 (two weeks ago) Permalink

the former also feels like it's less music qua music criticism and more cultural criticism, while the latter is a developed aesthetic stance that i think Tom Ewing summed up well in this piece, regardless of what you think of its surrounding argument https://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/jun/16/can-pop-music-survive

austinb, Monday, 5 February 2018 22:58 (two weeks ago) Permalink

this thought experiment brings up a question i've had for a long time: does poptimism imply a kind of classically liberal stance, in which the choices of the market are necessarily aesthetically valuable, or is it a populism that doesn't necessarily match up with chart trends? the former seems like it's got support in various industry trendpieces like Carl Wilson or Chris Molanphy's stuff, whereas the latter feels like it's the driving force behind the rise of semi-pop artists like CRJ and Charli XCX, not to mention Allie X or MUNA.

"the choices of the market are necessarily aesthetically valuable" seems like a slightly loaded statement to me, but I guess it depends on what sits behind it. I'd say Wilson, Molanphy and Ewing have all done work that assumes "the choices of the market are necessarily aesthetically interesting" - i.e. that popularity itself is worthy of study, whilst not being any kind of mark of quality. Both Chris's 'Why is X Number 1' column and Tom's 'Popular' series assume that songs that get to number 1 get there for a reason (or reasons), but don't assume as a starting premise that those reasons have to do with aspects of the song the writer privately considers valuable, attractive, "worthy" etc. (though they might!).

Tim F, Monday, 5 February 2018 23:11 (two weeks ago) Permalink

yeah, "interesting" definitely is a better word than "valuable"—although i think the slipperiness between the two is the foundation of the confusion around what poptimism is that seems to have pervaded.

austinb, Monday, 5 February 2018 23:15 (two weeks ago) Permalink

re: the quoted text in the first post, my understanding of the nebulous term 'poptimism' was simply that it asks critics to put forth the slightest modicum of effort required to avoid having a kneejerk reaction against music just because it was successful or marketed to people that typical (white male) rockcrits don't see as credible, i.e. women, poc and young'ns... not that a 'poptimist' must have the exact set of tastes equal to the mythical median "target audience" consumer, who therefore enthusiastically and earnestly recommends virtually everything that is successful.

so not quite sure what is different about poptimism 2.0!! not that i had a particularly strong grasp of what 1.0 was

dyl, Monday, 5 February 2018 23:20 (two weeks ago) Permalink

anti-rockism was always a more useful notion to me than poptimism tbh, i saw it as pretty much a shortcut to catch untrained undereducated music critics up w/ arts/literary criticism broadly

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:22 (two weeks ago) Permalink

"it" = poptimism or anti-rickism?

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:25 (two weeks ago) Permalink

er rockism

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:25 (two weeks ago) Permalink

anti-rockism

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:26 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Lorde definitely fits into Whiney's category C; she's a one-hit wonder whose latest album is almost entirely propped up by critical goodwill.

grawlix (unperson), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:26 (two weeks ago) Permalink

otm

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:27 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I'd say Wilson, Molanphy and Ewing have all done work that assumes "the choices of the market are necessarily aesthetically interesting" - i.e. that popularity itself is worthy of study, whilst not being any kind of mark of quality.

It amazes me that critics who write about pop have to clarify this point over and over; it should have shut up those trolls who cock eyebrows wondering why pop music critics don't write treatises about The DaVinci Code and Transformers.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:28 (two weeks ago) Permalink

im trying to imagine if any of the rappers i'd written about had a career trajectory like hers, how quickly they'd be tossed out by the critical apparatus ... waiting x years to drop a follow up album

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:28 (two weeks ago) Permalink

anti-rockism was always a more useful notion to me than poptimism

― Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, February 5

otm

pomenitul, Monday, 5 February 2018 23:29 (two weeks ago) Permalink

i mean, ppl who took a 'poptimist' approach to the genres i liked def helped me look at them in a new way but a lot of times they were just as much invested in "scenius" & the relationship between the local and underground + national and commercial just in other genres

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:31 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I'd say Wilson, Molanphy and Ewing have all done work that assumes "the choices of the market are necessarily aesthetically interesting" - i.e. that popularity itself is worthy of study, whilst not being any kind of mark of quality. Both Chris's 'Why is X Number 1' column and Tom's 'Popular' series assume that songs that get to number 1 get there for a reason (or reasons), but don't assume as a starting premise that those reasons have to do with aspects of the song the writer privately considers valuable, attractive, "worthy" etc. (though they might!).

But, in practice, an e.g. post-Adorno writer who enjoys avant-garde art music and thinks that the most popular music is interesting and worth studying because it is so culturally damaging wouldn't be called "poptimist", right? Or even someone who thinks it is worth studying from a technical standpoint in order to cynically craft commercially successful music? Iirc, Tom (and a lot of early-00s ilxors) loved "Baby One More Time" and thought we were living in a Golden Era of Pop Music, not just that the music was interesting in an abstract sense. What is the "optimism" in the term about?

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:33 (two weeks ago) Permalink

But, in practice, an e.g. post-Adorno writer who enjoys avant-garde art music and thinks that the most popular music is interesting and worth studying because it is so culturally damaging wouldn't be called "poptimist", right?

This person would be called "a fiction."

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:34 (two weeks ago) Permalink

the early 00s seem like a golden era of pop music in comparison to the 2017 charts

ufo, Monday, 5 February 2018 23:40 (two weeks ago) Permalink

But, in practice, an e.g. post-Adorno writer who enjoys avant-garde art music and thinks that the most popular music is interesting and worth studying because it is so culturally damaging wouldn't be called "poptimist", right? Or even someone who thinks it is worth studying from a technical standpoint in order to cynically craft commercially successful music? Iirc, Tom (and a lot of early-00s ilxors) loved "Baby One More Time" and thought we were living in a Golden Era of Pop Music, not just that the music was interesting in an abstract sense. What is the "optimism" in the term about?

― No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Monday, 5 February 2018 11:33 PM (five minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I think this goes back to what austinb refers to above as the "slipperiness" between the propositions that popularity is interesting and that what is popular is good.

This is a slipperiness that need not exist - it emerges from sloppy thinking as follows:

1. Hypothetical pop music critic says (or implies) that "popularity is interesting in itself."

2. That same hypothetical pop music critic says "this particular pop song (currently at number one on the charts) is great!" <-- Although pointedly does not claim that all commercially successful pop songs are great, or that her enjoyment of that particular pop song emerges from its commercial dominance.

3. Observer of hypothetical pop music critic complains: "Your approach to music criticism assumes that pop songs are great because they are popular."

4. Hypothetical pop music critic seeks to clarify: "No, that's not what I'm saying. You're conflating two separate propositions. Allow me to expl-"

5. Observer cuts in: "Sorry, I've stopped listening, a magazine has accepted my pitch for a hot-take on how the orthodoxy of populism has come at the expense of critical appreciation of less popular artists, and I've got a deadline to meet."

Tim F, Monday, 5 February 2018 23:47 (two weeks ago) Permalink

^^ they should teach this post in schools

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:51 (two weeks ago) Permalink

i think you could argue that some poptimist proponents also bought into this faulty logic

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:54 (two weeks ago) Permalink

like, what poptimist thinkers thought became what was cool think, and if this small group of influential people gravitated towards a particular school of Pop music, ppl would gravitate towards particular styles of pop as being representative of this theoretical argument, and now x years later we have carly rae jepson

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:55 (two weeks ago) Permalink

those two posts are making slightly different points i realize

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 23:58 (two weeks ago) Permalink

But, in practice, an e.g. post-Adorno writer who enjoys avant-garde art music and thinks that the most popular music is interesting and worth studying because it is so culturally damaging wouldn't be called "poptimist", right?

This person would be called "a fiction."

― morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 5 February 2018 11:34 PM (nineteen minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Alfred is correct here, I think. People tend to conflate any handwringing about the state of popular culture with Dialectic of Enlightenment, but (at least in part because it would be so exhausting "in practice" for anyone not so profoundly invested in negativity as Adorno was) there's no such thing as a music critic who both considers that popular music en masse should be viewed first and foremost through the frame of how it is culturally/socially damaging and is actually interested in writing about it in any detail.

If I had to name the critic that springs to mind in response to the question "who do you think has written the most and most thoughtfully about the problems with the current composition of commercially successful pop music" my answer would be Maura, and that is no surprise: it is precisely because Maura is open to the prospect of commercially successful pop music being good that she has both the interest and the capacity to write thoughtfully about how and why it might not be.

Tim F, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:04 (one week ago) Permalink

i think you could argue that some poptimist proponents also bought into this faulty logic

― Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Monday, 5 February 2018 11:54 PM (yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Any professional music critics, though?

Tim F, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:06 (one week ago) Permalink

there was a period where i found myself really put off (pre-streaming service era) by the coverage of "popular music" that seemed like it was undercounting hip-hop, or not recognizing its cultural breadth bc it was invested in this sorta discourse of the pop as populist marketplace & center of the teen zeitgeist ... some of the stuff ann powers (a critic i do respect on a number of levels) was writing around this time for example, the hollowed-out sounds of like 00s/early 10s "pop music" have aged awfully in many cases imo (not talking about taylor)

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:10 (one week ago) Permalink

*late 00s/early 10s

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:11 (one week ago) Permalink

i think whiney's characterization of poptimism in the op is subtly at odds with my own, but also recognize what he identifies as poptimism 2.0 as a thing

flopson, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:13 (one week ago) Permalink

There was a conversation in early 2012 i'm thinking of (w/r/t Ann)

Year-End Critics' Polls 2011

i'm not sure i was right back then, but i think i was getting at something that felt kind of 'off' about a perceived poptimist status quo

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:15 (one week ago) Permalink

like it felt like the way we wrestled w/ "pop" was very detached from earnest enthusiasm & was almost anthropological and dispassionate cataloguing of what teens listen to

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:16 (one week ago) Permalink

i am possibly being hugely unfair to ann but i think there was something there that has been validated by the way the streaming economy completely shifted the sound of the 'pop charts' in something akin to the 80s/90s soundscan moment

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:17 (one week ago) Permalink

I think that for most (especially young) people who would self-diagnose as "liking pop music" in some concrete, active sense, the actual commercial performance of any given piece of pop music is of decreasing importance - i.e. Carly Rae Jepsen and Rihanna and Lady Gaga and Charli XCX and Ariana Grande and Katy Perry and Meghan Trainor are all competing on broadly the same terrain for stans, which competition could broadly be boiled down to two zones of possible success (you need to succeed on one, but ideally both):

(a) quality x quantity of bops

(b) fierceness of instagram/twitter feed

In this sense "pop music" in the sense of genre has become detached from the charts and even commercial success to a much greater degree than whiney's opening post suggests - carly and the chainsmokers are much more aligned than they are opposed.

On basically every single possible level of this debate, the transformative impact of social media (which has become the space in which the enjoyment of popular music is performed) simply cannot be overstated.

Tim F, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:18 (one week ago) Permalink

t swift notably unfierce, which might explain the sudden critical volte-face at the first sign of weak bops

imago, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:28 (one week ago) Permalink

Looking back on that thread i think both you (deej) and lex were right, or perhaps rather the truth was the combination of your respective positions: "pop" moved from being what "just folks" listen to becoming a smaller, activated niche with a much more concrete sense of genre identity.

However, this is not a problem with criticism, IMO, but rather a real reaction to the fact that the patterns of music engagement are so much more decentralized than they used to be such that talking about what "just folks" listen to now is just not as relevant or meaningful: it's very difficult to point to a community of people who are primarily invested in "chart music".

Tim F, Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:28 (one week ago) Permalink

i think ive veered slightly from the original convo but this was the post i was thinking about when you asked the question, tim, if there were actual professional critics who'd allowed the distorted version of poptimism to shape their work:

yeah i mean i don't mind the shopping at whole foods thing, or that she's writing to a generalist audience, i guess it's more that I don't get a sense of what she likes as much as a sense of what she thinks she needs to cover, all of which she's vaguely enthusiastic about, and as a result the coverage is of a fairly rote series of artists I guess? idk I guess I'd just like to see some more personality in it or something

idk I'm probably being unfair. at a certain pt. the job is covering what people are likely to care about. although i'm not sure that explains the tuneyards thing which is p niche right?

― Regional Thug (D-40), Wednesday, January 4, 2012 8:31 PM (six years ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:35 (one week ago) Permalink

haha, that was until last week the last time tune-yards was something i might talk about in an ilx post

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Tuesday, 6 February 2018 00:36 (one week ago) Permalink

Damn, that one is a classic joint from my dearly departed twenties.

omar little, Wednesday, 7 February 2018 20:32 (one week ago) Permalink

anyway, sorry if I upset anyone

algorithm is a dancer (katherine), Thursday, 8 February 2018 20:38 (one week ago) Permalink

Katherine I was intrigued by your comments above about feeling part of a "wave" of writers disrupting the role of legacy music critics.

Is that merely a timing thing (i.e. anyone who started writing after a certain point in time is part of the wave) or do you see your approach to music writing as meaningfully distinct?

Tim F, Thursday, 8 February 2018 22:01 (one week ago) Permalink

the term "legacy music critics" interests me too. What does it mean in 2018 -- the equivalent of music crit tenure insofar as this is possible?

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 8 February 2018 22:11 (one week ago) Permalink

It's probably a function of first writing about music online myself (though scarily this was now almost 20 years ago), but I feel like the gulf between what I would consider to be "my generation" and people who got their start in the 70s through 90s is at least as distinct as any gulf vis a vis Internet 2.0 writers.

Though of course there's not really "gulfs" per se, rather an endless succession of shifts which different writers alternately embrace, reject or ignore (or some occasionally convoluted and contradictory combination of all three reactions).

Tim F, Thursday, 8 February 2018 22:32 (one week ago) Permalink

just to keep everyone informed - brad quit ilx over an incident last night - can those of you who are friends with him maybe persuade him back to ilm at least, with the promise of emo and hugs or something :(

imago, Thursday, 8 February 2018 22:33 (one week ago) Permalink

him/them/brad :)

imago, Thursday, 8 February 2018 22:37 (one week ago) Permalink

What incident?

Video reach stereo bog (Tom D.), Thursday, 8 February 2018 22:44 (one week ago) Permalink

Oh never mind, I know what it was.

Video reach stereo bog (Tom D.), Thursday, 8 February 2018 22:48 (one week ago) Permalink

It's probably a function of first writing about music online myself (though scarily this was now almost 20 years ago), but I feel like the gulf between what I would consider to be "my generation" and people who got their start in the 70s through 90s is at least as distinct as any gulf vis a vis Internet 2.0 writers.

I had a discussion about this with (I guess) former ilxor xhukh at one point, and it seems to me there were at least 3 generations of pre-internet music critics:

• Old Fucks Who Started It All (Marcus, Landau, Marsh, Christgau, Meltzer, Bangs, etc.)
• 70s Rolling Stone Crew (Cameron Crowe, Jaan Uhzelski, etc., etc.)
• 80s Voice Writers and Assorted Brits (Greg Tate et al.)
• 90s Kids (too many names to mention here, and I suppose this is where I fit in, since my first paid byline was November '96)

grawlix (unperson), Thursday, 8 February 2018 22:59 (one week ago) Permalink

Is that merely a timing thing (i.e. anyone who started writing after a certain point in time is part of the wave) or do you see your approach to music writing as meaningfully distinct?

It's a timing and demographic thing, I'd date it to around 2010 or so

algorithm is a dancer (katherine), Thursday, 8 February 2018 23:01 (one week ago) Permalink

My first paid byline was spring '99 but did it intermittently through 2003, after which it became a more regular freelance phenomenon. I guess I'm on the late end of the blog cycle.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 8 February 2018 23:02 (one week ago) Permalink

but no, I don't remotely see myself as any kind of #disruptortwopointoh, unless the thing that was to be disrupted was my own security, which, stellar job all around there to me

algorithm is a dancer (katherine), Thursday, 8 February 2018 23:03 (one week ago) Permalink

FWIW my surprise was mostly driven by feeling very um 'close' to your writing style - as in the voice just feels so familiar to me in the best possible sense that it seemed startling to then ask myself rhetorically "is this writer in fact emblematic of a new generation that I don't fully understand?"

Tim F, Thursday, 8 February 2018 23:10 (one week ago) Permalink

It's a timing and demographic thing, I'd date it to around 2010 or so

― algorithm is a dancer (katherine), Thursday, February 8, 2018 5:01 PM (seven minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

tumblr generation

my only overarching issue w the tumblr generation is a tendency to think they invented politicization of music writing

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Thursday, 8 February 2018 23:12 (one week ago) Permalink

i do think i came up in an era where you had to argue radical ideas from within a 'reasonable' frame whereas post tumblr it seems a radical approach is taken more seriously

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Thursday, 8 February 2018 23:14 (one week ago) Permalink

but they did invent the meme-ification of music writing, give'em that

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 8 February 2018 23:14 (one week ago) Permalink

the term "legacy music critics" interests me too. What does it mean in 2018 -- the equivalent of music crit tenure insofar as this is possible?

It's always been weird for me, I think. If you count my grad school work at UCI, when I was also the campus paper's main music reviewer, then I've been doing work one way or another since 1992, and though I was let go as a freelancer at the AMG in 2012, I did spend almost fifteen years contributing to its database on a regular basis. But it's never been my *job* and I never thought of it or any of the other work for all the other spots I've written for over the years as what I've done in terms of my day-to-day. (Which I realize is the case for you as well, Alfred, as well as many others.) Instead -- helped by the fact that in 1993 I started talking with people via newsgroups, email and the Web in general -- it's felt more like I've just always been steadily talking here and there about things as I choose. And it's a reason why I'm terribly casual about what level of work I do or don't do at this stage of my life, I pitch as I do, chime in as I do, don't feel the need to grapple as deeply as I might have done in the past, but that's not that I'm not thinking about things. I'm just thinking about a lot of other things too. And honestly I'd rather read more thoughts from others in most cases rather than put whatever supposed imprimatur I could on a subject of discussion.

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 8 February 2018 23:27 (one week ago) Permalink

the problem with music writing in 2018 is that the original purpose of music writing was to explain to readers what a particular piece of music sounded like and offer an opinion on whether or not the reader should try to hear it for themselves

mid-2000s music writing was especially valuable to people because online consumption of music was a disorganized and constantly changing landscape and music writers served as guides who helped readers find the best stuff there

spotify new music friday effectively drops a stack of free promo CDs on everyone's doorstep every week, and spotify themselves do a fine job of organizing new releases in such a way that helps every individual user easily find the new stuff that best suits their particular interests. pitchfork's front page can't compete with spotify's "new releases" tab. spotify already knows what you personally like to listen to and can make educated guesses about what you want to check out based on that data. what determines the way pitchfork's front page looks on any given day? most of the reviews they run every day only show up there because a publicist asked nicely. they're reviews of mediocre records that most of the site's writers don't have any interest in hearing. as a reader, it feels alienating.

i don't like the JT review, but i also can't blame young writers for trying to find a way to write about music in a way that feels important and useful. streaming has removed the need for music writing to function as a consumer guide because the audience no longer needs to spend money to hear music for themselves. it's no longer necessary for music writers to organize the chaotic landscape of online music consumption for the benefit of listeners because that landscape is no longer chaotic, and the data about listening habits that spotify and apple have access to is much a much more effective tool for organizing and recommending music than the sum total of knowledge contained in the minds of all professional music writers combined.

young music writers are not worse than old music writers, old music writers just had the benefit of circumstances that made their writing more important and useful to readers. there was a clear purpose to what they were doing that readers understood and appreciated. that's no longer the case, now.

kakistocrat, Saturday, 10 February 2018 00:10 (one week ago) Permalink

I don't buy any of that. My interest in art criticism has never been for it to function as a consumer guide. I want to read someone who understands something. I want to read writing where someone is putting important things that other people sense about a given piece of work into words.

timellison, Saturday, 10 February 2018 00:20 (one week ago) Permalink

^^^

I would guess that most people in this thread have always consumed music criticism to better work out how to listen to music more than to work out what to listen to.

Tim F, Saturday, 10 February 2018 00:28 (one week ago) Permalink

streaming has removed the need for music writing to function as a consumer guide because the audience no longer needs to spend money to hear music for themselves. it's no longer necessary for music writers to organize the chaotic landscape of online music consumption for the benefit of listeners because that landscape is no longer chaotic, and the data about listening habits that spotify and apple have access to is much a much more effective tool for organizing and recommending music than the sum total of knowledge contained in the minds of all professional music writers combined.

This is simply not true. Plenty of people enjoy hearing something that sounds nothing like anything they've listened to before. Also, Spotify is terrible at "organizing new releases in such a way that helps every individual user easily find the new stuff that best suits their particular interests" if those interests include jazz, classical, music from non-US/UK countries, or basically anything that's not utterly standard mass-market Western pop. And that's before we even get into the issue of writing about music that's not available on Spotify at all (there's a lot of it, you know!) and will thus require some actual effort on a reader's part to seek out.

grawlix (unperson), Saturday, 10 February 2018 00:35 (one week ago) Permalink

I think the biggest influence on this whole thing-we-are-discussing is a social media inspired change in how we sort and organise ourselves and what information and opinions and allegiances and signifiers we use for that.

There’s a reason why 2016 articles on Kanye vs Taylor and Bernie vs Hillary could feel startlingly similar.

Tim F, Saturday, 10 February 2018 00:36 (one week ago) Permalink

i.e. I think it’s too narrow to frame this solely in terms of patterns of music consumption

Tim F, Saturday, 10 February 2018 00:37 (one week ago) Permalink

who is reading about jazz, classical, or music from non-US/UK countries? who is publishing it? who is reading and publishing writing about music by writers who have great passion for and expertise on the thing they're writing about?

i do not see any evidence that there's a market for nuance, for writing that is educated and/or educational, for expertise. i see news articles that summarize tweets and rushed takes on mass-market pop from good writers who are too busy trying to make rent to spend any time at all thinking about music that isn't the stuff everyone else is talking about and therefore approving pitches for.

i'm old enough to remember what the platonic ideal of music writing was supposed to look like, and i don't see anything like it today. what i see sure looks like an industry that's on the brink of being automated out of existence.

kakistocrat, Saturday, 10 February 2018 00:57 (one week ago) Permalink

idk, The Wire is still in business, although others could speak to what capacity it is operating as a publication

books on music still sell reasonably well, as far as books go

I have no idea what "the platonic ideal of music writing" is supposed to be, especially when music writing has always been pretty varied. Any examples there?

mh, Saturday, 10 February 2018 01:03 (one week ago) Permalink

who is reading about jazz, classical, or music from non-US/UK countries?

Lots of people. Granted, many of them are over 30, so they really have no excuse for continuing to exist, but they do.

who is publishing it? who is reading and publishing writing about music by writers who have great passion for and expertise on the thing they're writing about?

The Wire, Jazz Times, Down Beat, Bandcamp Daily, Stereogum, Pitchfork, the Log Journal, WBGO.com...those are just the first places I thought of. There are fucking tons of outlets for serious, thoughtful pieces on music that requires serious thought. Are there as many as there were a few years ago? No, but...

i do not see any evidence that there's a market for nuance, for writing that is educated and/or educational, for expertise. i see news articles that summarize tweets and rushed takes on mass-market pop from good writers who are too busy trying to make rent to spend any time at all thinking about music that isn't the stuff everyone else is talking about and therefore approving pitches for.

You're not looking hard enough. Seriously.

i'm old enough to remember what the platonic ideal of music writing was supposed to look like, and i don't see anything like it today. what i see sure looks like an industry that's on the brink of being automated out of existence.

You're wrong. But your first question makes me think you don't actually care, anyway. You probably like whatever the algorithms tell you you should like, and that's fine. It's a big world. There's room for all of us.

grawlix (unperson), Saturday, 10 February 2018 01:10 (one week ago) Permalink

the wire, sure, that. unforced genuine expertise presented without concern for the popularity of the thing being written about. archival work focused on music that might otherwise never be discussed or cataloged, serious and thoughtful discussion of music that never relies on conventional wisdom or Default Smart Opinions.

what is the wire's circulation? who is reading that stuff? what do you think is bigger, the audience that's looking for great writing about music otherwise might not have interested the reader or the audience that's looking for Default Smart Opinions at lightning speed they can then parrot back to their friends in real life in order to seem hip and knowledgeable?

how many of the writers who are capable of the type of great thinking and great writing that a mag like wire might publish are just giving it away for free on here or elsewhere anyway? how many examples have you come across of writers who do their good writing about the subjects they are actually extremely passionate about on their tumblr or wordpress blog for free and inferior hot takes on mediocre zeitgeist records as paid work for publications?

kakistocrat, Saturday, 10 February 2018 01:16 (one week ago) Permalink

did you really register an account just to complain on this thread in a long-winded manner?

mh, Saturday, 10 February 2018 01:24 (one week ago) Permalink

i do not see any evidence that there's a market for nuance, for writing that is educated and/or educational, for expertise. i see news articles that summarize tweets and rushed takes on mass-market pop from good writers who are too busy trying to make rent to spend any time at all thinking about music that isn't the stuff everyone else is talking about and therefore approving pitches for.

your unspoken assumption here is that "mass-market pop," and writing about it, cannot be nuanced, educated and/or educational

algorithm is a dancer (katherine), Saturday, 10 February 2018 01:24 (one week ago) Permalink

I don't buy any of that. My interest in art criticism has never been for it to function as a consumer guide. I want to read someone who understands something. I want to read writing where someone is putting important things that other people sense about a given piece of work into words.

― timellison

otm

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 10 February 2018 01:28 (one week ago) Permalink

Fader, Okayplayer, Afropop.org, remezcla, songlines, plus a small handful of major Papers/magazine writers and alt-Weekly ones

curmudgeon, Saturday, 10 February 2018 01:29 (one week ago) Permalink

Cover non-us, non-uk Music

curmudgeon, Saturday, 10 February 2018 01:30 (one week ago) Permalink

did you really register an account just to complain on this thread in a long-winded manner?

― mh, Saturday, February 10, 2018 1:24 AM (sixteen minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

srsly

Le Bateau Ivre, Saturday, 10 February 2018 01:43 (one week ago) Permalink

your unspoken assumption here is that "mass-market pop," and writing about it, cannot be nuanced, educated and/or educational

― algorithm is a dancer (katherine)

sure it can, but nuance and expertise are inherently less valuable to audiences now that it is easier to hear music than it is to read about it. people who are still reading about pop music are looking for Default Smart Opinions. they do not want to learn, they want to have their biases confirmed. you should know this better than anyone; all of the nuance and passion that inhabits your writing about popular music cannot do anything to stop your readers from heaping abuse onto you as punishment for your unwillingness to reinforce Default Smart Opinions.

i'm not advocating for music writing to become an online marketplace of Default Smart Opinions about pop music, but i think it's silly to pretend that's not what's happening just because there are small corners of the internet where communities form around other perspectives. who is the audience? what do they want? critics don't ask those questions enough.

kakistocrat, Saturday, 10 February 2018 01:53 (one week ago) Permalink

the audience is Jann Wenner and he wants you to say nice things about U2, I think

mh, Saturday, 10 February 2018 02:06 (one week ago) Permalink

who is the audience? what do they want? critics don't ask those questions enough.

Again, you're just wrong. Critics ask themselves these questions every day. They do so while formulating pitches.

what do you think is bigger, the audience that's looking for great writing about music otherwise might not have interested the reader or the audience that's looking for Default Smart Opinions at lightning speed they can then parrot back to their friends in real life in order to seem hip and knowledgeable?

I am aware that I write for a small audience. That's why I do it. I have consciously chosen to make a 20+ year career out of writing about things that only a few people are interested in, because those people are very interested. I seek a passionate audience, and the way to find a passionate audience is to write about obscure artists. (Or superhero movies.)

grawlix (unperson), Saturday, 10 February 2018 02:15 (one week ago) Permalink

fwiw re: the argument i was having with katherine this seems relevant: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/09/arts/music/popcast-justin-timberlake-meek-mill-twitter-criticism.html

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Saturday, 10 February 2018 02:16 (one week ago) Permalink

it's no longer necessary for music writers to organize the chaotic landscape of online music consumption for the benefit of listeners because that landscape is no longer chaotic

even if your premises about streaming services are right, the way they operate to provide music for consumption would still present a need for 'organization' by writers because the services conceal, even obliterate, the social and personal contexts which were the matrix in which chaos-organizing music writing worked.

j., Saturday, 10 February 2018 03:39 (one week ago) Permalink

Yeah j. Otm btw music writing is for people who love good criticism and good writing not for ppl looking for musics recommendations, tho in past eras a lot of hacks got by bc it coincided w those things

Listen to my homeboy Fantano (D-40), Saturday, 10 February 2018 03:46 (one week ago) Permalink

I've come to think that the best critical writing (music, art, lit - whatever) is an end in itself - ie not parasitical of, or dependent on, the medium of choice. Consumption has altered the market dramatically, but the good writers will always produce because that's what writers do. I do find that the best stuff is much harder to source (I probably mean 'stumble across' as much as anything), however, and this can lead to a weird kind of reading paralysis. Back in the day, Twitter was a goldmine, but now it's just too noisy.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Saturday, 10 February 2018 11:36 (one week ago) Permalink

this article responds to the title in the photo

https://www.avclub.com/heres-why-you-dont-like-new-music-any-more-1822926904

omar little, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 16:58 (six days ago) Permalink

"This all makes sense, of course. We’re still developing physically, emotionally, and sexually in our early teens"

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/S/sgp-catalog-images/region_US/showtime_svod-130064-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1483994509386._RI_SX940_.jpg

"RANDALL!"

Whiney G. Weingarten, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 17:01 (six days ago) Permalink

Based on incontrovertible, anecdotal evidence, that's mostly true for non-obsessive types, i.e. not ILM, i.e. most people.

pomenitul, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 17:07 (six days ago) Permalink

yeah, no shit

Whiney G. Weingarten, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 17:13 (six days ago) Permalink

non-movie people keep making movie memes referencing the franchises of their youth iirc

mh, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 17:19 (six days ago) Permalink

That was less a dig at pomenitul and more about a conversation about an aggregated news post about a Times story about a study that found something most of us knew

Whiney G. Weingarten, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 17:23 (six days ago) Permalink

the comments truly prove that while most people lock in their tastes early, internet commenters are quick to tell you that they are not the average person

mh, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 17:40 (six days ago) Permalink

this study definitely seems pretty no-shit

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/10/opinion/sunday/favorite-songs.html

THAT SAID i really do think that there's something to be said for the better marketing that existed even ten years ago — these days, simple awareness of new music is very low among the general populace because of the ways media consumption habits have been rewired. add trump's sucking up all the air to that and it's nearly fatal

maura, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 18:30 (six days ago) Permalink

gauging how my coworkers (mostly extremely normal cubicle-dwelling suburban types) listen to music is illuminating and has really changed over time

the one that makes no sense to me is my coworker who is in his mid 30s and mostly has youtube sitting open with either 90s rock or a handful of newer things streaming on his work computer. somehow, since youtube has some instructional stuff on it, it's not blocked by the work web filter. but it's restricted mode so it's incredibly variable what you can get to. he also likes imagine dragons, I think

mh, Tuesday, 13 February 2018 18:40 (six days ago) Permalink


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.