A Music-Blog Identity Crisis: Who Sucked The Fun Out Of Stereogum?

Jan 18th, 2007 // 23 Comments

A few years ago, we discovered a fledgling, semi-regularly updated music blog called Stereogum. Written by VH1 employee Scott Lapatine, it quickly became a daily read: Earnest, easily digestible, and charmingly low-fi–much like the music it covered. We loved it. Scratch that–we [hearted] it.

So what happened? (Or, in the parlance of newly “fuck”-obsessed Stereogum, “What the fuck happened?”) In the last few months, the site has undergone a none-too-subtle transformation that’s converted it from a subtly funny one-person operation to a noisy, overcrowded echo chamber. The writing has become abysmal: Yesterday’s post on Norah Jones wouldn’t have made it past even the most inexperienced college-paper editorial desk without being buried in red-pencil marks (“bland as milquetoast”?). The attempt to incorporate hip-hop–rarely, if ever, covered in the past–is transparent to the point of patronizing; no matter how hard they try, they’re still going to be the site that only two months ago asked, “Why does hip-hop hate melody so much?” And the constant Apple-shilling is embarrassing.

Maybe this is the inevitable result of Stereogum getting paid. In October, they teamed up with Internet investment firm the Pilot Group. But Lapatine doesn’t strike us as the kind of guy that would take the money and run off to a desert island (though perhaps he has, as we have no idea who’s actually writing the site nowadays). The fact is, Stereogum’s next few years will likely foretell the fate of all music blogs that outgrow their initially small readership, and while we’ve always hoped that their ascent would mirror the independent-press boom of the early ’90s, Stereogum seems to be turning more and more into a radio station: You can check in for some new music, but you’d better be prepared for a lot of boneheaded chatter.

And so we plead: Scott, come back to Stereogum. No one’s going to blame you for cashing in (we celebrated the Pilot deal, in fact). But you are missed, and something needs to be done to return the site to its former Stereoglory.


  1. musicquizking

    I still read it everyday but damn! Has it fallen off or what?!

  2. brasstax

    It’s the biggest blog WTF of 2006/07.

  3. GeddyLee

    And what is up with those stupid-ass lists? Top 5 reasons to like Phil Collins? A Yo MTV Crap column about videos they stopped playing nearly 25 years ago? 20 Worst Rhyme Crimes In Pop Music? When did Stereogum become a poor man’s Blender?

  4. The Mozfather

    I heartily miss the old days. Scott’s snippiness was so much better than the paint-by-numbers lameosity of the current writers.

  5. kiteless

    It really started hitting the skids when they expanded the posting to include jed and amrit. What endeared that website to it’s readers was the personality of it, not the constant updating or scope of coverage. I think they’re trying to do too much and are creatively over-extended. It’s almost unreadable these days.

  6. The Mozfather

    Oh, and Scott commented on that Norah Jones post. So he’s still around. Somewhere.

  7. sparkletone

    I still read it, or at least catch the headlines. I’d rather not think about how many times my reaction runs, “Stereogum is, in a lot of ways, the new Pitchfork.”

  8. soundbitesnyc

    The tipping point for me was when they stopped attributing posts to individual people.

  9. brasstax

    That’s because they’re machine-generated now, donchaknow?

  10. Audif Jackson Winters III

    I’m sorry to say it, but I agree. It’s a bad sign when your readers trash all the posts by the new contributors, and the solution to the problem is just to make all the posts anonymous. Scott’s voice and take on things, which was what got me reading Stereogum in the first place, is nowhere to be found.

  11. Donnie DiMauro

    “The tipping point for me was when they stopped attributing posts to individual people.”

    You make this comment on a Denton site?

    And this whole post about Stereogum losing its edge is like Entertainment Tonight criticizing an actor for taking a mainstream role. Through the looking glass.

  12. Nicolars

    Even a vegan knows baloney when they see it, dude.

  13. The Lord God

    so wait, people think stereogum was better when it was going crazy over people/bands like laura viers and what made milwaukee famous? come on! now they have those great new graphics and catchy section titles!!

  14. Donnie DiMauro

    I’m not saying They (whoever wrote this post) are right or wrong. I’ve noticed the change at Stereogum too. I don’t like the little category icons they’ve been using–it’s cheap branding.

    My point is that Idolator seems an odd venue for us all to discuss another site’s loss of credibility or selling out, for that matter. There’s always been “boneheaded chatter” at Stereogum. If Idolator wants to criticize the writing in the Norah Jones post, do that, but considering it part of a trend? The criticism over the “Apple shilling” is weak evidence. The Shins are news, as is any new iPod/iPhone hardware.

    This post just feels like yet another attempt to create controversy where there is little, which I’m only contributing to. I know this site’s writers are just looking to get paid, too. There you got two clicks from me in your change jar. All in a day’s work.

  15. The Lord God

    stereogum was better when it wasn’t just another blog.

  16. the rich girls are weeping

    Aw, Idolators, you beat me to it. I was just pondering a post like this earlier today, as I questioned the new “theme graphics.”

    Remember when Stereogum was just on Livejournal? WE DO. Yes, we realize this makes us totes lame, but whatevs. And we second you call — come back, Scott. We knew you when, and yeah — we thought you were funny and sweet. Stereogum’s bland as well…old chewing gum now.

  17. GilloD

    I think it jumped the, uh, blog when the t-shirt sales started. It was okay for a little while after that, but then. Towards the end of ’06 was when I first started to see it. Too many fucking articles about nonsense, too few about music. It was cute when Scott would post about Britney Spears once a week, it’s just pathetic when Norah Jones gets a watercooler. Really now.

  18. any such name

    hmm, i stopped reading regularly somewhere early/mid-last year and just picked up again recently. drove me mad when they added jed and amrit, and now… yeah, everyone else has already said it – it was better when it was just scott. i’m all for the kish kash he probably made with the pilot deal, but not when it turns your product into shit.

    also, some denton blogs do say who posted what – one reason i love consumerist (though you can usually tell by the writing who said what).

  19. Emerson Dameron

    I’ve always had reservations about the Gawker Octopus, but Idolator has proved its muckraking cred. Just because it was said at a Denton site doesn’t mean it ain’t so.

  20. tankboy

    Wow, I thought it was just me, but apparently everyone is bummed by how far the ‘gum has slipped. It’s a shame.

  21. soundbitesnyc

    “You make this comment on a Denton site?”

    Well, Denton blogs have been anonymous Royal We from the get-go. Stereogum wasn’t.

  22. loudersoft

    you forget that stereogum is not edited merely by scott these days and in an effort to keep up with the ever-demanding publicity and readership quality can slip. we all have to be careful when one decides to place one’s self in the public eye, one can never predict what one’s popularity will be. unlike some lesser blogs, i don’t think stereogum started out trying to be anything but a place to write about what scott wanted to write about and it’s just gotten far bigger than he probably ever imagined.

    i mean give me a break here, folks. the shift in quality is a testament to the stress level that scott is probably under. i wish he and amrit the best as they try to find their way through the quagmire.

  23. BlimpyMcFlah

    vote with your feet.

    or fingers or whatever.

    there’s 12 million other music sites, i’m sure Scott Stereogum won’t mind, he’s possibly too busy having coke blown up his ass by strippers right now, enjoying the high life while you all sit there hitting refresh, hoping something good will appear.

    get over it, go read something else.

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