Friday, July 19, 2013

Remember when Rolling Stone Mattered? Hopefully you don't

By putting Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone has reminded us it still exists. I'm not so irate about the cover. What I'm irate about is being forced to recall all the reasons I started ignoring the musical press in the first place.

Music journalists seem to get a pinch more respect than their counterparts in film and television journalism. They don't deserve it. I have previously mentioned Rolling Stone's shameless coverage of trends like hair metal:

When hair metal died in the early 90's, they began speaking of it in the kind of somber, unbelieving tones you'd expect from a medical journal discussing the days of leech treatments. Never mind that RS had spent the 80's hyping bands like Cinderella. They now wanted it understood that the days of hair metal were dark and unenlightened. Never forget.

But the second hair metal returned, what did this pillar of integrity have to say about it? "Dust off those mullets, kids! REAL ROCK is back!!!"

Another spree of dishonesty from the musical press came at the dawn of the rap-rock era. Starting around 1999, music journalists began writing with straight faces about this wild and crazy new trick of blending rock and rap. They panted with affected surprise as they discussed how artists like Kid Rock and Fred Durst liked both rock and rap...just like, oh I don't know, every single kid in the '90s. Even more desperate was their pretending that blending rock and rap was sparkling new. Just two years earlier, these same mannequins had been covering rap-rock artist Beck. And Beck's work wasn't exactly hidden: in 1997 Beck was on every cover of every magazine. He won two Grammies and an MTV Music Video Award. But you wouldn't have gotten that from reading the press's take on rock-rap "trailblazer" Kid Rock.

Not only was Kid Rock's interest in rap and rock not a revelation; neither was the compound of rap and rock. I'm not just talking about self-conscious novelty crossovers like Aerosmith-Run DMC and Public Enemy-Anthrax. In addition to non-novel Beck, you had 311 releasing huge rap-rock hits in 1996 and 97. Faith No More had a top ten rap-rock hit with "Epic" all the way back in 1990.

I have to think some of the journalists who pretended Kid Rock's music and musical taste was unique knew better. MTV "personalities" certainly couldn't claim to be unaware of kids' dual interest in rap and rock: their channel had been showing rap and rock videos back-to-back for years. Did they actually think half their audience turned the channel when Tribe Called Quest was followed by Guns N' Roses? If so, I hope they informed their advertisers.

If I tried listing all the other examples of the music press contriving angles about artists and trends - Kid Rock listened to Johnny Cash and Grandmaster Flash! Can you believe it?! Uh, yeah, actually I and all other Earthlings born post-Watergate can -, I'd be here until Russ Columbo's music came back in fashion. Thankfully, the demise of traditional media means anyone can get whatever musical info. they want without having to trudge through all that intellectual dishonesty. At least I hope it was intentional. I'd hate to think those reporters were truly that thick...

To this reporter, it appears that entertainment journalists are no different from political journalists. They can't help sucking up to the status quo.

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