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Music and TV

21 January 2014

Hardly any other style of music has the powerful association with a particular ethnicity and language that boeremusiek has. For that reason, the origins of boeremusiek aren’t normally a matter of dispute: of white Afrikaners and for white Afrikaners, the music is little studied, and the robustness of the genre depends on the tight control of its history by white Afrikaner musicians and organizations. More…

2 December 2013

During my junior year I took a January-term class in jazz performance from saxophonist Fred Haas. At the time I enjoyed jazz — I was into Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and a few others. I wasn’t rabid about it. I knew that jazz drumming was the peak of the form, but I wasn’t consumed by it. That was about to change. More…

25 November 2013

Here are some of the hundred or so products pitched over the course of Shark Tank‘s fourth season: A tiny spatula with which you can dig uncooperative makeup out of the bottle. A home tattoo removal kit. An individually packaged waffle, to be sold at convenience stores, that contains as much caffeine as three cups of coffee. More…

25 March 2013

The mayor told us that the city would be holding a special council meeting so that both production companies could pitch their show ideas to the people of Whittier. We were invited to come and watch. “A reality show could be good for bringing attention to our little town,” he said, “but it does worry me, too. I don’t want to be some Alaskan Honey Boo-Boo.” More…

1 January 2013

In Aaron Sorkin’s White House, the president radiated righteousness, and good governance required nothing more than his natural nobility and a clutch of dealists willing to walk and talk. Nyborg has none of that. She’s just one participant in a daily brawl for power and influence. If her megaphone is a little louder, that only means more people are out to knife her. More…

3 December 2012

Homeland, now in its second season on premium cable, suggests that liberals may have been fooling themselves. What they really wanted was not to eradicate Republican paranoia, but to overcome what made Republican paranoia so potent: the widespread impression that Democrats were too weak and too plagued by self-loathing to defend us from our enemies. More…

22 November 2011

Around the time someone started spray-painting “Clapton is God” in an Islington Underground station, rock fandom took a turn towards what Ellen Willis described as a “tedious worship of technical proficiency.” Willis condemned this art-snob model of fandom, and in Out of the Vinyl Deeps she largely eschews it; her writing focuses very little on sound. More…

12 August 2011

To this day, Graceland does not sound like much else in English, and as a truly self-aware tribute to the privileged American’s search for authenticity and salvation in a world of ease and plenty, it is pretty much sui generis in the genre called “adult contemporary.” The album was ethically controversial, but also a masterpiece, and eventually the UN dropped Simon from its blacklist. More…

27 June 2011

We expected only a few hundred dogs—and thousands of dogs showed up. We had areas for small, medium, and large. There were a lot of rocker dogs. You know, I want rock! My favorite were the ones in the front row—the droolers. It was a short concert—it was twenty minutes. But we got a lot done and there were no dogfights at all. It was really wonderful. More…

6 December 2010

Rock and roll is a music of mechanized sexuality. That’s why ninety percent of it sounds like clocks fucking. What does rock and roll mean? It means: Why is it so much easier to goose-step to supposed anthems of freedom like AC/DC’s “Jailbreak” than to the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde? It means: How did the drum become the drum machine? More…

2 August 2010

This spring in New Orleans, while wisteria sweetened the air and most people I know excitedly procured down-market Jazz Fest tickets, Treme, a drama about the city after Hurricane Katrina, debuted on HBO and, until the oil spill brought everyone back to reality, temporarily charged the air a little more. More…

20 May 2010

The cultural prestige of serial dramas has appreciated to such an extent that Oates’s TV Guide story is now out of date. It is no longer a smart social move to brag about not owning a television. These days we apologize for not keeping up. What’s helped serial dramas get to this point, however, has been the willingness of their producers to denigrate the medium as though they were not a part of it. More…

20 July 2009

When I was five years old, my eyes were clouded to my childhood duties by the peak fan experience of my life. It was 1982, and everything was Annie. I developed a new-to-me, curious sensation of both wanting to be like her and believing myself to be already more like her than anyone else could possibly be—a certainty about kinship of soul that is the mark of devotion. More…

7 July 2009

The initial selection process is brutal. Girls whom Patti thinks the millionaires won’t like—or whom she deems, for whatever reason, inappropriate for them—are dismissed with a wave of her manicured talons and a look of undisguised disgust. The rejects seem unfazed: This can hardly be the first cattle-call audition they’ve attended. More…

29 June 2009

On February 21, 2001, Eminem and Elton John performed “Stan” at the Grammy Awards. The performance came after nine months of controversy concerning the homophobic lyrics on Eminem’s second album and before the show gay activist groups had protested outside the Staples Center. “Believe it or not, it was my idea to perform with Elton,” writes Eminem. More…

22 June 2009

Punk rock began for me with fear. The music arrived for me historically late, at the end of the 1980s, and personally early, when I was fourteen years old. I was a child. Rock is for children. You have to be that young to feel it with full intensity, to hear the drumbeat strike and think it is the world reaching out to punch you. More…

2 February 2009

Too slow, not enough trumpet. I know I am in the minority here, thinking that. But imagine you’re sixteen—Britney’s age. You just started playing trumpet in a popular general business slash wedding band based in the Philadelphia area. It is the kind of band whose members keep track of their gas and mileage to and from “gigs,” for the sake of Schedule C deductions. More…

2 February 2009

Britney came to us like an overgrown mouseketeer, managed by pedophilic hacks who liked the lingering close-ups on her teary eyes and seemed to think of Ace of Base as the pinnacle of dance pop. I remember sparring with my male friends about Schoolgirl Barbie Britney. She’s not beautiful, I protested, not weird-looking or off-kilter in any way. More…

2 February 2009

Britney Spears makes music that sounds like it was made by a person who has never heard any other music before. If this is the case, I’ve put together a playlist of songs that I think Britney should listen to, songs that will introduce her to music in general, songs by artists whose examples, both positive and negative, Britney could learn from. More…

2 February 2009

I resist the interpretation of Britney as a Site of Resistance. I resist the interpretation of her as something worthwhile because she is something mass, or something female. I resist the interpretation of her as a guilty pleasure. There is no pleasure, and nothing playful here. Even as she relentlessly feels herself up, she is still an innocent, a deeply uninteresting innocent. More…

2 February 2009

Britny Fox was a terrible hair metal band that had scored a hit earlier in the ’90s with a song called “Girlschool.” It featured a classroom full of Catholic schoolgirls gyrating to the beat in defiance of a stern teacher. They roll up their shirts to expose their abs, and muss their hair, but they don’t go any further—there isn’t anywhere further to go. More…

25 November 2008

Economics favor the DJ. A club can make an event out of one bigname DJ plus local support, and pay just the headliner. (And DJing can make for a long night of drinks-buying: in a rare example, eight hours of nonstop entertainment from a particularly famous Chilean-German drugged-up minimal techno superstar.) More…

Originally published in Issue 7: Correction

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9 April 2007

I’m from Rolling Stone, which just finished its run on MTV, was a departure of sorts for the network, based on a potentially ludicrous (but synergistic) premise: it would have a “cast” made up of “writers.” I was offered the job—for a project of a few months—when a woman I knew socially learned that I was a former journalist now in graduate school for writing. More…

31 March 2007

Why did I get choked up at the end of a romantic comedy starring the two of them? Was I really that surprised that, despite the fact that they faced so many obstacles, they ended up together? Did I ever entertain the notion that they would not? And why did I know enough about the story for it to choke me up without hearing a word of it? Isn’t audio supposed to be an indispensable element in cinema? More…

17 February 2007

Moral clarity is crucial to the survival of reality television. Good must battle evil, emotion must battle intellect: jock against nerd, Ilan Hall against Marcel Vigneron, “avant-garde breakfast” against the ordinary kind. The reality was manifestly cherry-picked, which is still a perfectly acceptable form of reality. More…

19 January 2006

And all of us lovers of music, with ears tuned precisely to a certain kind of sublimity in pop, are quick to detect pretension, overstatement, and cant about pop—in any attempt at a wider criticism—precisely because we feel the gap between the effectiveness of the music and the impotence and superfluity of analysis. This means we don’t know about our major art form what we ought to know. More…

26 September 2005

Recently, against this sentimentalized Benjamin, we have been given composer Brian Ferneyhough’s and poet Charles Bernstein’s extraordinary and utterly bizarre opera, Shadowtime, which had its North American premiere at the Lincoln Center Festival in July. “Shadowtime is a ‘thought-opera,’ based on the work and life of Walter Benjamin,” Bernstein writes in the program. More…

16 September 2005

Our cable-box dreams finally rested on one beautiful notion: the participatory broadcasting of real life. With such a ludicrous number of channels, companies would just have to give some of the dial over to the rest of us, the viewers—wouldn’t they? And we millions would flow into the vacuum of content. We’d manifest our nature on channels 401 to 499. More…

5 April 2005

Eleven years have passed since the death of Kurt Cobain on April 5, 1994. A lot has changed. The Reaganites are back in power. The Foo Fighters are music-industry veterans; Green Day’s won a Grammy. Frances Bean Cobain is a teenager. Christ, the Flaming Lips make electronica now. And if reading this makes you wistfully reflect on college then, dude—you’re in your thirties. More…

23 November 2004

What happens when you make a film and every single person interviewed has no idea what they are talking about? In this case you’re making a film about the music industry. DIG!, a well-crafted documentary focusing on The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, manages to piece together a compelling work out of the thoughts and actions of a lot of ignorant and delusional people. More…