Why “Women In Rock” Stories Will Never Be Considered For My Lists Of Best Music Writing

The second half of Jason Gross’ Best Music Scribing Awards has been posted, with Edwyn Collins’ look back at his debilitating stroke and Justin Ouellette’s recap of the reasons behind the shutdown of his playlist-sharing site Muxtape among the top pieces of the year. And hey, I even get called out for not liking one of Gross’ silver-medal picks, a top-to-bottom awful “women in rock” piece on MSNBC.com that was pegged to last year’s Grammys having all female-fronted nominees in its Best New Artist category. I thought I made my reasons for disliking these pieces in general pretty clear during my first attempt to slog through the thing, but I’ll happily restate those general objections, as well as a few notes on why the piece in question should be particularly offensive to anyone with two X chromosomes and a functional brain, after the jump.

Here’s Gross’ blurb on the piece:

Isn’t it great that the latest crop of new-comers is mostly women? The Beatles and Elvis once set the pace for pop stardom, but now it’s the girls who rule. Too bad that many of them now follow the same road to excess that their male counterparts once travelled as part of the template, too… But why does Idolator need to pick on this story? Granted that women in rock stories are a cliché by now, but that doesn’t mean there there’s no longer some wisdom to gather from it from time to time.

Well, first off, I like Gross but I think the sentence “Isn’t it great that the latest crop of newcomers is mostly women?” is a little rich, and an assertion that can’t really be backed up by, oh, any of the year-end critics’ polls that scorched the earth last month. (Bon Iver’s album being about a girl doesn’t count.) And then there’s the hackery in the piece itself:

• “When it comes to this year’s crop of Grammy Awards newbies, it looks like there may just be some truth to the playground taunt ‘Girls Rule, Boys Drool.’” That was the lede. Of the story. For real. Editors?

• It uses the term “girl power” unironically, and without any mention of the Spice Girls.

• “Few people blink an eye when a girl plays sports or chooses a career in law.” Yes, the WNBA is definitely held in the same esteem as its male-dominated counterpart. And how about that Lingerie Football League!

• Using the Grammys’ Best New Artist nominees as a bellwether for any overarching musical trend, which this story does, is a dicey prospect at best, lazy journalism (oh, hi there!) at worst.

• “Years ago, the tabloids would trumpet lurid stories about the excesses of the male musicians in the Rolling Stones or Aerosmith. Now its female artists like Winehouse whose unrestrained behavior gets chronicled. No one said equality would be easy.” Note how there’s no mention of the grossly pervasive misogyny in today’s much larger tabloid culture, and how the coverage of Winehouse now is 24/7 invasive, shrill, and at times seemingly rooting on her addiction-related demise. I guess that’s because equality isn’t easy!

There’s so much more, but to sum up: give me a fucking break. There is no “wisdom” to gather from this collection of cliches that tries to tie women’s purchasing power to the 360 deal that Paramore and Atlantic signed and that also tries to say with a straight face “Where videos were once mostly focused on the female form, they’ve now become a female forum—at least in the pop world.” (I guess I missed the demise of the video hottie a year ago!) Saying that there is does a disservice to people who want to actually talk honestly about gender and music in a way that’s both accessible to people beyond the walls of freshman-year women’s-studies seminars and not jaw-droppingly condescending.

Super Scribing [PopMatters]