No, Presidents Do Not Have Any Sway Over The Pop Charts
MSNBC entertainment correspondent Tony Sclafani has proven himself to be hacktastic in the past, so it’s not surprising that his latest salvo for the cable channel’s Web operation, which tries to make the case that “young Democrat presidents” result in pop music going bad, is full of by-the-numbers rock snobbery and cherry-picked examples that elevate the solo work of Don Henley and declare that the work of Max Martin is neither brilliant nor innovative. (Few pieces of music, after all, can match the never-seen-before genius of “The End Of The Innocence.”) But I wonder if Sclafani himself realized that he was kind of full of crap midway through writing the piece—because beyond a brief mention of a Guardian rundown of artists who wrote anti-Bush songs and some head-shaking about Lady GaGa‘s “Just Dance” hitting No. 1 coinciding with Barack Obama‘s inauguration (complete with misuse of the term “begs the question”), he tries to make his shaky thesis stick using a bunch of dubious examples that are straight out of a moldy issue of Rolling Stone, thus eliding any mention of “meaningful music” that actually charted between 2001 and 2009.
And it’s not like there weren’t many protest songs from the past eight years to choose from, as Carrie Brownstein noted in her blog for NPR a few weeks back, although finding ones that actually crossed the barrier from “possible trend story peg” to “bona fide pop hit” would take a bit of work. But Sclafani—who has proven that he can’t resist a good old-timey rock hack trope in the past—seems to prefer serving up the soggy, tired oatmeal of Great Rock And Roll to actually making a cogent point, reminding us that the Nixon era was “great for R & B,” that disco was Jimmy Carter’s fault, and that Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.” was understood to be a protest song against Reaganomics by most of the American public (who apparently hated Reagan? Huh).
Really, it’s an awful piece, one that tries to place Presidential party affiliations in a vacuum and redefine “pop music” as “popular-to-me music by artists who I think are the bee’s knees.” The funniest part, though? Sclafani’s Xeroxing of the Guardian piece constructing that “anti-Bush box set” name-checks Eminem. And guess who has the No. 1 song in the country right now? Sure, “Crack A Bottle” has nowhere near the serious quotient that “Mosh” does, but then again, “How Bad Do You Want It?” wasn’t exactly A Serious Statement either.