The Ignoble Prizes: Worst Music Writing of the Year

By Jason Gross

  • David Bauder: "Long Lost Listener Has to Relearn Top 40" (SF Gate, August 7, 2006)
    At first, it's hard to gainsay someone who admits to being over 40 and not understanding the charts--that's just part and parcel of aging and the music industry. You figure that publications like to reassure their adult audience that they shouldn't feel bad if they don't happen to know all the hits of the day (one day their kids will have the same problem). But when the same person says, "I'm a music journalist and even I don't understand what's going on," that's a problem. It would be much more reassuring if he said, "Even though I'm a music journalist covering the scene, I've been pretty slack with keeping up with what's going on now." At least he tried to catch up for the moment but you kind of wonder if he'll ever get the inkling to do it again.

  • Mickey Borchardt: "Sinking a Music Pirate" (L.A. Times, April 3, 2006)
    This simpering piece of garbage could have been written by an RIAA operative: a college student busted for illegal downloading details how the FBI dragged him into court while concluding that "stealing of any kind is wrong." Wonder if this essay was part of his plea bargain? If so, they should throw the book at him, though they probably won't since he's acted like such a good little tool.

  • Michael Comte: "Researchers Link Music Tastes to HIV Risks" (Yahoo News, August 17, 2006); Shehani Fernando: "Study Says Teens Who Listen to Raunchy Songs Have Sex Earlier" (Guardian, August 8, 2006); Unknown Writer: "Music taste 'linked to drug use'" (BBC, September 14, 2006)
    Thanks to this spate of totally objective scientific studies, each of which obviously deserves its own distinct headline we now know for certain that music causes sex, lots of sex, lots of filthy unprotected sex, and drugs too, lots of addictive drugs, plus more sex and drugs, and more sex. And drugs. And some more sex. And lots of drug-related sex and sex-related drugs. And sex. Next set of stories on tap: sex causes music. And drugs. AND SEX!!!!

  • Ivan Hewitt: "Why Iran's Ban Is A Tribute to the Power of Music" (Telegraph, January 28, 2006)
    It's hard to decide what's most ignorant here: a) nostalgia for the days of the Shah; b) how Western music has a civilizing force on other cultures a.k.a. the White Man's Burden; or c) how he forgets that some music is banned in the West. Take your pick--it's all jingoist claptrap.

  • Bob Lefsetz "The Grammy Ratings" (Lefsetz newsletter, February 2006)
    Sometimes Lefsetz is right on the moola, other times, he sounds like a tired old man, and, in this instance, a goddamn hypocrite. If he wanted to be consistent about his hatred for everyone over 30, he should hang it up himself. Most of the artists that he slobbers over in his newsletter are... you guessed it, way over 30. Also, if he really believes that there's an age limit to the music biz, should we have firing squads lined up for Sonny Rollins and Merle Haggard? Does this also mean that all the best music is made by people under 30? Such bullshit...

  • Nick Masuda: "Band Proves It's No One Hit Wonder" (Mercury News, January 20, 2006)
    Todd Inoue: "Not only is it riddled with clichés, it reeks of advocacy journalism. If he wants to stump for Lifehouse on his own time, fine, but using the Mercury News as a vehicle for his favorite band cheapens the paper."

  • John J. Miller: "Rockin' the Right" (National Review, May 26, 2006)
    Admittedly, this is an easy target but it's also so ignorant that it deserves a pie in the face. As it turns out, "the 50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs" isn't a bad mix of songs: the Stones, the Kinks, the Clash, the Everly Brothers, the Band, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, etc. (you know, all your favorite white guys). The problem is that, like many conservative pundits, Miller twists and reconfigures the facts to fit his worldview. Rather than trying to repudiate each of his 50 half-assed arguments, maybe it's just easier to say that the guy doesn't understand deep or complex meanings and ignores a lot of inconvenient facts about each song. As such, maybe this is just his audition for a State Department job. In lieu of the November elections, could I suggest "Who's Sorry Now?" for his playlist?

  • Amy Reiter: "Lou Reed Takes His Best Shot" (Salon, January 19, 2006)
    Bad, punny title about a photo exhibit? Check. Make subject look like a pompous ass? Check. Make interviewer look like a simpering fool? Check. Don't bother to edit the piece to make it readable? Check. Rehash a decades-old story line that Reed is a pain-in-the-ass interview subject? Check.

  • Ron Rosenbaum: "The Two Neil Youngs" (New York Observer, February 27, 2006)
    For a guy who beats us over the head with his book smarts, Rosenbaum is pretty stupid. His thesis: nowadays, Neil's either a soggy folkie or a raging rocker (guess which he prefers). He doesn't see beyond the surface of the Heart of Gold movie to understand that the songs are hardly reactionary, complacent, neo-traditionalist sap: Young actually goes out of his way to intro the songs with stories about his father's death, his daughter leaving for college, etc. Rosenbaum would be better off retreating to an ivory tower where he can terrorize English majors who might dream of going to law school one day.

  • Cary Sherman: "The Farce Behind Digital Freedom" (CNet, November 13, 2006)
    The RIAA head uses this platform to take numerous pot-shots at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Just to rebut a handful of points: 1) Sherman says that CEA claims are "self-serving" as well as "twisting and contorted" (which he'd know about all too well in his own group); 2) "So much of what we create is built on the art that came before..." (he's conveniently ignoring the constant, harmful extension of copyright laws); 3) "The CEA's primary concern is not consumers..." (as opposed to Sherman's group??); 4) "The fact is, we are not only music fans, but technology fans, too" (sorry but the entire article disproves the latter, while the former is questionable at best).

  • Michael Simmons: "An Open Letter To Jann Wenner" (Huffington Blog, October 18, 2006)
    Not surprising that it ain't a love letter, but complaints that Rolling Stone isn't what it used to be is so 1985. After wasting a page pointing out the obvious (which has been chewed over more intelligently dozens of times before), Simmons goes on to praise Arthur magazine. For eight paragraphs. And Simmons happens to write for Arthur. Shouldn't this guy just write ad copy for them instead of spouting non-wisdom? One thing he shouldn't be proud of is his boss Jay Babcock's "Talking To Godsmack" (Arthur, May 3, 2006)--trying to make this best-selling band renounce war after they've done an army ad, Babcock comes across as a pigheaded bully and makes you actually sympathize for the group, militaristic bent and all.

  • Alessandra Stanley: "Sensitive, Single Urban Man, Recently Fired, Seeks Love" (New York Times, January 17, 2006)
    "No woman really loves Bob Dylan," she claims. Don't tell that to Joan Baez or my girlfriend's mom. "His music is something that women pretend to enjoy to please men, like camping or golf." Nice slam against Dylan and his fans except that it's a lie, a cheap shot and kind of misogynistic too. Also, it's supposed to be the beginning of a review for a TV show so you can guess that the writer isn't a fan of that either. Would it really be any less ignorant or repugnant to say "No woman who writes TV reviews for the Times really knows jack about rock or its audience--they pretend to be snarky to try please their perceived group of ultra-hip readers"?

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Choose a Section:

  • Introduction

  • Super-Scribing AwardsSuper-Scribing Awards: Best Writing of the Year

  • Superior Scribing Awards: Other Great Pieces of Music Journalism

  • Non-Music/Musical Stories: Great Writing About the Other Arts

  • Amazing Stories in and of Themselves