What Does It Take To Get Music On The Front Page Of The “New York Times”?

Nov 24th, 2008 // 2 Comments

Under the heading “Jidda Journal,” an article about music appears on the front page of the paper of record today–but the jump takes you to the Middle East section, not what now passes for the paper’s Arts section. The piece is about an all-girl rock band in Saudi Arabia called The Accolade, which is fronted by sisters Dina and Dareen. They practice every weekend, have pierced eyebrows, and wear a classic rock ensemble of jeans and a t-shirt. None of this is unusual, of course, except that the band is in Saudi Arabia, where religious police used to patrol the streets and punish anyone violating morality codes. The article uses the Accolade as a way of demonstrating how those strictures have been loosened, and how the country has hesitantly modernized as a way of placating their massive youth population after the unfortunate events of 9/11. But of course, the band also makes music. What’s that like?

Well, in the abstract–which is how the article largely deals with it–the Accolade sound like a Robert Christgau wet dream: a politically relevant, rebellious all-girl rock band that could be classified as “world music.” In reality, though, they just sound like any other teenage rock band. That’s charming, certainly, but not anything you’d want to listen to very much. The writer of the article, Robert F. Worth, tries to spin the band’s standard-issue lyrics about relationships into some larger comment about Saudi society, but it seems a stretch.

There’s no denying the story of Dina and Dareen is a heartwarming one. But it’s hard to remember the last time an American musician was seen on the front page of the Times. This is no comment on the quality of the art, particularly, and the Accolade’s music confirms that. It is a comment, however, on the newsworthiness of American music. Pam Shoemaker’s model says that newsworthiness is determined by two factors: unusualness (what she calls “deviance”) and social significance. The Accolade qualifies on both counts, obviously. But not much music these days is unusual or socially significant.

As Taboos Ease, Saudi Girl Group Dares to Rock [NYT]
The Accolade [MySpace]


  1. Chuck Eddy

    I actually liked the Times piece, for whatever that’s worth, and I liked that the put it on the front page. Better the Accolade than, I dunno, TV on the Fucking Radio or whoever. The article made my wife and I want to hear the Accolade’s music. But what I wonder about is why Mike thinks the band writes “standard issue lyrics about relationships.” The only lyrics quoted in the piece, as far as I could tell, were not from the Accolade, but from a metal band called Most Of Us, featuring a male “journalist and bass player” named Hassan Hatrash. That confused me at first, because I did think that the lyrics were standard-issue (not that I’d probably be able to tell if I heard them), and since I hadn’t quite woken up yet, I thought they belonged to the Accolade. But they don’t. Did I miss something?

  2. Plsk1n

    The Accolade Facebook has their song lyrics posted. Unfortunately I cannot link it atm because my ISP doesn’t allow me to verify its link.

    The article only has the lyrics from Hasan Hatrash band Most of Us. I’v been following up on Most of Us for a while now and I am glad to see another group make the scene that is not deathmetal or grung! Being all female is just the icing for me!

    It’s unfortunate that a lot of people try to compare them to standards in North American industry and not as an emerging scene from an underground rock enthusiast youth in conservative Saudi Arabia. Even though they sound amateur, the number of bands that have decent vocalists is extremely rare to see here in SA. I’d say for now the most capable vocalists in the Saudi Rock scene are The Accolade, Most of Us, Final Serenade and outlive.. I hoped a few years back to have softer rock than the casual deathmetal screaming.. The Accolade have overwhelmed my expectations. To me the sound more Like an Italian band called Lacuna Coil (which is one of their influences) I happen to like those guys as well.

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