And now it’s time for another installment of Rock-Critically Correct, in which the most recent issues of Rolling Stone, Blender, Vibe and Spin are given a once-over by an anonymous music-mag writer who’s contributed to several of those titles–or maybe even all of them! Once again, he/she turns his/her attentions to Blender:
Sometimes, the planets align, cats and dogs put aside their ancient blood feud, bloggers and blog readers brave fresh air and abundant sunlight, and one of Rolling Stone‘s competitors overcomes daunting lead time issues and presents a cover story that is precisely, keenly of the moment.
Such is the case with Blender‘s August issue. The cover finds Kelly Clarkson clad in what appears to be a black denim bodice: therein, she holds forth on l’affaire Davis. Your correspondent certainly wouldn’t blame any regular Idolator visitor for tiring of the Kelly vs. Clive imbroglio, but here, Blender manages to present a cover story that’s about an ongoing controversy–or at least one folks are still talking about. It may very well be that Blender is merely lucky, but the prevailing scenario for all music mags and glossies tends to involve a stylish profile that nonetheless boils down to “yeah, so here we make small talk with an mildly interesting person whose new album we predict will place in the top ten in its first week.”
The story is also notable for its author: the mag’s editor, Craig Marks, making a rare appearance from behind the curtain. His opening gambit alludes to Blender‘s second mission objective: making fun of Rolling Stone and baby boomer exceptionalism. (The first, natch, is presenting strokable images of pop chicks.)
Herewith, Marks’ observations of the season finale of American Idol, in which past and present contestants took on tunes from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. “Sgt. Pepper is, of course, the landmark album widely considered the greatest long player in the history of rock and roll,” he writes with an evident sneer, “hailed for dragging rock out of adolescent backseats and bedrooms and conferring it upon it the intellectual aspirations and emotional complexities of proper art.” In other words, Rolling Stone sucks all the fun out of horny teenage pop music with its ironclad Pepper worship, while Blender savors the present.
A key figure in ’80s indie rock (Marks worked at Homestead Records) who then went on to edit Spin in the ’90s, Marks has very much embraced mainstream culture as the architect of Blender, so Clarkson is clearly dear to him. She’s also perfect for the magazine: the only singer likely to walk away from American Idol as anything other than a joke (although YC must say that Fantasia’s “Baby Mama” is pretty goddamn great); a girl-next-door type not averse to vaguely sexualized imagery; and one of the few celebrities with red-state values that blue staters root for. In any case, “Kelly Clarkson and the Bubblegum Machine” is an excellent, timely, deftly observed story: let’s have more like this, please.
Let’s not, however, have more questions along the lines of this startlingly condescending one posed by music editor Rob Tannenbaum in an interview with former Nashville Star contestant and current “blonde-country-singer-that-rock-critics-approve-of-and-also-wanna-bang” Miranda Lambert. To wit: “Did you have a classic country-music upbringing? Any moonshiners in the family, or grandmas who picked cotton?” Hold on, Mr. Tannenbaum, didn’t you forget “had you ever worn shoes or seen a car or a tall building before appearing on TV?”
Elsewhere, Your Correspondent cannot find much to complain about, other than to note that a.) very few members of Blender‘s intended demographic (i.e. backward-baseball-cap wearers) are going to be much compelled to read a guide to every Aretha Franklin album released since 1970, and b.) the otherwise quite useful list “The Powergeek 25: The Most Influential People in Online Music” doesn’t include the great and powerful Nick Denton, a man whose influence upon all digitalia is one Your Correspondent cravenly notes is nigh-unto comprehensive, and yet still one unable to be fathomed completely by YC. The list does include a citation, at No. 25, of young Pete Wentz, who participates in the running “Collect Call” FOB featurette. YC wonders if this much Wentz content is ill-considered, since he seems like the kind of guy said backward-baseball-cap wearers would want to kick the shit out of on principle.
Anyway, well done on this issue, Blender!