Kesha’s lawsuit against Dr. Luke has been foreshadowed by past events, but it’s nonetheless heartbreaking. I’m support Kesha 100%; it seems remarkable we don’t automatically draw connections between pop stars suffering “mental breakdowns” and the potential abusive men in their lives that are heralded as the creative masterminds behind their work. I hope Kesha escapes this contract; her musical career seems like a minor point in the grand scheme of issues here, but Dr. Luke has been largely credited as the architect of her sound and if she makes a change in artistic direction, it will be met with an enormous amount of industry bullshit about agency and authenticity.
This has become a recurring theme in pop music: the shadowy male producers who are the so-called brilliant masterminds behind these public young women. Kesha had Dr. Luke. Lady Gaga had RedOne. Ariana Grande had Harmony Samuels. I can’t remember the last time we talked about an up-and-coming female pop star without talking extensively about her core production team, and that often makes sense when looking down the credits. This is what the industry does. It pairs young women off with the real geniuses and puts them to work.
This makes the Tinashe album that came out last week pretty incredible. There’s no shadowy male producer behind Aquarius, and any attempt to try to define that album as such is bullshit. Aquarius sounds like an extension of Tinashe’s mixtapes which she recorded and produced in her home studio. Even with this so-called assembled team of superstar hitmakers, all the tracks on Aquarius are unmistakably Tinashe. The Stargate songs sound like Tinashe. The Mike WiLL song sounds like Tinashe. The Detail song sounds like Tinashe. Even the guitar solo on “Bet” is Tinashe, whose idea it was because she thinks they are “cool.” The only song that actually sounds like its producer is “2 On,” but even that sounds like unmistakably like Tinashe with the flirting and the winking and the charming that only the girl next door could bring to a DJ Mustard beat.
My favorite thing written about the new Tinashe album was by Meaghan, who points out, “Aquarius is an anomaly in an age of major label standardization: a debut done unmistakably on Tinashe’s own terms.” This is the only correct framing. Any attempt to credit it to a team of dudes is a massive disservice, but I’m not surprised: old school music criticism is not particularly interested in the artistic vision and genius of black women. Just ask Beyoncé.
It’s so easy to read about Kesha’s lawsuit and feel hopeless. Men like Dr. Luke are given every opportunity, and even accusations of this magnitude are unlikely to torpedo his career. Conversely, by revealing herself as a victim of his assault, Kesha stands to lose everything. In the grand scheme of things it might seem relatively minor, but reframing the discussion around pop stars is a way to put power in the hands of the women creating music. When the narrative is one of ingénues, muses, protégés, and mild puppetry it reinforces the idea that women making music are nothing without their superstar producers. This, in turn, reinforces the fear and domination wielded by abusers. By discussing women as the architects of their creative vision, we can give strength to their choice of co-workers. Women like Tinashe (and Kesha, Gaga, Beyonce, Britney) are supremely talented regardless of their co-credits and the way we discuss that talent is important. The impulse to regurgitate every line item in the liner notes because #facts is incredibly strong, but ultimately these are albums that bear one name — the artist’s.
emphasis mine because i don’t think i’ve ever heard something that’s been such a generally understood piece of background noise to all the discussions i’ve ever had about pop music get put so succinctly before. holy shit all of this, though, all of it.
The response to the track has been overwhelmingly positive, […] [Spin wrote: ‘War on Drugs: Suck My Cock’ is] “the best (or at least most fun) dis track by a non-rapper since Taylor Swift’s ‘Dear John’.”
It seems this is most people’s opinion of the one-sided beef: Kozelek, a notorious curmudgeon, isn’t doing anything harmful by harassing these guys. In fact, he’s just doing what he’s always done—being a grumpy ass who doesn’t seem to care what people think of him. These same people insist that ignoring him and letting him continue to do this kind of stuff is the best option moving forward. To speak up about this kind of behavior from artists and performers is to inevitably be met with, “Lighten up, not everything has to be political, it’s just for entertainment.”
[But] it’s important to call it what it is: emotional abuse.
When communities band together to discuss integral elements of abuse, certain traits are highlighted as being indicative that a person is an abuser: “Male-pattern violence is often characterized by motivations of aggression, revenge, competition for dominance, [and] competition with other males.” These are socially sanctioned behavior patterns that fit in well with “cultural prescriptions that are cherished in Western society—aggressiveness, male dominance and female subordination… [and] using physical force as a means to enforce that dominance.”
Which is why, in all likelihood, Kozelek chose to say “suck my cock” instead of “I think your band is bad.”
Meredith Graves’ op-ed on the behaviour of Mark Kozelek and its media coverage
This whole article is good but this here highlights some of my problems with the way pop music media talks.
'Dear John' is a song about escaping and transcending an emotionally abusive relationship with a man, ‘War on Drugs: Suck My Cock’ appears to be coming from a place of a man feeling threatened and acting in an emotionally abusive way towards other men. But both are related and discussed as if the same. Two white people wrote ‘dis tracks’. Lol.
We live in an age of some really great blow-job artists. Every era has it’s art form. The nineteenth century, I know, was tops for the novel. I just do what I can not to gag too much. I know boyfriends get really excited when they can touch the soft flesh at the back of your throat. At these times I just try to breath through my nose and not throw up on their cock. I did vomit a little the other day but I kept right on sucking. Aside from blow jobs though, I’m through with being the perfect girlfriend, just through with it. Then if he’s sore with me, let him dump my ass. That will just give him more time to be a genius.
One good thing about being a woman is we haven’t too many examples yet of what genius looks like. It could be me. There is no ideal model for how my mind should be. For the men, it’s pretty clear. That’s the reason you see them trying to talk themselves up all the time. I laugh when they won’t say what they mean so the academics will study them forever. I’m thinking of you Mark Z., and you, Christian B. You just keep on peddling your phony-baloney genius crap, while I’m up giving blow jobs in heaven.
sheila heti / how should a person be
a couple days ago a bro dismissed me because i said i like one direction, which, i mean, one should often tell bros she likes one direction because like, the comedy of it all, the comedy of it all. the comedy of it all in that bro, when you were 14 and living off a diet of mountain dew and working around a schedule built on masturbating, i was lounging in the music aisle of Borders, reading about kurt cobain before you even really knew who he was; that $80+ i got every weekend from the neighbors i’d conned into paying me $40 / hour for tutoring their children, i was spending all that money on music and i owned the beatles discography before you’d even listened to the white album, when you were 17 and now masturbating exclusively to led zeppelin, i’d graduated from classic rock and right into the smiths and animal collective, and maybe, probably i was doing it to impress dashing young men like yourself, who would eventually grow up into 28 year old’s who say to their bro friends things like ‘but she’s not like other girls bro, she listens to the smiths’ (!!!); in college, while you masturbated to james joyce and ernest hemingway and jonathan franzen, i spent a year writing only about jimi hendrix, one time i dealt only with putting jimi hendrix’s performance of the star spangled banner in dialgoue with t.s. ellot’s the wasteland, and i got an A and my male professor said i should publish, so i giggled and scurried away.
i don’t know how to tell you this, but i do everything better than you, i do your profound male genius better than you, i learned and mastered your game before i graduated high school, and while you were sleeping, i beat you at it, but you’re still here, you’re still here, you and your $65 beanie and your ratty ass copy of Infinite Jest, which, i don’t think you’ve actually read, but it’s such a great accessory, congratulations.
what i mean to say with all this, in relation to giving blow jobs up in heaven, and like, genius, is, i mean, ladies, l a d i e s, we’re never gonna be geniuses’s, not like that bro who’s so much better than me because he doesn’t listen to a silly old boy band, our minds will never have an ideal for how they should be, our experiences will never be standardized, bc men are too busy being genius’s to let that happen, a movie with an all male cast is for everyone, a movie with an all female cast is only for girls.
(via marrryoom)so really, all i can do is, you know, i’ll just keep wearing crop tops and listening to pop songs whose chorus’s are oh oh oh oh oh oh oh and na na na na na na, i’ll keep growing my nails and sharpening them until they become claws, i’ll wear sequin bras and stuff all my money inside them so when, on a first date, he offers to pay, i’ll insist no no, i’ve got this, and i’ll reach right in and pull out $60, then when he leans in for that kiss later, i’ll give him my cheek, giggle, and scurry away,
Snowpiercer: at least we saved the polar bears
What in the fuck was that Kanye?
I told you to do some shit for the kids
You can give me your muhfucking graduation ticket right now
You will not walk across that stage, you won’t slide across that stage
Muhfucka can’t pull you across that stage Kanye
Who told you, see, I told you to do something uplifting
I’m trynna get you out here with these white people and this how you gone do me?
You know what? You’s a nigga
And I don’t mean that in no nice way
Had little kids sing about the shit, the joke’s on you
You throw your muhfuckin’ hands in the air, and wave good-bye to everybody
Cause you getting the fuck out of this campus
Muhfucka what you gone do now?
I’m no longer confused, but don’t tell anybody.
I’m about to break the rules
But don’t tell anybody.
In 2012 Kanye West introduced most of the world to Chief Keef, via the G.O.O.D. Music remix of Keef’s local hit “I Don’t Like.” (I know, I know, you knew about Keef before Kanye, but most of America can’t touch your impeccable blog game.) This was something of a confusing move at the time, at least for me; the remix wasn’t an improvement by any means, and it had been a while since Kanye had shown significant interest in preserving his Chicago affiliations, but there he was, shouting out all the local rappers, putting on a 17-year-old kid from one of the most fucked up neighborhoods in the country. But I know why Kanye did the remix now (and I think he knows he didn’t improve upon the original either). He needed to confront white America with what they presumed at the time was their worst nightmare: a young black male who grew up in hell and no longer gave a single fuck, who used unfamiliar words and rapped about guns and money and drugs. You know, rapper stuff. (NOTE: When I say “white America” please know I am not being all-inclusive. Like, fuck, I’m white, I get that there are many white people who fully support and understand the racial and socio-political issues at hand here, and that I am being reductive by dichotomizing it into simply “black” vs “white” to begin with. Consider it shorthand for the type of non-black American unconcerned by or complicit in the perpetuation of these issues.)
In reality though, Chief Keef isn’t white America’s worst nightmare. Because while he scares the living shit out of them in person, he fits neatly into the trope that many racist white Americans need young black men to fit into: violent, uneducated, aimless. They expect this kind of character, and in turn know how to strip him of his humanity, dismiss him, and avoid him.
Kanye West is white America’s worst nightmare. Because as much as one may attempt to dismiss him—by calling him an asshole or classless or deranged or various other adjectives that fill the comment sections of literally every article about him—you still have to turn on your regularly scheduled late night comedy program and stare him in the face. You can’t avoid Kanye. He’s made very sure of that.
Yes. Read also: http://dalatu.tumblr.com/post/51068780803
This is a smaller thought that I’ve been meaning to jot down at some point since about, oh, June of last year. I’ve written a couple of pieces that have ended up skirting this issue from different sides. One was a listy defense of some of the commonly held conceptions about young, hip people who live in Brooklyn, in which this bit emerged rather serendipitously as I was venting:
I have never been conscious of my enjoyment of any of these things coming from an ‘ironic’ position. Honestly I’m not even sure how one likes something ironically—is it just pretending or is it more like lying? I do not consciously like things based on how they will appear to people around me.
The other was a piece in response to a particularly vitriolic NYT restaurant review from a few months ago that got a lot of positive attention for dumping all over a very easy target in the celebrity chef world. Tom Ewing commented on my post with this point:
also it’s an expression of the high confidence of foodie culture, it’s at that popcult stage where “everybody knows” who the good and the bad guys are - long lost in music &c.
So: irony. It’s when you say one thing but mean something else, usually its opposite. In culture, as it’s popularly understood these days, irony has to do with the performance of ‘bad’ taste or older things and ideas that don’t fall within the zeitgeist. Now, whether or not this actually fits the rigid definitions of irony or whether kitsch is partially involved is, to me, beside the point. If you grow an old-timey mustache or drink Pabst Blue Ribbon or watch low-budget 80s slasher flicks on VHS, a lot of people will call it ironic. Implicit in the accusation of irony (which has been a pejorative for at least the last decade) is the very notion Tom mentions in regards to foodie culture: that “everybody knows” what’s good and bad. Someone who appears to be enjoying something we “all know” is bad can only be doing so ironically, right? To make some kind of “point” or to position themselves as counter-cultural in some way?
The level of assumption needed to make this kind of accusation—the arrogance, the snobbery, the elitism—far outpaces any such attitude I’ve ever observed in even the most hipstery hipsters. It’s not that nothing is ever ironic or that some people don’t intentionally play with irony. They certainly do. But using ‘ironic’ as a hipster pejorative in 2013 contains 1) the assumption that no one could ever enjoy these things sincerely, 2) the “everybody knows” mentality that puts the accuser in a non-existent bubble of safety and arbitration, 3) a conflation of the two that presupposes the accuser’s understanding of taste to be universal and therefore excuses their arrogance in judging the taste of someone else, and 4) an elitism born of negation: you’re being ironic and I’m not, because I’m concerned with the correct, current things, not the silly stuff you’re playing with.
For people my age and younger (‘Millennials,’ we’re called), irony just isn’t that useful. Not to beat a dead horse, but thus far we as a generation (and especially as a subculture!) have been far more concerned with ‘curation.’ It’s the Tumblr mentality everybody loves to write thinkpieces about these days: taking context-free photos, videos, songs, etc. and using them as a collage of self-definition. Doing so with an ironic intent—which is to say a winking, snarky, or possibly even malicious intent (publicly skewering things that certain people love just to upset them)—would be a colossal waste of time. Those who didn’t get it would scroll through to see if there was anything cool they wanted to reblog, and those who did get it would either move on with their own concerns or just go ahead and reblog anyway, stripping out any ‘ironic’ context and slapping the object on their own fantastical dream board. Clothes, hair, food and drinks, movies, music—anything for which one can have certain tastes—are all treated the exact same way. It’s not always irony-free, but it’s irony-resistant. In other words, if you’re grousing about ‘ironic’ hipster affectations in 2013, I have to wonder how much you’ve bothered to learn about the people and the lifestyle you’re dismissing, and whether you might be proceeding from some deep-seeded false assumptions.
All this, and also, I think terming something as irony used to be a way for other (generally older) people to categorise the behaviour of people who genuinely liked or loved something that they could not understand someone valuing, and also from the other side of the mask, as a way to continue loving something without contest or conflict. But now as these things, and multiplicities in general, become more acceptable, this has faded. But also, being a ‘hipster’ and loving (I think throughout the term’s history), does indicate detachment from the thing, a hipster is never someone within the culture or community, either the thing is something that they are reclaiming as valuable from their own past, from their culture’s past, or something outside of their experience.
ETA: popcornnoises response