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Favorite Scribings for 2003

By Jason Gross

A common complaint about music today is that there aren't a lot of good albums coming out anymore. Similarly, the same complaint is made about music criticism. My answer to both of these saws is that the good stuff is out there if you look for it. There's no question that the Net has opened up a lot of possibilities and will help bring about many changes in journalism, but good work is still being done in the print world too--I found about twice the number of quality articles in 2003 as I did when I put together a round-up last year, and I'm positive that I missed plenty of other good things this time around.

The big buzz in the Net world of journalism is supposed to be blogs, but other than Kyle Gann's and Gregory Sandow's (both noted below), the only two that I could recommend to read on a regular basis would be Simon Reynolds's and Barbara Flaska's. The big difference there isn't just that you have thoughtful people sharing unpublished/unedited articles, stray thoughts, and ideas, but that they obviously spend a lot of time on this kind of work, even if it is a labor of love that doesn't afford the vanity of a larger audience or the sustaining power of a paycheck. Reynolds points out that the freedom from editors and old styles gives a certain freshness to this kind of journalism and he's right to an extent. It also means that the dreaded editor who could sometimes help a lot of bloggers organize their thoughts is actually missed sometimes.

While a number of blog stars have made it to the heralded ranks of print, I wonder how well their style is going to translate once they're working for editors and dealing with the style guides that they had once roamed free from. Also, other than being a farm league for the big magazines, there aren't any money-making blogs that I've heard of as of yet (though it's surely a matter of time). Come to think of it, there isn't even a working model for an online publication yet, unless you think that the Microsoft-supported Slate or living-on-a-prayer Salon are good templates--even if they happen to be great magazines. Sorry to sound cynical here, but I'm a realist--and one with a vested interest, having done my own online publication for ten years now. I do want 'zines and blogs to keep flourishing and eventually prosper, but we're still a long way from making it on our own.

The primary advantage that online journalism has over the print world is word count. This bedevils writers today as the amount of space they have to express any thoughts or opinions keeps shrinking. The end result isn't just that a lot of people are driven to blogs to really express themselves but also that many readers are otherwise cheated out of having good ideas shared with them. I see it all the time in my own freelancing work and in all the gut-wrenching, hair-pulling traumas that I hear from other editors and writers about this; it's not just anger over ever-growing ad space, but also trying to figure out if it's better to have more reviews--and therefore, less space--for each one. Being succinct is a good quality for any writer to pick up on, but the pace at which it's happening now in the print world is troubling. Luckily, there's the online alternative but considering the not-so-rosy scenario I just painted, this isn't exactly heartening.

Despite all this doom and gloom--I didn't even mention ad-revenue problems, closings, and cut-backs at many magazines--I did find dozens of examples of fine writing this year. So, somehow there is cause for hope in music journalism, and with any luck the pieces listed below will be inspiration to other scribes to keep trying to think, argue, engage and uncover details about pop culture for readers out there--and in turn, to get them thinking, arguing, engaging and uncovering too. Naive fool that I sometimes am, I actually like to think that good writing doesn't just increase our egos or bank accounts but also means that we've shared something important with others.


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A huge thanks to the kind folks who shared stories with me, including Kandia Crazy Horse, Kate Silver, Rickey, and Jake. A special thanks to Andy Flynn, the SXSW impresario, who traded headlines with me throughout the year. Apologies to the writer of "Lend Them Your Ear--The Demise of the Record Store Clerk" from the LA Times (August 2003) and Renee Graham, author of "Can hip-hop be saved?" (Boston Globe, April 20, 2003)--both articles belong on the faves list too, but I lost the text for each and couldn't locate them in time to put this round-up out, so I didn't feel right fully commenting on each.


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Faves

[Note: Every effort was made to provide links to these articles. Some will require user registration, others don't appear to be archived on their sites.]

BBC News: "Rise of ringtones: Is this the music industry's future?" (BBC), August 15, 2003
Nice to see the British public is so skeptical/cynical about mini-music as they come up with these sharp quotes:

  • "A mobile phone ringtone, never mind how bad it is, can never be ironic."
  • "Has our attention span dropped so low we opt for the 10-second melody?"
  • "Do we really think the CD is dead? Will we dance round phones in clubs?"
  • "The music industry needs to realize their contribution to mankind is not of great importance"
  • "Are people so shallow that their personality can be summed up by an irritating 10-second monophonic ditty?"
  • "On the upside, 20 seconds is about all I can stand of any of today's music."

    Geoff Boucher: "Beat at their own game" (Los Angeles Times), June 15, 2003
    Though this could have been written about 15-20 years ago (when drum machines were creeping into the pop landscape), this is a fascinating history of the art of pop drumming and where it's gone.
    [Here's a reprint of this piece on Yahoo! Groups.]

    Robert S. Boyd: "Exploring the role of music in human life" (Philadelphia Inquirer), July 14, 2003
    Begs the question of why we all care about this. No clear answers, but do we really want them?

    Dan Bricklin: "How will the artists get paid?" (Dan Bricklin's Web Site), April 14, 2003
    Programming whiz whose claim to fame is making the first electronic spreadsheet. "An ecosystem which looks to a mixture of the traditional amateur, performance, patronage, and commission forms of payment is a requirement." Anyone from the RIAA listening?

    Sarah Burton: "Truth in the Hands of Artists" (Resonance), November 23, 2003
    Howard Zinn and Thom Yorke discuss why we need both mindless entertainment and art that isn't complacent.

    Farai Chideya: "An Open Letter to Michael Jackson" (AlterNet), November 26, 2003
    At different points, it's naive, sad, poignant, angry and incisive. Not the sort of thing you're used to seeing in print publications nowadays.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates: "Keepin' It Unreal" (Village Voice), June 4 - 10, 2003
    Why no rapper today has the guts to remake There's A Riot Goin' On in their own image.

    Justin Davidson: "About Arts and Minds" (Newsday), April 27, 2003
    Exporting American culture can be tricky business especially when we can't decide what "American culture" exactly is...

    Robert Everett-Green: "Ode to ideology" (Globe and Mail), June 21, 2003
    During the '84 U.S. presidential campaign, both political parties used the words of Bruce Springsteen to try to claim his mantle. Hundreds of years ago and through today, a range of ideologues do the same with Ludwig Van. Wonder which of today's artists will be tomorrow's political fodder?

    Bill Friskics-Warren: "Johnny Cash, 1932-2003- The Man in Black--and other colors" (Nashville Scene), September 18, 2003
    Of the many recent tributes to Cash, this was the smartest and nicest I've seen. "It was through this hard-won multiplicity, and not by collapsing the tensions that dogged and defined him, that Cash achieved whatever transcendence he did."

    Kyle Gann: "Censorship by Word Count" (Arts Journal), September 5, 2003
    The sad truth about shrinking word counts in the print world and why there's hope in the online world for journalism. As he pointed out later, the freedom of online writing still doesn't afford you the financial rewards of print journalism. Also, I'd add that although such diminished returns in word counts does cut blather from many crappy writers, on the whole, the readers are the ones who lose out as they get engaged with less information.

    Lynell George: "The day the music died" (Los Angeles Times), April 15, 2003
    The last San Fran jazz club closes down and the LA Times again proves why it's the finest newspaper covering music today. This is a very emotional story with a lot of history and it's also told well as a tale.

    Gary Giddins: "The Academy's Pulitzer" (Village Voice), April 30, 2003
    Beautifully chronicles decades of shame of this exalted award that doesn't begin or end with the committee's disgraceful treatment of Sir Duke.

    Blake Gopnik: "10 Cliches: Good Art And Faulty Reasoning" (Washington Post), March 21, 2003
    Applies just as well to music. Makes you wonder just what constitutes "good art."

    Joe Hagan: "The Catchy Meaninglessness of the Strokes" (Newsweek), October 17, 2003
    Though he gets part of the zeitgeist right, the guy's too harsh on them--shouldn't it be the UK press that tears these guys down after praising them to the skies? Also, what do we really expect from a sophomore album from a band that no one's accused of much originality?

    Joe Heim: "Rocker Moms" (Salon), August 1, 2003
    Little explored but important topic with Liz Phair, Kelly Willis, Linda Thompson and Corin Tucker.

    Justin Hopper: "Outlaw Writers Tour--Across The River From Kentucky" (Pittsburgh City Paper), August 7, 2003
    West Virginia searches for its cultural soul, wondering if it's best to embrace its embarrassing-to-some hillbilly past or slough it off to appear modern.

    Oleh Hodowanec: "Testify! Time Is Watching The Show" (Clink Magazine), August 24, 2003
    This is the best explanation I've seen of Michael Hurley's unique talents.

    Bernard Holland: "Dinner with and without music" (New York Times), Sept 14, 2003
    Worth it just for this line: "Americans harbor a terror of silence, and it is not doing them, or music, any good." And how about the conductor or pianist who won't go into a restaurant with background music--guess that includes all-night diners, right?

    Henry Jenkins: "The Diversity Divide" (Technology Review), February 26, 2003
    Why the FCC's cowardly decision on media regulation will create haves and have-nots. Also see Molly Ivings' "Right-Wing Radio Helping U.S. Press Freedom Slip Away" (Salt Late Tribute) from February 3, 2003.

    Chuck Klosterman: "6,557 Miles To Nowhere" (Spin), December 2003
    In search of rock and roll death--a really nice narrative done in the detailed style of 70's journos like Wolfe. His interview with Britney Spears for Esquire was quite an entertaining (and appropriately sleazy) read too.

    Wayne Kramer: "Justin Timberlake Wears the MC5 (and the MC5 Liked It)" (The Kramer Report), March 17, 2003
    "An Open Letter to Fans & Critics" by the MC5 guitarist on the reunion of the MC3 with Levi's sponsorship. "Where does it say in the revolutionary handbook that I'm supposed to starve to death? The MC5 or any artist has a right to enter into any business relationship of their choosing. That's why we do what we do. It's our work and it's our lives. It's the music we share. The other important point is this. I do not work for Levi's."

    Gerd Leonhard: "Music Business: The Future of the Music Business: General Trends" (MusicDish.com), January 10, 2003
    The wisest prognostication I've seen in a while, though Number 8 is total BS and Number 9 is wishful thinking at best.

    Alan Licht: "Improvisation and the New American Century" (Jigsaw), Spring, 2003
    Or, "How I want Americans to be xenophiles and stop worrying."

    "Natalie Maines": "Apology from Natalie Maines" (Specious Report), March 2003
    Some people I forwarded it to thought this was the real deal until about the 4th paragraph. I'm sure her management would have hung her faster than the Republican Party for saying such things, but I hope that she was at least thinking some of it. A related story: "White House adds Dixie Chicks to "Axis of Evil".

    Adam Mansbach: "Hip-Hop Intellectuals--A radical generation comes of age" (SF Gate), June 25, 2003
    Hip-hop's influence outside of music and what it means for the music and everything that it touches.

    Evelyn McDonnell: "Almost Famous" (Miami Herald), November 23, 2003
    Why rock criticism has become a toothless cookie-cutter profession and thus why it may eventually become irrelevant. Guess I won't have to do these kinds of lists for long, eh?

    Philip Meyer: "Broadcast ownership should not change limits" (USA Today) January 21, 2003
    The best argument against the FCC's ass-kissing of the media companies it's supposed to regulate, which sadly went through anyway. (The Commission, supposedly working on behalf of the American people, decided that big media companies could get bigger and buy up more papers and stations in any given area.) Compare with the same day editorial (noted below) from FCC chair and multi-corporation shill Michael 'My daddy's Secretary of State!' Powell.

    Mark Miller: "Sparks from the Burns effect" (The Globe and Mail), September 30, 2003
    Similarities (plusses and minuses) between Martin Scorsese's Blues series and Ken Burns' Jazz series. Are we going to have to wait for more than a year before we have a Country or Folk series?

    Mike Needs: "Music review can be brutal in its honesty" (The Beacon Journal), September 28, 2003
    The Bush administration would have you believe that if you don't support all of their foreign policy, you must necessarily be considered a traitor and unpatriotic, when in fact, the opposite is often the truth. Similarly, some local communities would tell you that if you do not support and praise all of its musical/artistic offerings, you are also a traitor.

    Craig Nelson: "Best of Baghdad: What Tunes Reporters Listened To" (Editor and Publisher), May 29, 2003
    Very interesting mix tapes from war correspondents: "'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' Was Favorite." Proof again of how important music is in our lives.

    Jon Pareles: "Back Together, For Better or Worse" (New York Times), September 29, 2003
    Very modest proposals--we do indeed need moratoriums on reunions, including some that are happening right now (i.e. "the Doors").

    Chuck Phillips: "As Associates Fall, Is Suge Next?" (LA Times), August 1, 2003
    More strong reporting about a sad, fascinating story.

    Nick Pittman: "Johnny Rebel Speaks" (Gambit Weekly/Best of New Orleans), June 10, 2003
    "[It] is an example of a type of racism that is embedded in this community, and it is something that has to be dealt with," said the Lafayette president of the NAACP about the author of "Kajun Klu Klux Klan" and "Nigger Hatin' Me" who spun his racist tunes in the time of the Great Society. "Rebel," now a retired music biz veteran in his sixties, claims it was nothing personal, that he was just expressing a sentiment of many people he knew, and that he was trying to make a buck, even though his new patriotic songs are commonly sold through white power web sites which don't pay him off because they claim to own the copyrights themselves. Maybe ol' Johnny needs to tell 'em he was only in it for the money.

    John Powers: "George of the Jungle" (LA Weekly), May 9, 2003
    Social Darwinism, Bush, and American Idol. Powers falls off his high horse now and then but hits the mark plenty of times with his connections.

    Dave Ralis/Lee Ballinger: "Home Xeroxing Tips" (Burlington County Times/Rock and Rap Confidential), August 2003
    Wonder where the money the RIAA is collecting from their lawsuits of downloaders goes? Nope, not to the artists that they claim as victims. The RIAA heads themselves get multi-million dollar salaries as part of it. Warms you heart, doesn't it?

    Marc Ribot: "Frantz Casseus" (Bomb), Winter 2002-2003
    One great guitarist toasts another great guitarist in a very heartfelt way.

    Charles Rosen: "Piano Notes: Charles Rosen on the View from the Keyboard" (The Independent), July 7, 2003
    Fascinating extension of Chris Small's Musicking: how we're all roped into music whether we know it or not. Sad to say, the article isn't available online but this related review is available.

    Todd Rundgren: "'Ignorant Thugs' Have Mishandled Downloadable Music" (Reuters), October 22, 2003
    His best work in years and it wasn't in a recording studio. (Note: though it's no longer in the Reuters archives, this article has been reprinted in Hip Forums among many other places.)

    Gregory Sandow: "View From the East: Fascinating Rhythms" (New Music Box), July 2003
    Though at times he rambles on more than a Guthrie-era folkie, when he dissects a contrived mind/body split that pisses on disco-detractors, he schools the classical world the way that it's been needed for years. Also very notable is his "Critics and the Crisis" article (June 2003) for NMB where he challenges his peers: "...when we write about Brahms (or Ingram Marshall), we have to ask who we're writing for. And the answer, if you ask me, is that we're not writing just for the hardcore. We're writing for anyone who might be interested."

    Katy St. Clair: "Has CMJ Become the Monster That Ate College Radio?" (East Bay Express), February 26, 2003
    OK, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised but this is disgraceful. Good reporting about a sleazy story.

    Jan Swafford: "Once upon a time in America" (The Guardian), April 25, 2003
    Asking "what was the first American music" is a parlor game comparable to "what was the first rock record." There's never going to be a definitive answer--but what fun trying to find out and exploring all the candidates. Swafford gives us a wonderful history lesson that certainly isn't the final answer but ought to be noted by anyone else who asks the same question. Also see another fascinating Swafford piece, "Inventing America" for more.

    Richard Thompson: "'Why Have My Loved Ones Gone?'" (Beesweb), July 18, 2003
    Commentary on a song taken from his 1000 Years of Popular Music album. "Did Stephen Foster's love of black music help prolong racial stereotypes or break down the barriers? This seems a more personal song. He died in New York in poverty, having given away his copyrights."

    Calvin Wilson: "Popularity can get an artist bounced from the jazz club" (Post-Dispatch), July 13, 2003
    Why some fans prefer their music to be a cult in order to remain "pure."

    Carl Wilson: "Getting It Wrong" (Fearnwhiskey mailing list), January 29, 2003
    A discussion about possible factual errors in Peter Margasak's Chicago Reader article on Kent Kessler brought out these ideas about perception and reporting. "It's worth saying that people also don't like the way they come across in the media the same way that they don't like to see themselves in photographs, or their voice on a tape recorder, or their weight on a scale--seeing yourself reflected back to yourself is always weird and disorienting, because you're used to experiencing yourself from the inside. People generally presume that their personalities or their intentions are far more transparent--and their ways of articulating themselves far more coherent and translatable--than they are. All representations are misrepresentations, and that's important for people to remember on either side of the lens." Also, a number of Wilson's columns for Globe and Mail including his Libertines, Drive-By Truckers, and new protest music articles are definitely contenders here as fine pieces of writing.

    Other favorites

  • Aquarius Records: Madonna "American Life," May 16, 2003
    Entire review (quoting Ms. Ciccone herself on downloads): "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"
  • John Berlau: "A New Tune May Bolster The GOP" (Insight), August 18, 2003
    A fascinating look at the stakes involved for Republicans in the RIAA/P2P controversy.
  • "Blue" Gene Tyranny: "Spatial Movement in
    Recent and Earlier Music"
    (New Music Box), January 2003
  • Michael Booth: "Recording Industry's Missteps" (Denver Post), September 14, 2003
    "...spend less on lawyers and more on creative thinkers. You can't subpoena success."
  • Geoff Boucher: "Rapping out battle lines" (LA Times), January 17, 2003
    Rap wars played out in magazines and their covers. Even in a business known for conflicts of interest, this is pretty egregious, even if the subject in question insists that it's hurt his career (which is only fair).
  • Mick Brown: "Pop's Lost Genius" (Telegraph), February 4, 2003
    Phil Spector, just before his murder arrest and already on the edge. "I'm probably insane. I have devils inside."
  • David Cantwell: "Cry Uncle" (Originally from the Pitch, reprinted in East Bay Express), April 23, 2003
    Why Uncle Tupelo influenced everyone and no one.
  • Peter Carlson: "Lists, From Naughty to Nice" (Washington Post) June 17, 2003
    Why pop culture lists like this suck!
  • Kevin Coughlin: "Prof to music labels: Lay off 'cyber-pirate' suits and try a tax" (Star-Ledger), October 21, 2003
    "It's very difficult to explain to someone why it's lawful to tape TV shows over the airwaves and it's not lawful to tape songs over the Internet."
  • Roderic Dunnett: "Anthem for Doomed Youth" (MV Daily), December 26, 2002
    A late entry from last year. Written about WWI deaths, this came out just before the recent Iraqi War--as such, very relevant.
  • Theodore Gumbrill: "Wilco Song Already Named Best of 2003" (Used Wigs), January 5, 2003
    Note the date of the article.
  • Rob Harvilla: "Radiohead Rorschach" (East Bay Express), September 17, 2003
    Credit the writer with an interesting idea, but the kids steal the show.
  • Dave Hoekstra: "Queens served as Satchmo's 'Wonderful World'" (Chicago Sun-Times), June 29, 2003
    Also see Joe Levinson's "My Audition for Satchmo" (Jazz Institute of Chicago) for an entertaining tale.
  • Will Hodgkinson "Jailhouse Pop" (Guardian), September 5, 2003
    A history of tropicalia from the mouths of those that created it.
  • Liz Langley: "Mad Icon Disease" (Alternet), May 1, 2003
    Why do we love celebs? They don't come over for X-mas.
  • Johnny Loftus: "Last Night A Dutchman Saved My Life" (Glorious Noise), April 8, 2003
    Bettie Serveert proves a positive influence on an impressionable teen.
  • Ed Masley: "Frontman says Fleshtones still fresh" (Post-Gazette), May 30, 2003
    Worth it alone for Peter Zaremba's thoughts on disco and how there was not the wide divide that people might remember from the 'disco sucks' movement.
  • Gerald Marzorati: "Jim O'Rourke's Next Experiment: Tinkering with dark, weird pop" (Slate), January 27, 2003
    David Manning: "Remember his great Beck article from last year? This guy has a gift. He can write the most interesting articles about the most boring music. If he can put together some good copy on Ryan Adams, I say that we nominate him for a Pulitzer."
  • Elizabeth Mendez-Berry: "The Last Hustle" (Village Voice), November 26, 2003
    Jay Z's bow-out and how some constructive criticism caught here caught his ear.
  • Bruce Miller: "Lonesome No More" (Pulp), December 4, 2003
    Fascinating profile of this unfairly obscure alt-country legend.
  • Bernadette Murphy: "Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition" (LA Times), January 21, 2003
  • Ben Ratliff: "Reducing Buddy Guy: The Half-Caf, Venti Blues" (New York Times), June 1, 2003
    Well thought-out examination of the NPR-ing of roots music.
  • Stephen Slaybaugh: "Eight days on the road with Two Cow Garage" (Columbus Alive), October 2, 2003
    Good look at the unglamorous life of a road band.
  • Joey Sweeney: "For Pete's sake" (Salon), January 17, 2003
    About Townshend's legal troubles over child pornography charges. "Maybe more than any other rock star out there, he's earned something most of us don't even remember anymore: the benefit of the doubt."
  • Josh Tyrangiel: "Building a Better Pop Star" (Time), October 13, 2003
    "Ask the employees at Clay Aiken's record label, RCA, if they would listen to Aiken's debut album, Measure of a Man, by choice, and the response is almost uniform: a lengthy pause followed by laughter."
  • Unknown Staff: "A music industry case study" (New York Daily News), February 19, 2003
    Very sobering, especially for any young, hungry musician.
  • Laura Vanderkam: "Teen 'zines hawk fake girl power" (USA Today), February 19, 2003
    "Our culture does not support self-esteem in girls, nor risk-taking, and the two go hand in hand..."

    Amazing Stories That Wrote Themselves

    Not necessarily great writing but some things happened this year that bedevil any kind of reporting and seem worth noting.

    "Evel Knievel gets rock opera" (April 2003)
    I blame Pete Townshend, though at least this will be more exciting than Tommy.

    "Girl Emerges from Coma During Bryan Adams Concert" (March 2003)
    Hopefully she didn't complain that she wanted to hear Ryan Adams instead.

    "Judge: Rap is a foreign language" (June 2003)
    For old farts, I'm sure it is foreign.

    "Lawsuit: Singer Too Stoned To Rock" (April 2003)
    As Eric Kauz said, thank god there wasn't precedent for this in 80's, otherwise the Replacements would be serving several concurrent life sentences.

    "Metallica lawsuit hoax floods Web" (July 2003)
    Either folks don't have a sense of humor or (no doubt helped by the band itself) a sense of proportion.

    "Metallica song used to interrogate Iraqis" (May 2003)
    Judging by their latest album, this is indeed cruel and unusual punishment. Where's Amnesty International when you need them?

    "Post music writer G. Brown resigns" (November 2003)
    Just what we need--another Blair/Glass. Wonder how many more of 'em are out there in rock crit land...

    "Rap poem marks (Prince) William's 21st" (July 2003)
    To quote one of the readers, "The greatest argument for the abolition of the monarchy yet."

    "Sex Pistols to play Baghdad?"
    "If the people of Iraq are being offered democracy, then they should understand it to its fullest extent, and that is the SEX PISTOLS..." --John Lydon, June 19, 2003.

    The Barrel Bottom

    For the record, all writing, be it good or bad, is not created equal. Some of it here is regrettably misguided (Acocella, Ali/Juarez), ignorant in a silly way (Kose), or just ridiculous (Phair), but some of it is contemptibly stupid (Daniels), totally false and manipulative (Powell, Rosen), or just plain insipid trash (Batten).

    Joan Acocella: "Double or Nothing" (The New Yorker), October 27, 2003
    The first part is so ignorantly dismissive of everything (why not just assign some teeny-bopper who'd be equally confused and put-off by everything?) that it's tough to get to the second part where there's actually some insightful understanding of what's going on.

    Lorraine Ali and Vanessa Juarez: "Hit or Miss" (Newsweek), January 20, 2003
    "Sugar-coated pop is over"? The era of the "fabricated idol" is over? Avril Lavigne is an underdog? Besides the fact that Avril was already a best-selling major label act, was it really a surprise when Justin and Britney had two of the biggest sellers this year and a show like American Idol ruled the airwaves?

    Craig A. Anderson, Nicholas L. Carnagey and Janie Eubanks: "Exposure to Violent Media: The Effects of Songs With Violent Lyrics on Aggressive Thoughts and Feelings" (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology), May 4, 2003
    Might as well have been written by the PMRC, which it duly cites a number of times. The researchers were so conversant with the subject that they had to ask college kids which songs to pick. Of course, they chose metal and rap, both of which make very convenient scapegoats. Wouldn't want to test your little theories with say...classical music? If the theories are right and even instrumental rap or metal gets teens blood pressure up, should we hold hearings on DJs too? No doubt this weak-ass study will become fodder for the opportunist presidential candidate looking for some media coverage. Pretty f-ing sick. These eggheads also did a study linking personality with song choices--a barroom would give you a better reading than their unscientific methods.

    Brent Batten: "Why the Hip-Hop Winterfest in Collier went bust" (Naples News), December 2, 2003
    Bryan Monroe, Vice President/Print, National Association of Black Journalists: "We thought this kind of parody went the way of blackface, big lips and Stepin-Fetchit routines decades ago." (Thanks to Kandia Crazy Horse.)

    Charlie Daniels: "An Open Letter to the Hollywood Bunch" (Charlie Daniels web site), February 24, 2003
    Think that cowboy hat is on a little too tight, ol' man. At least Ted Nugent and Rush Limbaugh are funny. Anyway, doesn't he realize that Sean Penn could kick his ass? Chuckles provides many other worthy runners-up for worst writing in his other Soapbox columns, going full steam into a downward spiral. (Does anyone know where to find details about the publicist who was fired over her own response to this jingoist trash?)

    Powell Fraser: "Why I've stopped sharing music--Suit filed against one student prompts another to change" (CNN), September 8, 2003
    Thanks to Sam Smith of Lullaby Pit who observed: "This is CNN, a division of the RIAA...Wow, not bad when you can get CNN to whore for you, is it?"

    Dean Goodman: "Rolling Stones Give Free Concert--No One Killed" (Reuters), February 7, 2003
    The title should be warning enough. For his next headline, how about "Writer Does Story; No One Pukes"?

    David Hajdu: "Wynton's Blues" (Atlantic Monthly), March 2003
    What's worse, a soppy article kissing this revisionist's butt or letting Stanley Crouch mouth off that critics (especially white ones of course) are jealous of the booty that Wynton Marsalis gets? Tell us Stanley, what kind of tail are you getting? Inquiring minds want to know...If that wasn't bad enough, Stanley himself crawls upon his imaginary high horse to scold the whole journalist trade in "The Problem With Jazz Criticism."

    Benjamin Ivry: "Region of Fawners: Europe dignifies trashy American celebs" (Wall Street Journal), June 24, 2003
    Spoken like a true idiot who knows less about rock than Clear Channel does. Sir Iggy definitely deserves his props at the very least for this reason he explained to Dinah Shore long ago: "I think I helped wipe out the '60s."

    Wesley A. Kose (editor): "100 albums to remove from your collection" (WDUB Radio/Jaguaro), August 7, 2003
    Sam Smith: "Where I come from, when petulant children act out in an immature play for attention, we just ignore them."

    Mike McGuirk's "Fuck Shit Up" column on noise rock (San Francisco Bay Guardian), March 23, 2003
    Philip Sherburne: "I'm not sure I've ever read a more cynical piece of rock criticism (I call it cynical in part because it hid behind a veil of false innocence)." Perhaps thankfully not online anymore.

    Jay Nordlinger: "Beethoven, Verdi--and someone you don't know" (National Review), September 15, 2003
    I do want there to be right-wing music criticism just so we're all fair and balanced, but why do all these conservative rags have to pick the most conceited and ignorant assholes to write this stuff--they're not even as funny as their conceited, ignorant asshole liberal counterparts. Where do you begin here? Ever hear of Shostakovitch, Jay? Write off Wagner a little too easier there too, huh? Ruth Crawford Seeger is dumb and elitist because she didn't want to write string quartets? Can we get Pete Seeger to bitch slap some sense into this elitist motherfucker?

    Liz Phair: "Chicken Little's Tale" (New York Times), June 29 2003 To the Editor: Re ''Liz Phair's Exile in Avril-ville'' by Meghan O'Rourke [June 22, 2003, New York Times]
    A little advice, Lizzy--"fuck you" is sometimes more appropriate response than inane blather. Just ask Courtney Love. O'Rourke's original review of Phair's album is a lot more thoughtful than Phair's response here.

    Peter Plagens: "In Defense of High Art" (Newsweek), May 2003
    This is why people mistrust highbrows. Such a shame that popular culture has only produced a handful of worthy artifacts in the last century. Such a shame that this article is a web-exclusive; the great unwashed who read the print version of the magazine will never know just how stupid they are. Also a shame that this snooty wind-bag is given space to sniff and cry about the vulgarity of American culture. Haven't we heard the same whining for decades from other idiots? Will these effete jerks only be happy when Western Civilization collapses so they can say "I told you so"? A saner, more balanced version of this argument appears here.

    Michael K. Powell: "Should limits on broadcast ownership change?" (USA Today), January 21, 2003
    Smooch that media-conglomerate ass, kid. One day, maybe you'll get to be an apologist for an even bigger bunch of megalomaniac shmucks like your daddy is right now.

    Hilary Rosen: "Why the Recording Industry Loves Tech" (Business 2.0), May 2003
    If you need a fact-free story about the industry, it's reassuring to know that you can always count on Lil' Hilary to come through: somehow I get the feeling that a polygraph machine would explode at the site of her (no truth to the rumor yet that Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass co-wrote her article). Tempting as it is to try to correct all the scummy lies she attempts to pimp here, suffice it to say that somewhere in Hades, James C. Petrillo is turning all shades of envious green, wondering why he didn't think of all these creative ways to destroy the music industry.

    Mark Scheinbaum: "Commentary: Trust CBS? I'd Rather not" (UPI), February 25, 2003
    After getting his facts wrong about the Grammys (it doesn't even sound like he watched the mess this year), he somehow contorts this to include his news-envy about Dan Rather. Stick with your business column, buddy, and leave the unchecked factual errors to Matt Drudge and Ann Coulter.


    Visit Jason Gross's online 'zine, Perfect Sound Forever.