“Blender”: A Look Back

Well, the big story this week was probably the shuttering of Blender, the pop magazine who suffered the one-two punch of being a printed entity about music in 2009. Blender’s overarching popism was a big influence on Idolator from the time of its launch in 2006, and even as the death spiral of ad pages resulted in its once-mighty reviews section being whittled down to a handful of 130-word blurbs, I admired its spunk and willingness to reach across the musical comfort zones that divide people more often than not these days, if not always its choices of “hot,” vaguely music-related cover subjects. After the jump, thoughts on the Blender closure from a smattering of people around the Internet, many of whom saw their bylines appear in the magazine’s pages at one time or another.

• “Marks and Tannebaum always liked to say that their favorite rockmag was the legendary Creem, and for sure Blender—with all commercial compromises and vulgarisms acknowledged (for its time, Creem had plenty of those as well)—came much closer to that ideal than any other current mag. It was intelligent yet written for ordinary fans, very funny, and the Sheffield column that Levy instituted was some of the best work he’d ever done. I was happy there, and I’ll miss it as a writer, a reader, and a rock critic elder. After a long downturn, Spin (which Marks also once edited) has gotten better over the past few years, but I wouldn’t bet it’ll have the humility to morph over toward the Blender model as it continues to do battle with the also-shrinking Stone. In this economy not to mention tomorrow’s, who’s hiring?” [Robert Christgau]

• “The shocking part is that I had figured Blender was the most commercially savvy one in the music-magazine market—they built their business on photos (especially of scantily clad pop starlets), best-ever/worst-ever/most-outrageous sorts of lists, titillation and trivia, backed up for credibility with a review section full of some of the best working music writers struggling (for a good paycheque) to squeeze wit and insight into tiny little capsule reviews. I hated its glibnesss, but it wasn’t snobby—it was pro-pop, pro-hip-hop and pro-indie all at once—and it certainly seemed saleable; if even they can’t survive, I’m not sure there really is a music magazine market. Curiously, a lot of the more niche-oriented publications—rap magazines and metal magazines in particular—seem to be doing well still, when I thought they’d probably be the most easily displaced by fan sites and blogs. Perhaps cliqueishness (and even snobbishness) is actually a safer marketing bet?” [Carl Wilson]

• “While Blender may have been an easy target for some, with its often gratuitously skin-baring covers and plethora of jokey lists, it also offered a valuable mainstream forum for discussing music, and contained plenty of good writing. (Yes, of course, I’m biased.) Even if you didn’t like Blender’s editorial style, it featured robust, challenging opinions, and the magazine rarely kowtowed to the tyranny of critics’ darlings. No more Blender magazine means some kid isn’t going to pick up a copy at the 7-11 because he thinks Katy Perry looks hot on the cover, end up reading about Mastodon, and have his mind blown. And that sucks.” [Amy Phillips]

• “Guess what? More colleagues looking for work.” [Alfred Soto]

• “It gave reviews of good Indie rock and movies and had people like Jack Black on the cover. Then it seemed to change demographics and went the hip hop and R&B route. Every cover had either P Diddy, Janet Jackson or Little Wayne on it. This was not the magazine that gave me insight to new music and movies.” [“Ki”] (Sigh. Well, it’s time for a drink, no?)