I Am Tempted to Hate the World Because...
Too many musicians (and I use that word loosely) are robbing the youth culture of their identity, one crappy song/video at a time. The music industry blows. This is not to say that there aren't still great artists out there or bands developing their own unique voice, which they use to broadcast rebellious anti-theses or universally relatable narratives on the conundrum of the human experience. The issue is that these are not the voices given air time, because they aren't as sellable.
In a world that communicates through images, instant gratification, and text messages, things like intricate musicality played by actual instruments, an un-edited voice against a microphone, and lyricism that requires thought, are considered too hard. A shrewd music-businessman aims for the easiest target: the sex impulse. You tickle the fancy of the listener/observer, hypnotize them out of their shekels, and leave the "artist" with the assurance that he or she is a controversial phenomenon making a statement (comma, bank). It's the ultimate appeal to the musician's vanity: "You're so creative! You have such a unique style all your own! You are not AT ALL generic! What? You are not a product. You're the most important person in the world and everything you say and do matters!" It's a sick game. Sure, there are occasional bands like the Kings of Leon who are are somehow able to penetrate the suffocating veil of pop-fiction technobabble and obtain notoriety, but for every rock triumph there are just as many... I don't even know what to call them-- Synthe-lunatics???-- who keep the public dumb and the industry's pockets full. The sad thing is that they think they're the one pulling the strings when they're actually just the puppets. They are the Charlie McCarthy's; the label is Edgar Bergen. I don't even want to know what that makes us.
Too bad Model-T music is doing humanity a huge disservice. Too bad with the media controlling what we see, hear, wear, and sometimes even smell, we're spoon-fed reconstituted garbage in a slightly updated package and given nothing else to feast upon. Too bad the younger generations are being inundated with mind-distilling images that encourage them to be little more than sexual deviants-- kids livin' loud on their parents' savings and declaring their independence by duplicating the over-hyped and miscommunicated message that sex alone is power. They nod like bobble-heads to the beat of whatever pawn is topping the charts, not realizing that they're being swindled out of their identity. There are two dimensions to life: what people see, and what people believe. So, re-project the image on the screen as fact, and make people believe it. There's no flesh, no substance, no inner monologue. The kids don't need it. They have iPods. They can wander freely in the space of their own invented celebrity and never develop a fully fermented personality. They are living on borrowed time. What happens when the world catches up with them an punches them in the face? Will they even feel it?
Of course, music is not at fault. This is just a symptom of a growing brain disease, and my reactions are not those of everyone else. Still, it's a bit unpalatable when one of our most precious venues of cathartic release are twisted against us, used to program and not liberate us. Pop is not a bad thing, it's just an easier and more vulnerable host for greed to latch onto. Arguing the difference between Pop and Rock is the same as explaining the difference between dollars and sense (pun, not a misspelling). Popular music is popular because it isn't political. It's pure sugar: a distraction for the heaviness of life with enthusiastic, emotional energy. It makes you want to dance. Rock, in all its many branches and sub-genres, produces a different reaction. It generally makes you want to punch walls to "break through the other side" of something. It shirks superficiality and sulks or shrieks in the stew of its distaste of mankind's position under the Man's thumb. The average person vacillates between attraction to both genres. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't. One can find solace in the uber-optimism of Bruno Mars then turn around and long wistfully for the earth-shattering composition of Bob Dylan. Neither option is incorrect.
The precedence of certain musical genres comes and goes in waves. The doo-wop fifties were penetrated by the socially perceptive counterculture of the British Invasion, which led to the more outspoken hippies of Woodstock. Then, we decided to shut up and dance to Disco, which was soon combatted by the Punk resistance. When Sid Vicious killed that wave, '80s Pop-electronica took over, breeding self-indulgent but harder glam rock, which was to be flipped on its ear by Kurt Cobain. Then Cobain died, and no one really took his place. The tunes of the Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Foo Fighters raged on, later losing ground as it caved under the weight of the obnoxious Boy Bands of the later '90s/early millennium. In retroaction, The White Stripes, The Vines, Franz Ferdinand, etc, made some noise for the nostalgic, old days of guitars and drums and waling, but their reverberation was not to be as intense as their forefathers'. And here we are now in the 2010s, and there aren't really genres at all anymore, just independent artists fighting for exposure in a world that has become too big to honor them with such specific devotion. Our allegiance is spread too thin.
Don't know if you noticed, but I failed to mention any female artists in that slap-shod, historical trajectory. It's always been harder for the ladies... Never taken as seriously as their hard-hitting rock brothers, the niche of women in music is not as numerically impressive, but the force of impact some of the greatest sonic soul sisters have had is something that I am at least sincerely proud of. Aretha Franklin liberated the submissive female voice and made it, not only powerful, but assertive as Hell. Janis Joplin howled at the moon like a banshee with equal parts heart, soul, aggression, and empathy. Patti Smith had bigger balls than most of her male counterparts and even greater lyricism. Debbie Harry, Pat Benatar, Chrissie Hynde, Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell... These women embraced their own particular version of femininity and sexuality without being owned by it and left their female listeners empowered and their male listeners obligingly dominated.
And now we have the adrenaline rush of modern feminists like... like... Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Kesha-- oh, I'm sorry-- Ke$ha, and K-Katy Perry. Wait... What?! Honestly, it's not their fault. These girls grew up in the age of the ultimate pop diva, Madonna. Their mistake-- since they are clearly not very savvy-- is that in their attempts to mimic her distinctive artistry and style, they consistently misinterpret her instead. Madonna was about embracing sexuality, owning it, and accepting it as a very important part of the functioning female organism. Instead of taking away her controversial and provocative messages, the current mainstream instead skims the surface, feeding off raging teenage hormones and humanity's innate, perverse tendencies by saturating the youth-centric culture with visually intrusive, abusive, clumsy, masturbatory images that the ignorance of each artist decides to interpret as her own unabashed sexual openness. While Justin Bieber (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit) continues his progression as the patronizing dude every little girl would be "lucky" to screw, the women of the pop world echo this long held masculine assertion by assuming their own inviting, open-legged sprawl.
Add to this the insane amount of vanity present in today's culture, as instigated by Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and other instantaneous, gratuitous self-love venues, (I mean, we're all guilty), and you have a generation of artists who essentially jerk off to their own videos. Take "Wrecking Ball." Yes, I've seen it. I'm not happy about it, but some friends held me hostage, (you Bastards know who you are), specifically to torture me, and I was forced to watch Miley swinging naked on a ball. There was no point to it, but she's "just being Miley," and she doesn't care about anyone but herself and promoting her "I am the World" personage. The argument is that she is trying to come into her own as a woman, right? She does this, naturally, by putting herself out there, balls to the walls (literally). I mean, she even went the extra mile by puttin' glycerin in her eyes, so she looks like she's crying. She wants you to take her seriously so she can commend her own awesomeness. She's a grown woman with her own words to say, her way. Good for her. Unfortunately, whatever infantile message is hidden in the lyrics of this particular song-- which in someone else's hands could have been quite good-- is destroyed by her conflicting imagery. See, she wants to get to the core of some guy, punch her way through to his vulnerable side, but he won't let her in. It's painful. It hurts her in her heart. This is some serious, emotional stuff, until...
|Ah, sexual liberation. After all these years of spiritual conquest and intellectual|
enlightenment, we have arrived at that sacred place: on our knees licking a
cock-shaped object. If this is what power looks like, why do I feel pity?
Point made. I don't have to say anything. This poor girl sabotages herself. She's so fixated on superficial self-indulgence to do credit to whatever depth there is in her words nor to the women she's supposed to be singing for. Instead of being a strong force for others to look up to, she instead counter-intuitively promotes the very ideal that so many generations of women were fighting to disprove: women are for sex. Then, she nonchalantly swings on said wrecking ball, indulging in her own narcissism, because she is super hot and she doesn't give a f*ck, and isn't that beautiful? These same themes are echoed by the self-objectifying Katy Perry whose rip-off song about ROARing is contrasted into ineffectiveness by her self-promotion as Tits McGee. No. I'm wrong. She's a strong voice in the female community, singing truthfully about girls today-- girls in "short shorts" and "bikini tops," making the boys look at them, (because women can only find themselves when positioned in and received by the male gaze as an object of desire). Then you have Ke$ha who brags in publications about how her mom high-fives her when she comes home with her latest blow-job story, "Mom! I serviced a dude last night! / Awesome! Just a like a woman should!" And Britney Spears... Oh, Britney...
Well, I can't really make fun of this girl. I want to, because I've been wanting to hit her since she first asked me to, but her story is just too sad. She had a very public melt-down, a result of that aforementioned puppetry wearing her down, and instead of giving her time to heal, fully recuperate, maybe even become a three-dimensional human being (and mother), she was encouraged to pick up the lip-sync mic again. She wasn't ready. She's still not, but the industry can't make money off someone in rehab. She's looking better these days, thank God, because her sexiness was and is the singular tool that has forever been used to sell her records. Unfortunately, her latest videos are hack-jobs of disconcerting editing-- which is necessary, as her inability to dance or maintain focus has to be cut around so she doesn't come across as the dead woman walking that she is. She's also not conquering any demons in her work. Her music has not matured with her personal life experience, and she's not asking anyone to grow up either. As she has been instructed, she just stays put and holds a sexy pose. Hold it... Hold it... Stay still... Be hot... That's a good, bitch!
|Britney Spears and Christina participate in the notorious "kiss" performance|
with Madge thinking that they are being inducted into her shock-inducing
sisterhood, not realizing that she was spraying them like bitches and
forever marking her territory.
That's what it's all about, right? I mean, you sell yourself to make some dough. Women have been doing it for years in the oldest of all professions. To become a celebrity with lots of greenback, you don't need a voice, in the literal or figurative sense. It doesn't matter if you sing like a baby cries. It doesn't matter if your lyrics are vapid and inconsequential. Talent? What's that? As long as you have a sweet producer-- someone who makes a product-- and some "sick beats," you can buy your way right into Heaven. No one's paying attention to what you're saying anyway, honey. You're a girl. You're also just a carbon copy of a tried and true formula, however misconstrued the interpretation has become. In trying to be Madonna, Brit-brit et al fell prey to the Queen of Pop's domination. When the senior lady kind of blew the doors off sexual provocation, making any future attempts to push the envelope meaningless-- said envelope was sent into the far reaches of outer space, never to return-- she turned her legions of followers into her sad little bitches, sucking (literally) on her creative teet and producing nothing groundbreaking of their own. All they can come up with is the "sexy times." Thus, Madonna produced emancipating songs like "Express Yourself," with metaphorical and subversive music videos, and Britney Spears' great toast to herself was the submissive "I'm a Slave for You," with videos begging no intellectual interpretation.
I weep for the little girls coming up behind me who don't have any leaders to look up to. The same pop stars they adore are the ones that my high-school hero, Shirley Manson, was calling "Stupid Girl(s)." I grew up screaming "I'm just a girl, that's all that you'll let me beeeeee!" into my stereo pretending to be Gwen Stefani, and today the little divas in the making are standing in front of their mirrors, not singing, but making sexy poses so they can pretend to be the stars of their own photo shopped music videos instead of flesh and blood human beings. There is no rebellion. There is no Hole singing about "Celebrity Skin," because that message absolutely would not translate. The screams of today are not the carnal howls of Fiona Apple but the desperate pleas of the "Look at me" generation-- the media fueled, everything looks the same, I can't keep up, I'm over-privileged, I have no identity, and nothing matters except for designer clothes and trending twitter accounts generation. It's not about a shared or communal living experience; it's about demanding attention because you are much more specialer than everyone else. Thank God I came of age in the '90s...
Yes, I am tempted to hate the world...
But I Don't, Because:
Karen-O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Leila Moss of The Duke Spirit, Maja Ivarsson of The Sounds, Emily Haines of Metric, Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine, Alison Mosshart of The Kills, Noelle Scaggs of Fitz and the Tantrums, Gin Wigmore, Adele, ZZ Ward, Janelle Monae, Santigold, Kate Nash, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Regina Spektor, Warpaint, Jessica Childress, and yes, the survivors-- Fiona Apple, Ani DiFranco, Neko Case, Liz Phair, and even Joan friggin' Jett. There is still amazing work being done by amazing women who are laying the groundwork for the slow-movers, when they are ready to catch up. I can only hope that the stragglers eventually do let their minds mature with their bodies and that the reign of introspectively averse music caves under the crashing wave of the next cycle of "Take a Look Around." Once the current trend of distraction from economic disintegration with shiny things crumbles under its own weight, and people start asking questions again-- when the future generation finds its voice through their more outspoken songwriters-- we will hopefully get a cultural shift that leads people in the direction of learning, intellectual provocation, and social rebellion, instead of apathetically luxuriating in the comfortable acquiescence of ignorance.
Maybe it's all fear. Maybe the ones set to embrace adulthood are so terrified of what that may bring-- sixteen-year-olds are afraid to learn to drive, people!-- that their reticence for evolution is showcased in their mindless acceptance of artistic drivel. No thinking is necessary. Who doesn't want to indulge, light up a metaphorical doobie, and forget how much the world sucks? In truth, I don't hate the women-in-the-making that are currently making all the dough from this maturation stagnancy. They're just playing the hand that society told them held the ace. The golden ticket. The calculated move that would make them special. I don't care that Miley, Britney, or whoever else exists, and they have as much right to do and say what they want as anyone else. They exist, a fact of life, just like an oil change. Sometimes you're confronted with crap that you don't want to deal with, but there it is anyway. So, they are free to be fruitful, be as cheesy, ridiculous, or as unconsciously deprecating of their gender as they want, but even if the effect of the multiplying is abrasive to the ears and eyes. I give. You win, world. Still, wouldn't it be unconscionable of me to turn my back and allow this soul circumcision to take place, even if my only method of combat is to write this blog about how irritating it is to be intellectually insulted by mental deficients on a daily basis? I'm fairly certain that we are all falling prey to some sort of great governmental conspiracy to keep us stupid. Me not like that much.
In summation, and I commend you if you made it here, I just wish that girls had heroes too. Not the hidden ones that you have to dig for and slowly familiarize yourself with over time and happenstance, but those who exist in the public eye. I wish there was more for young women to aspire to than swinging on a pole like Rihanna, because that sh*t's hot. I mean, it is. It really is. But is there no alternative? Literally, is there no alternative music? I wish there were some hard core females, doing it up angry Alanis-style, demanding to be heard, respected, appreciated, and even feared. I wish someone was out there frothing at the mouth and telling tender ears in their tender years that their true power and sexuality is evidenced in their words, their ambition, their uncompromising hope, their courage, their ability to love and be loved by an equal. That's all. I wish when "little girls" asked their mothers, "What will I be?" they weren't pointed to the television and told to be "pretty" and "rich," and horny, I guess. I wish they were told that they can be anything, lots of things, everything, all over the place, and not one G-spot on a map. I wish, I really wish, people would stop putting "Baby" in the corner. It's like this iPod's stuck on replay.
Why "Que Sera Sera" when you can Carpe Diem?
Why "Que Sera Sera" when you can Carpe Diem?
|An Apple a day: food for thought.|