Super Scribing 2009

Gold medal: the best writing of the year.

Catherine AD: "I'm a Barbie Girl"

(MySpace blog, May 22, 2009)

In response to a Guardian article chronicling another supposed wave of female artists, this 'singerslashsongwriterexorcistbaker' demands to know why her sex is still treated like bizarre outcasts in the music world, and why every now and then a spate of articles toasting 'women in music' is needed. "It scares me that women are being demoted to a 'genre' when for the first time in many years we are daring to stand on equal footing with the boys club." Even better, she wants to know why "we are always the new Kate Nash or Kate Bush and never the new Bush or Crosby Stills and Nash." Not that being Bush or CSN is something to aspire to, mind you...

Dan Bush: "Dear Lily"

(YouTube, September 23, 2009)

A delightful response to Lily Allen, who's been braying against downloaders recently, this Streets-like Cockney kid delivers the goods in song in the form of a video in the form of an e-mail. It's like post-post-post-modern! Sing along now: "I love your singing but I'll just say this / I saw on your MySpace pages saying filesharing's a new ice age / But the industry's a recent innovation / Music's been alive, thriving since cavemen / Folk songs so long have had a place in communities that you should be amazed at it."

Tom Ewing: "The Strange Death of the UK Charts"

(Freaky Trigger, January 6, 2009)

With the advent of the Internet, you'd think that more acts than ever would have access to the singles chart. But you'd be wrong. It turns out that the mechanism for getting singles on the chart (promo, distribution) have broken down so that more songs 'linger' on the charts for a longer amount of time. Weird, ain't it? Fascinating too.

Bill Flanagan: "Bob Dylan on Barack Obama, Ulysses Grant and American Civil War Ghosts"

(Times Online, April 6, 2009)

Give Flanagan credit for setting him up with good questions, but as with most interviews, the star is the subject, who has fascinating thoughts on the current commander-in-chief, a great war general who was seen as one of the worst presidents, apparitions and Elvis. Ol' Bobby's mystical alright, and he tries to explain why: "I think it's the land. The streams, the forests, the vast emptiness. The land created me. I'm wild and lonesome. Even as I travel the cities, I'm more at home in the vacant lots. But I have a love for humankind, a love of truth, and a love of justice. I think I have a dualistic nature. I'm more of an adventurous type than a relationship type."

Anne Midgette: "Do Critics Matter?"

(Washington Post blog, July 1, 2009)

OK, don't act too surprised to learn that the answer to her own question is 'yes' but in typical thoughtful fashion, Midgette provides some excellent context about what a good music journalist ideally should be doing. "The role of a critic is to cover a field. This doesn't mean simply pandering to popular taste. It means doing one's best to convey a sense of what is going on in a given discipline by writing about every possible side of it... offering a thoughtful take that might stimulate a reader who does go to everything to see something in a different light. For part of our role is to foster dialogue and debate...." Of course, that's not necessary all the time (sometimes we do wanna know if a record's good or not) but wouldn't it be nice to think that we could expect this now and then when we read a music article?

Glenn Peoples: "Paper Sheds New Light on Music Listener Habits"

(Billboard, November 3, 2009)

People don't listen to the radio or buy CDs and mostly listen to music on computers now. Or so we think. Actually, a new Nielsen study says that's all bullshit. Young people are even buying CDs and listening to them much more than iPods. All of which doesn't necessarily mean good news, as the market for physical product is still shrinking. But it's nice to have a reality check like this every now and then about the state of the biz.

Rodrigo Perez: "Best Soundtracks, Scores and Movie Moments of 2008"

(Playlist blog, January 12, 2009)

The excruciating detail that Perez goes into is a must for anyone who geeks out on celluloid and tunes, picking out not just great match-up's of the two, but also great films that had crappy music, and vice versa. That's some serious dedication, and that's why you need to spend some time with this. Where else are you going to find out about "Best Electro-Acoustic Score of the Year" or "Best Tastefully Curated Indie-Rock Soundtrack to a Film" or "Best Atonal Score to a Gigantically Budgeted Superhero Blockbuster"?

Simon Reynolds: "Stuck in the Middle with You"

(Guardian, February 6, 2009)

Not just an article about Animal Collective's new album, but a meditation on why writers and fans love it or hate it and what it says about each side (as well as their favorite artists). Reynolds comes out in the boosters camp, but he details some interesting thoughts about what makes his side tick.

Greg Sandoval: "Q&A: A Front-Row Seat for Media's Meltdown"

(CNet, October 27, 2009)

Eric Garland, CEO of Big Champagne, tracks unauthorized downloads, even providing the data to the major media companies who wanna know what's popular in that world. In this interview, he talks about the failures of the music industry to deal with the Internet age and what's in store for the film industry. Needless to say, it ain't pretty, but he also insists that it's not hopeless and that maybe they can learn from the mistakes of the music biz. Pay walls ain't gonna work. DRM ain't gonna work. Lawsuits against consumers ain't gonna work. His prescription: give the people what they want instantly at a low enough price that they can compete with the free (unauthorized) alternatives.

Greg Tate: "Michael Jackson -- the Man in Our Mirror"

(Village Voice, June 30, 2009)

Probably the sagest of the many tributes to MJ, roping in not just musical but also historical perspective about who he was (to us as least) and what he represented, for better and worse. "Over the years, we've seen him variously as our Hamlet, our Superman, our Peter Pan, our Icarus, our Fred Astaire, our Marcel Marceau, our Houdini, our Charlie Chaplin, our Scarecrow, our Peter Parker and Black Spider-Man, our Ziggy Stardust and Thin White Duke, our Little Richard redux, our Alien vs. Predator, our Elephant Man, our Great Gatsby, our Lon Chaney, our Ol' Blue Eyes, our Elvis, our Frankenstein, our ET, our Mystique, our Dark Phoenix."

Matt Tyson: "Countdown: Top 10 Most Metal Classical Music Pieces"

(Earfarm, July 14, 2009)

For all of us amateurs of old-school-classical music who wondered if there really was a connection between powdered wigs and head-banging, Tyson makes a great case for it, complete with videos and modern-day examples and convincing threads going from Vivaldi, Mahler, Bartok, and Ludwig Van to Slayer, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Slayer, and Megadeath. Just pray that any hesher bands don't get the wrong idea and hook up with orchestras again.

Christopher R. Weingarten "140 Characters Conference speech"

(Blip.TV, June 16, 2009)

Though he comically pleads that he'll need to be looking for work within a year, the writer explains why his field is going down the crapper. It's not just newspapers failing and outlets 'drying up', but also the 'hivemind' of social networking that produces the most common of common bland denominators (what he calls 'NPR crap'). End result: we live in virtual bubbles and get fed the same wishy-washy music that pleases the most people. He doesn't get that good cult music still slips through the cracks and reaches small numbers of music nuts, but his points are well taken and pretty damn entertaining. And admittedly, I can't stand Kate Perry, but I actually wonder why so many other people do like her. For a good rebuttal, see Casey Newton's "In Defense of Crowd Sourcing."

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