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This place matters

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A nightmare dressed like a daydream

There's this radio show called Dinner Party Download I've listened to a couple of times. It appears to be a primer for hipsters and yuppies looking to become more pretentious. Each episode includes a round table discussion in which a group of yupsters come together for a snooty-off, and in a recent broadcast, got their snooty on over Taylor Swift. Her fans will listen to anything, they opined, so the poor suckers who write her music for her shouldn't feel proud of themselves if their song is a hit.
Of course, they weren't aware that Swift writes all her own songs. Or that actually, her songs are really well crafted... this according to folks like rock goddess Stevie Nicks, who compares her songwriting ability to Elton John and Neil Diamond. Carly Simon and James Taylor performed with her. Bruce Springsteen attended a recent show, surprised her backstage, and serenaded her with her own guitar. And Rolling Stone has said of her, "she’s one of the few genuine rock stars we’ve got these days, with a flawless ear for what makes a song click." Her hooks are catchy as hell, and she's got a voice like an angel singing lullabies to butterflies. Love her or hate her, she's got great talent and knows exactly what she's doing. 
There's no accounting for taste, but there is accounting for talent. So while it's totally fair not to like her, or to want to take an ice pick to your ears every time Love Story comes on the radio at Target, claiming she sucks without knowing anything about her just makes you look kind of ignorant.
You do not want to piss this girl off.
I hear "sucks" get thrown around a lot about musicians who decidedly do not. I once heard a supposed music fan say that Santana "sucked" and lost pretty much all respect for their opinion. Not because I like Santana, I rather actively don't like him. But he's pretty universally considered one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time, so claiming he sucks is a bit like me claiming Beethoven is overrated (Beethoven might be overrated for all I know, but I don't know classical music well enough to identify my doctor's office's hold music, so I really couldn't say).  
And it got me thinking about how so often, people choose music based more on the image they want to project of themselves than on what they actually think is good. I love hip hop so I can't listen to country. I love Patti Smith so I have to hate Taylor Swift. I'm a badass so I only listen to music where the singers scream unintelligibly over guitar riffs that are more distortion than melody.
And yet, the musicians we're so faithful to are listening to music we'd never stoop to listening to ourselves. One Nas song samples Chopin's Fall of Warsaw. Eminem sampled Soft Cell. The White Stripes did a kickass cover of Dolly Parton's Jolene, which is a freaking great song, whatever your opinion of country. Jack White produced a Loretta Lynn album. Hell, if Darryl "DMC" McDaniels is willing to call himself a Sarah McLaughlin fan, I think the rest of us can admit to getting the nigh irresistible urge to shake it whenever Shake It Off comes on.
Funny - Rage Against the Machine did a cover of Springsteen's Ghost of Tom Joad, and Bruce fans flipped out over how awful the cover is, how much Rage Against the Machine sucks. These fans think they're being faithful to the Boss, ignoring the fact that Bruce obviously thought enough of the band as to let them cover the song. In fact, he has performed the song with Rage lead singer Tom Morello live and on his latest album, and it's got one of the best guitar duets seriously in the history of rock and roll. More on that soon...




I loath cell phone vids, but I love this performance. 

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