Voyou Désœuvré

  • Walmart as Utopia. Obviously there are lots of songs about conspicuous consumption, but most of them are about a fantasy level of consumption which is unattainable (probably, for the artist; certainly, for most of their audience). I think Jay-Z has actually produced the Adornian nec plus ultra of this genre with “Picasso Baby.” How do you top a song that says, “I’m so rich I can buy art, the value of which is defined precisely by its purported exclusion from the sphere of exchange-value”? But what I’m thinking of for this theme are those songs where the utopianism of consumption is placed somewhere rather more everyday: Diamond’s “Living in the Mall” is probably my favourite example, though Shampoo’s “Take a Break” kind of works too. Read more↴

“I’ll explore the outer limits of boredom / moaning periodically. / Just a full-time lonely layabout / that’s me.”

TaylorSwiftREDPHOTOSHOOTI don’t know if it’s just that, as I write this, an excellent article on the influence of internet market pressures on music writing, and so on music, is blowing up my Tumblr, but it does feel like music in the last year has been structured by the internet in a qualitatively new way. The internet has been the way I (and I’m sure many people) have primarily found out about new music for years now, but it seems like the specific differences of the internet both accelerated and went mainstream this year. 2012 opened, more or less, with Lana Del Rey on Saturday Night Live and with her the mass-media arrival of FULL TROLLGAZE. I’m still not sure I get the economics of trollgaze.  I mean, we don’t literally live in an attention economy, and at some point you have to monetize this attention; I see how Buzzfeed can monetize Lana Del Rey’s controversy, but how does LDR make money by trolling people? But, then, I’m not sure her project is entirely about trollgaze; her music is actually quite good, particularly her more recent EP, which is more self-conscious in its deployment of the oddness of her voice and the creepiness of her lyrical choices, culminating with her summing up the sticky-sweet erotics of nostalgic Americana on “Cola.” The other side of the Buzzfeedification of music is the meme-ification of the one-hit wonder; a foreign-language song becoming a novelty hit on the basis of a dance video isn’t exactly new, but the way “Gangnam Style” became popular through YouTubed reinterpretations is kind of new (what effect will this have on the form of future one-hit wonders?). Read more↴

I think Farrah Abraham’s My Teenage Dream Ended is a pretty great album, and anyway since Alex Macpherson drew people’s attention to it, the consensus does seem to be at least that it is an interesting record. In the ensuing discussion, though, people have got stuck up on the question of Abraham’s intentionality: can a reality TV star really have “meant” to produce such a strange, dissonant and disturbing album? Perhaps I’ve just been immersed in postmodern theory too long, but I’m not sure what this means. Unless you want to contend the album is the result of random chance or the blind working of natural laws, of course it’s intentional; what does something so obvious have to do with aesthetics? Read more↴

In "Our Song," Swift asks god to give her a "song" made up of sounds from her everyday life; in the promotional art, this becomes a serious of words on a classroom chalkboard.In a piece written in 1990, Judith Butler writes of defensive feminist responses to postmodernism, in which postmodernism is the sign of “an impending nihilism” with “dangerous consequences” because politics, and particularly feminist politics, “requires a subject, needs from the start to presume its subject, the referentiality of language, the institutional descriptions it provides” (Feminist Contentions, 36). According to the view Butler is criticizing here, feminist politics needs to be defended from postmodern theory because postmodernism undermines “the referentiality of language,” that is, the idea that the meaning of language is fixed and under our control, or that language is a medium through which we can express our intentions. Two developments of the past few years make me think it is worth re-opening this discussion of the relationship between feminist politics and the referentiality of language: the feminist blogosphere and the lyrics of Taylor Swift. Read more↴

 I’m not sure anyone would have predicted that pop’s it couple of the turn of the century would still be defining pop music ten years later, but it’s basically true: the template for the rave/R&B crossover sound of most pop today, in its dissociative or obliterative forms, was largely set by Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds and Britney’s Blackout respectively (though of course they’d been gestating in various regional hip-hops previously). I guess the contemporary equivalent of Britney and Justin would be Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber, although their relative fame is reversed: I like Selena Gomez, but she obviously doesn’t have the cultural significance of Britney, while Bieber is unchallenged in his teen heartthrob supremacy in a way JT never was (possible just due to lack of competition; what other pop teenage boys are there now, except for One Direction?). Neither of them has produced anything that is likely to define pop for the next decade, either, but on the strength of Bieber’s new album, it’s not impossible that one day he might. Read more↴