uffie vs the music critic
    • MONDAY, JUNE 14, 2010

    • Posted by:

    Last week, you probably saw that Drowned In Sound review of Uffie's Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans (or is it Sex, Dreams and Denim Jeans? Perhaps Vampire Weekend can finally admit we NEED THOSE OXFORD COMMAS!). It was the Pitchfork-esque blight that launched a thousand ships, including a call for resignation of "Mike" by a BBC editor who, however inadvertently, created a pretty inflammatory dialog about the merits of press releases and appreciation for "music" (or whatever you want to call the buffet of garbage the masses usually consume). Anyways, it got me thinking, because WE DO THAT TOO. But let's talk about those Sex Dreams first, then we'll try and figure out just when the numerical value of music became more important to its credibility with listeners than just deciding if one is enjoying it.

    I have the album, and while Sex Dreams not Beethoven, it isn't gut-wrenchingly bad either. "Pop The Glock" is kind of fun (and one of the biggest underground hits of the aughts), I laugh at "MCs Can Kiss", etc. I don't think this is high art. I hope you don't either. Of course, the same "fun/funny" argument could be said of the garbage clad princess of song-speech Ke$ha, but the rabbit hole of similarities is too deep, even for me. Who spawned who, and the supposed (and still non-existent) war between them has been explored. As the British say, properly I might add, "I could not care less". Let's move on. Uffie is not a miracle worker, but at least she is self aware with lines like "don't worry if I write rhymes/I write checks", general self-deprecation (she can't sing, she makes mention of her lack of talent, and of course, "don't hate the player/hate the game". Upvotes go here.

    Now, did this kid deserve to get slammed for slamming something? Maybe. His (and many others) inability to recognize the glaring fallacies in the "need" for professional assignment of value is a little disconcerting. Pitchfork has wrought on our generation a thirst for the "slam", the intrinsically clever and intelligent take-down of an album (especially one that many have been hoisted on a shaky pedestal by too many fans via the hype cycle). Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans is such an album. "Everyone is a critic" has never been more true than in 2010, the land where everyone has a soapbox (read: Tumblr), and almost no one has anymore credibility. For every puff piece, there is an equally compelling and comprehensive elongated dis, whether the former or the latter (or both) exist solely on someone's blog. Sure there are things we mostly all unanimously like; like that Big Boi record. But every action these days seems to have an equal and opposite reaction, whether it's fans versus critic, or vice versa, or some weird combination of both/neither. When did a number become more important than the music itself?

    Pitchfork is the silent killer here, I think. Slowly over the past decade, they'e single-handedly made all of the music industry quake at the influence of their (rather arbitrary I might add) 10 point scale. Sure, MP3s are a bunch of 0s and 1s at the core, and music itself it based on numbers and patterns, but certainly a listening can't be boiled down to a decimal point? And what's worse, their "effortless cool" has transformed an entire country of music fans into curmudgeon-like critics, who actively seek the next band to pan, drop the digits, and liken them to a monkey urinating into it's own mouth. That was funny and clever once, but that was also four years ago and I'm sick of seeing bloggers still trying to emulate it using albums that I or others genuinely enjoy.

    When did music journalism move from entirely a positive angle (the "check this out!") to a constant negative spin cycle? I don't have the answer to this, nor do I even know if it's a valid generalization of a complicated, fractured, and often disingenuous press structure. I thought being a discerning eye for the fan meant elevating my own personal pleasures, bands and music I enjoy, and delivering them to a readership. But in the past, the music realm has always been one of corruption, piracy, and backwards promises... criticism, it seems, is no different.

    The role of the art critic is the most objective of professions (and the most thankless), that is a well known situation. It's only just beginning to feel like now that everyone thinks they can do it, and often try to prove it, we should stop pretending anyone is a true authority... that is, if all they ever do is reduce the complicated emotions of recorded music to a number between one and ten.

    But if you're going to do a take-down (if you REALLY need to), at least make it as ridiculous as possible. -joe puglisi

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