Deadlines are a pain. Sometimes you have to write about things of dubious merit, expound on music that you can’t really consider yourself any sort of expert in, or resort to cranky hit pieces. It happens to us all. However, there are some music section cliches that need to be laid to rest permanently, like the one scribe Mike Meyer recently chose as a resort.
I know the feeling. You spend day after day listening to an endless stream of excellent promos for upcoming discs, and then, right there, is a list of the top Billboard albums. Wait, Josh Groban? My mom likes him! Daughtry, how the heck did that guy get popular? It’s a tragedy, for sure.
Looking at Billboard‘s chart of the top-selling albums of 2007, one thought immediately jumps to mind: I think I’m in the wrong line of work. Daughtry? Akon? Fergie? Seriously???
I realize that music writers have a reputation for being elitists, and for the most part, it’s well deserved. It takes a certain level of snobbery and egotism to assume that people might actually want to read your opinions about something as subjective as music. I’m also the first to admit that my musical taste follows a distinctly different path than the mainstream. I certainly didn’t expect to see the bands I love (Ween, Clutch, Atmosphere) to break any sales records, but I guess I always thought that even in music, there existed some basic level of listenability where even the most casual music consumer and the most hoity-toity music snob could find some common ground.
In other words, we all might not always agree on what’s great or even good, but shouldn’t we be able to come to some kind of consensus on what sucks beyond all compare? When an “American Idol” castoff who sounds like a watered-down version of Nickelback (No. 6 on the Billboard chart, for the record) sells more albums in a year than any other artist in any genre, I can’t help feeling like I’m fighting an unwinnable battle. When a song like “My Humps” that literally sounds like it was written by a 12-year-old becomes a breakaway hit, my disdain for the song is overshadowed only by my confusion as to what everyone else finds so appealing about it.
I know, dude, why do we even bother? Did people even read your Coheed & Cambria piece in October? How is that not the biggest selling disc of the year?
Slightly more seriously, is there a music journo gambit more exhausted than calling the public out for having bad taste? (Other than criticizing other journos, of course.) Meyer looks back to a better time, the late ’60s, when popular taste was supposedly at its zenith, but even 1968′s biggest single was “Judy In Disguise” by John Fred & His Playboy Band, with Herb Alpert making chart hits at will. The glory days weren’t so glorious, pal. Sure, there was some great stuff going on, but right next to the Beatles and the Stones were Tommy Roe and Zager & Evans. It happens all the time. Spoon and the Arcade Fire had top ten hits this year, even if they didn’t sustain that success in the manner Daughtry did. You have to take the little victories, I suppose, although if you’re lionizing CCR as what used to be great about music, it might be a good time to find a new line of work*.
Two Cents on the Music Biz [College Times]
* Ed. note: You better not be dissin’ on Creedence, Gibson.