I found so much to fault with Kalefa Sanneh’s lede Arts piece, that I find myself wanting to refute it almost line for line. I won't though. She starts off by advancing the rather reasonable argument that there was no small amount of bathos and hand-wringing around last week’s Ashlee Simpson’s SNL snafu, since all it did was make Miss Simpson look like a dusted fucktard for a moment; no harm, no foul. That Simpson was lip syncing (as so many Pop stars do) is no problem to Sanneh, in fact, to her, it and programs like American Idol are a sign of a healthy, multicultural zeitgeist that should be embraced rather than pilloried by stodgy old white critics who only admire loud, raucous, scruffy singer song-writers. She even suggests a purge of some music criticism's old guard, but, politely begs off from naming them because, as she writes “(now doesn’t seem the right time… ((maybe next week, when her schedule’s more flexible?)).” God, those annoying gadflys, making it hard for poor multi-billion dollar Sony to rake in even more money off hyped karaoke singers; and yet, I doubt Sanneh is a corporate tout – she’s too thoughtful for that role. What else but deep semiotic analysis could come up with a sentence like:
“You can argue that the shape-shifting feminist hip-pop of Ms. Aguilera is every bit as radical as the punk rock of the 1970's (and it is),”
Music criticism never made me want to scream before. How could Times cultural editors allow such unadulterated bullshit on their watch? Subjectivism run amok. Take that shit to the NY Press. Punk Rock was a real insurgency, a (failed) revolution really, borne in the UK of stultifying classism, joblessness and despair created by failed Labour government policies; the very policies that were set to address those same ills. Aguilera was a fucking a Mouseketeer for God’s sake! And now she's a skank. That's radical?
In any case, it’s clear that the writer hates, and has no concept of Rock music. Her misunderstanding of the subject is so vast that she mistakenly uses the word “Pop” when she means “top forty.” White “rockists” don’t like Pop, Sanneh argues. Oh, they don't? What about The Pixies, U2, Modest Mouse, Broken Social Scene and the fucking Beach Boys for that matter.
But, what is strangest about Sanneh’s piece to me is that she misses the best chance to persuade her case: mainly, that corporate control of artists can make music that sounds really groovy: Motown, baby. Berry Gordy and his minions manufactured achingly, beautiful Pop music needing little authenticity – the singers didn’t write their own music and one of his his acts, Little Anthony, was lip syncing "Tears on my Pillow" on American Bandstand thirty-five years ago. Instead, she compares Mariah Carey favorably with Nirvana. “…When did we all agree that Nirvana's neo-punk was more respectable than Ms. Carey's neo-disco?” We didn’t have to agree, it was just a given.