So if “manufactured” is unfair, what is the right metaphor for Britney’s relationship to the pop machine? Scanning the pop culture of the late 90s gives us a better possibility: mecha, the Japanese anime genre where beautiful, tragic youth fuse themselves to sublime, state of the art machines. Britney is not the machine’s puppet; she’s its pilot.
An ICYMI on the Britney post.
This specific bit is one of those comparisons where it felt so obvious as to be corny, (particularly after stuff like the Toxic video) - but in this case I couldn’t remember anyone actually saying it. We’ll see how it sustains through the “super-producer” era - I’m glad it’s the bit of the review that’s got reblogged though.
After reading this, I absolutely did Google “Mecha Britney,” and do you know how disappointed I am that no one on the internets has drawn fan art of such a thing?
for “popstars and giant robots” as an actual genre, there’s idolm@ster xenoglossia and akb0048 and provided you don’t get to frowning too heavily at the often aggressive delineation between the idols and the pilots within the franchise, there’s always macross, but i promise you, those aren’t anything like the promise tom’s imagery implies.
well. except maybe the original macross, but that’s because lynn minmay is the closest thing to a genuinely loving fictional portrait of a britney-like pop singer in a generic work (particularly involving giant robots!) that i’m likely to see anytime soon.
just the closest thing, though.
Iain Mew. Cis/white/hetero/male. I am from the UK. I write for The Singles Jukebox and I also did One Week One Band: Coldplay. The url comes from this song. My avatar is by werepop. See here if you want to see photos of stuff I ate.
the next Radiohead
To me, Alt-J do sound a lot like Radiohead, or at least like In Rainbows, which is a more unusual specifc, but always seeing them through the prism of being ‘the next Radiohead’ is not quite the same thing and is a bit tiresome.
The phrase “next Radiohead” or “the new Radiohead” has appeared in the following Pitchfork album reviews:
- Alt-J - This is All Yours
- Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
- Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys!
- Elbow - Asleep in the Back [Deluxe edition]
- Girls Against Boys - You Can’t Fight What You Can’t See
- Idlewild - The Remote Part
- Travis - Ode to J. Smith
- White Lies - Ritual
Plus there was a whole feature earlier this year on bands who were the next Radiohead. Like 5/8 of the above reviews, it was written by Ian Cohen. They all attribute the words in question to other people. All of them are about British bands apart from the reference in the Girls Against Boys review, which is about Abra Moore rather than Girls About Boys and could read as ridiculing the idea that a press release could call a Californian woman the next Radiohead.
Cohen isn’t responsible for the most objectionable use, that being the Idlewild review with the following section:
Never mind the fact that the Scottish quartet doesn’t sound like anything Radiohead has produced since the anthemic days of The Bends; they’re from the UK (Scotland, to be precise), and that’s all that it takes to be thrown into a compare-and-contrast table by my limey colleagues
I was a fan of several Idlewild albums and read plenty of British music press at the time and I call bullshit, because do not remember anyone ever calling them the next Radiohead, due indeed to sounding nothing like Radiohead. Sure enough, google’s first results for “Idlewild” “next Radiohead” are from Slate, NYT and Pitchfork. Even switching it for the more British “the new Radiohead” construction, I can’t find an article from a British publication I’ve heard of.
Searching for “the new Radiohead” or “next Radiohead” in reviews from Pitchfork’s closest British equivalent Drowned in Sound (which started in… 2000, I think) turns up only three results: a demo review mentioning bands claiming to be ‘the next Radiohead/Joy Division/Muse’, a review of Everything Everything’s Arc saying ‘probably not the new Radiohead’, and a review with a reference to the NME calling Hope of the States ‘the new Radiohead’. A more general search doesn’t turn up much outside of the Telegraph and a load of minor publications repeating back consensus out of nowhere.
Admittedly, some of the lack of results is likely to be because NME review archives aren’t online. However, it makes sense that it is less likely to occur to music writers for British publications to immediately compare any new British band to one particular British band without further reason. They review a lot more British bands, and are unlikely to think of them as British bands first and foremost. If you normally presented me with the list Alt-J, Elbow, Idlewild, Travis, White Lies and asked me what they had in common, being British is not the first thing that would come into my head. I listen to and read about enough British music that being British is, if not the default, at least something near it.
In other words, American publications talking about the British being obsessed with labelling British groups as ‘the next Radiohead’ strikes me as a massive case of projection.
When my “hosts” realized I wouldn’t be giving up, they brought the segment to a close, thanking me for being such a good sport. That’s when I knew I wouldn’t be getting hateful email: Opie and Anthony had given their listeners the sign that I was worthy—no longer a target. They’d forced me into silence, and I’d been a good girl to take it and not make a fuss.
A day or two later, the emails from the listeners started to trickle in. They laughed, thought the segment had been so funny—and then each one shifted, quietly, to see if I could help him with his own personal problem.
I didn’t answer their questions. I was focused on my existing readership and the community we’d created, and anyway, I was understandably angry at the way they’d treated me. But I thought about those questions. I thought about the ugliness that made them think it was OK to abuse me—although they probably call it joking or hazing—and then come to me for help.
But if I’m going to be honest, underneath it all I wondered: Those guys who asked for help—what if they’d found me before Opie and Anthony? What if I’d gotten to them first?
How to detoxify the Web, Leah Rich, The Kernel
Now at 15, some people are grown up,
have minds of their own
But me, I was a child
I was a piece of clay in those days
I could have been moulded by anyone
"Last Night Bus", Hello Saferide
This is the final song on the Hello Saferide album that I wanted to talk about, because it has made me think a lot, and this fine article reminded me of it. It’s about a “scariest Sliding Doors memory”, an encounter with some boys at a party which was all too normal apart from that they are neo-Nazis.
It’s a return to indie-pop Hello Saferide, the peppiest song on the album, with pace and verve and a compelling humour and relish in the repetition of the words “neo-Nazi music” with a tone like it’s just Jens Lekman being embarrassed in front of his friend’s dad or something, before one blast of revulsion to clear up. It’s really well done, and I find myself liking it a lot as a song and yet feeling quite uneasy at its message of empathy for people with awful views, especially extended to such extreme.
It’s not as straightforward as that - “You’re [30/50]. you’ve grown up and you’re into hate. Now at [30/50], some people are grown up, have minds of their own” is definitely reproach before clinging onto possibility that it’s not the case, but I still don’t know. Maybe it’s a difference in self-image that I can related to the idea of having been easily moulded at that age but find imagine myself ending up so far from where I am now, or that I just can’t bring myself to be as optimistic as the song. The difference in the first quote above, though, “what if I’d gotten to them first”, feels crucial.
post-prufrock said: Hi Crystal! I'm sure like many white male writers who hears your podcast, my initial reaction to your indictment of male-centrism in the music criticism sphere was along the lines of "man, these girls are so right, those stats are scary...but I'M not part of the problem rite!?!?", which I then realized COULD be true but PROBABLY not. Can you think of anything us male writers can do to stop promoting this gross imbalance? Thanks, keep writing forever.
A couple of caveats to what I’m about to say:
- I have a full-time job unrelated to writing about music. This means my opinion is very colored. I’m allowed to do and say a lot in this space without fear of losing my next paycheck or access to health care.
- As a result, I’m also fairly insulated from the day-to-day of music writing. I don’t actually know what it’s like to be a staff writer. I don’t like, have a lot of experience, a long-standing gig with a major publication or anything. I have no idea what the politics look like. I’m sure they’re not fun.
That being said, it always just comes down to being aware and being open. I’ve been very fortunate to write for The Singles Jukebox where my editors and staff actively listen (first step! prerequisite to everything!), work very hard to be aware, and take proactive steps to get better with women taking central roles in those initiatives. Our application process was giving us a lot of white dudes? Let’s rethink our strategy about it. The dudes on your website are crowding out the voices of women, speaking on behalf of women? Okay, let’s create an environment where your female writers don’t feel uncomfortable pointing out this is ridiculous. Our coverage was missing several gaps, especially around what is music that has been ignored by traditional music outlets? Okay, get women to pick artists and songs to cover.
For casual music writing and reading dudes, it’s important to look at your own biases, too:
- Is your group of music writing friends all dudes? Great, you’ve got a problem. Fix it.
- Are you primarily reading music writing done by white dudes? Okay, time to think of some new writers to follow. Read Rookie! Read The Toast! Read Hello Giggles! These should not be considered websites exclusively for girls or women. They should be required reading for everyone.
- Did a woman call something you wrote sexist? What’s her tone? Nope, trick question — it doesn’t matter; your initial instinct will to be defensive, but you should listen and take it to heart and be better next time.
It’s not the job of the woman to educate or inform. My friendships with women are very well documented online. Do the work and figure them out. And follow those women because they are brilliant, hilarious, thoughtful, fearless, and biting. You’ll find there are more of them than you think.