One of the perks of being a college radio DJ, besides the seemingly never-ending flow of new music, was the big table of music magazines. At WAIH (I forgot their new address) we got Rolling Stone, Spin, Blender and some other smaller publications. I liked thumbing through the pages and stopping on articles of interest to me. That stopped after graduation and left a music journalism void in my life.
So, I became a subscriber. Now I wonder if music journalism is an oxymoron.
“Chris,” I asked. “What music magazines do you like?” “For my money, nothing beats Rolling Stone.”
Rolling Stone is probably the best of the printed barrell, but that might not be saying much. It can’t decide if it wants to be a magazine about music or a limp wrested, liberal garbage magazine. And this is coming from a guy who voted for Kerry.
I can’t stand Bono…I like early U2, but when I hear Bono sing, and when I see him on TV meeting with the president about how important it is to give relief to poor African nations, and then he’s dancing around to try to sell you an iPod…how can you not see the fakeness? How can you ignore the blatant, disgusting marketing that is Bono? Every public appearance he’s wearing the shades. Every performance he’s staring into the camera since he’s such hot stuff. Every album since the Joshua Tree has S-U-C-K-E-D. It’s not that U2 isn’t talented or undeserving of success (like other pop stars), but they are completely overrated.
And Rolling Stone slaps him on the cover, staring right at you…with those shades (I guess all those flashbulbs are that bright, and since he’s always in the media he’s got to wear them so that he doesn’t burn out his retinas…?). And in the interview he talks about how HE’S even sick of seeing himself everywhere.
And to be a nerd for a second, they have shots of him in his NYC apartment working on his laptop. It’s not an iBook or a Powerbook. When Apple released the U2 iPod Bono had nothing but praise for Steve Jobs and said something to the effect of being proud to work with Apple because they make such great products and change the world and yadda yadda yadda. I don’t mind celebrities endorsing products as long as they actually believe in what they’re selling. Bono? No. He is fake, fake, fake. It’s not like he can’t afford an iBook or that Apple wouldn’t even give him one. You got something that you want to sell and have the money for the endorsement? Bono is there. When he gets older he’s going to be selling life insurance like Mickey Rooney or whoever that old guy is.
And that’s another thing! NO MORE ONE WORD NAMES AND ALIASES! Bono? Isn’t your real name something like Daniel or William or Gordon, like Sting? Did that name not fit in the first album’s liner notes? “How can we shorten this up, THE EDGE?” Brand yourself! It works for so many other companies; Fresca, Dodge, Toyota, Pepsi, Downy…Skynet. It can work for U2., Inc.
And those laptops, no matter which company sells them, are likely made by the poor third-world citizens that Bono is trying to save. Way to get stuck in a moment that you can’t get out of.
Rolling Stone doesn’t pretend to be a fair and balanced magazine, which is accurate. Although I lean towards the left and even I get tired of all the anti-right copy. Karl Rove, Tom Delay…etc. Yeah, we get it, you’re into politics now. It’s too bad you don’t cover all the evil Democrats either.
It’s like an inversion of Fox News. Fox News is all about good wholesome family values like not being gay, and how the secularists (!!!) are trying to take their nation away. They never say anything bad about Republicans. Rolling Stone? It’s sex (orientation notwithstanding), drugs, rock n’ roll, and equally as biased and ignorant.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s hard to think of Rolling Stone with journalistic integrity. Put Jessica Alba on the cover to get the teenage boys to buy, fill it with some music, game and DVD reviews, and then try to communicate to them some political message that they’ll never read while they’re in the bathroom yanking it. Sounds like a plan.
I would love to be able to open this magazine up someday without being ambushed by the aroma of all the crap cologne and perfume inserts. I would also like that magazine to be worth reading.
Spin is different than Rolling Stone in that while Rolling Stone is the pinnacle of pop music magazines, Spin is like the little brother of Rolling Stone. It tries to be cool like big brother and mimics him as much as he can. Then, he reaches adolescence and realizes that he’s got to form his own clique, that he’ll never be exactly like his older brother, but he’s kind of an asshole anyway.
So he makes some friends, establishes a treehouse and shows all his readers what the treehouse is like.
And you aren’t invited.
What I like about Spin is that it hasn’t completely lost sight of being a music magazine. The only way it strays from being dedicated to music are the movie and games reviews, but considering the market. Spin readers are young and this is what they care about.
They also care about impressing you with the possibility that they may look like your favorite celebrity. In the Feedback section is a spotlight that compares a reader-submitted photo with a picture of a music celebrity, and Spin gets to tell you if you really look like him or her.
One of the things I hate about modern culture is how much emphasis is put on celebrities. Celebrities are NOT Gods, and many of them don’t contribute much to society other than dumbing it down in The Simple Life. They are people who can act, play an instrument, sing and/or look pretty (all of these are debatable depending on who you’re talking about). Spin glorifies this by doing this kind of crap. They have write-ups of parties you’ll never go to because you aren’t a Spin publisher. You’ll never get to meet Brandon Flowers of the Killers at some promotional event, but a typical Spin reader will wish that they could. They become striving music journalist wannabes. If they don’t get into Spin, look out Blender.
However, when it comes to music reviews and exposure, Spin has it over Rolling Stone. You may read about The Darkness or Jay-Z in Rolling Stone alongside the monthly article on how badly the Bush Administration is fucking things up, but Spin will cover more obscure groups that need preaching instead of another Get Your War On comic that is still not funny.
Two-faced, lying garbage.
The latest issue of Blender I got had Ashlee Simpson on the cover. She was dressed in her tightest clothes, boobs all mashed together. The feature was all about her turning 21, partying in Las Vegas with her manager father, mother and sister, how she’s gotten past the Saturday Night Live fiasco (how is it that she’s still famous after this and both Mill and Vanilli are dead? It’s 100 times worse than tearing up a picture of the pope), and how she wants to make everyone happy through her songs about stealing boyfriends. The Blender feature made it look like Ashlee is the new queen of pop. She opens her heart to us, saying that everyone is looking for someone like her, “a Simpson”, to slip up and embarrass herself. Let’s not forget that every Sunday at 8pm there’s at least another Simpson doing the same thing. IN THE SAME ISSUE they tear her album apart. They give it two stars. If she isn’t that good then why are you doing a feature on her?!
Blender (and probably most pop music magazines) is made up of bitter people who were in bands that never made it. It tries to hip-ify itself with features like “The CD We’re Totally Gay For” (WTF does that mean?) and another all-round emphasis on worthless celebrities.
However, Blender still has more music content than Rolling Stone.
Finally somebody gets it right.
Maybe I like Pitchfork more because they’re geared more towards indie music, and I like indie music because it’s more concerned with making music than making a huge disproportionate amount of sales. I don’t think that’s the whole story. Pitchfork doesn’t insult my intelligence with faux celebrity praise, “When Will Your Favorite Pop Star Croak” and spreadsheets comparing possessions and club spots. I would pay double the price of Blender for a print version of Pitchfork.
Plus, Pitchfork is light years ahead of all the other rags when it comes to helping readers discover new music. Case in point: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
I have not listened to the debut Clay Your Hands Say Yeah album yet, but I know that Pitchfork really likes it. They wrote about it way back in June. The other guys? In Rolling Stone there was a feature on some Laguna Beach chick, and they were talking about Britney Spears’ baby. At the end they wrote something like “But don’t worry little Federline, just clap your hands say yeah!”
…what? Is this an inside joke? Did they write this thinking that nobody would notice? When did they even cover the band? Wikipedia says that Rolling Stone recognized Clap Your Hands Say Yeah as the “Hot New Band of 2005”. When?
And then in the December 2005 issue of Spin there’s a review of the Talking Heads box set (page 111). SPIN RUNS THE SAME GODDAMN JOKE! The review chalks up the box set us a bookend and ends with “There, we’ve said it. Now clap your hands and say yeah.”
WTF? Talking Heads influences aside…the same little, smart-alecky joke. That’s a great example of Spin trying to be like the cooler, older brother.
Pitchfork? Much more concerned about the music than tongue in cheek references.
Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to work with the name, like some kind of fucked up Davinci Code. I don’t know.