As a New York Times weekend subscriber who happens to think that there’s more to music out there than those artists who reside at the intersection of “tasteful” and “indie,” I’ve often been disgruntled with the Sunday Magazine’s choices for music-related features, which for the most part seem to crib their ideas from Pitchfork’s Best New Music listings. (Daniel Radosh’s insanely in-depth piece on The Beatles: Rock Band was well worth the read, but the feature well has also seen articles on Andrew Bird, Stuart Murdoch, and Neko Case this year—all fine artists, but definitely pitched to a similar target demo, or, hell, a single side of a mixtape.) Well, a Q & A session on the Times site with Magazine editor Gerald Marzorati went partway toward solving the mystery of why—and surprise, surprise: It has something to do with Marzorati’s own, sordid music-writing past! More »
Some day, The New York Times‘ Sunday magazine will cover a musician who isn’t beloved by NPR, who isn’t on a major indie. This weekend, alas, will not see that day. (The title of the piece about Stuart Murdoch’s God Help The Girl project does sum up the sort of schmindie the NYTM likes to cover, though: “More Songs About Feelings And Women.” Tee hee!) [NYT] More »
Think music piracy is a product of the internet era? The New York Times archives contain a story–dated June 13, 1897–-with the title “Music Pirates in Canada” (warning: link leads to a .pdf). More than a century ago, our supposedly friendly neighbors to the North were taking our sheet music, copying it, and selling fakes to consumers in the United States looking for a cheap deals on music. The original asking prices ranged from 20 to 40 cents per piece, while the copies were sold for two to five cents. In May of 1897, around 5,000,000 copies were made and sold. What’s strange is that the publishers of these pirated works were Canadian newspapers, who used their PO boxes as covers! American music publishers decided to combat this by attacking through the post office, using the completely harsh treatment of sending back the pirated material. That’ll show ’em! And the consumer doesn’t get their money back afterward. More »
There seem to be two discrete ways of approaching the new U2 album. One, exemplified by a review on the Jim DeRogatis/Greg Kot radio show Sound Opinions, is to look at the fact that they’ve employed Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois for some tracks and write off the big stadium rockers to paint the album as an embrace of texture and mood, and a general triumph. The other view, however, is more dubious. Being a rock star is great, but it can’t help but seem less important when you’ve been doing what Bono’s been doing, and the five-year gap between albums would seem to indicate Bono’s changing priorities. Certainly he doesn’t seem very connected to his bandmates anymore. It’s like Bono woke up one day and realized he was turning into Bob Geldof: someone whose social activism overshadows their music, and consequently seems like a fraud. And so, it was time to update his brand with a new album. Unfair? Maybe. But let’s look at the evidence.
Lily Allen was profiled by The New York Times‘ Milena Ryzik earlier this month, and while some people found the piece a bit problematic, the pop singer herself thought it was “great, a really nice piece with a picture of me sat on my sofa,” according to the latest post on her blog. So why, then, is the entry in question called “The New York Time [sic] are cheap skanks”? That would be because the photographs that the paper didn’t use—which were shots of Allen at home—were licensed to the very downmarket tabloid OK!, which plastered a “World Exclusive: At Home With Lily Allen” banner over them. And she didn’t even get a cut of the profits from the photos!
William Safire‘s “On Language” columns have gotten a lot more enjoyable since he stopped writing op-eds for The New York Times, but when he steps into a field with which he is not entirely familiar, the results cross that fine line between charming and cringey. Of course, it’s also hard to tell when he’s kidding—he self-consciously begins one sentence here with “I recall a letter written to Gov. William Scranton…”—but, well, he’s writing about “mashup.” And “remix.” You can probably tell where this is going.
Hey, Bono’s first New York Times op-ed appears… More »
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?
I liked High Fidelity and About a Boy plenty, but… More »