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Sat October 6, 2012
The Week In Music: What To Read Now, Insider Edition
Before you do anything else, read this: writer Eric Ducker and New York Times pop music critic Jon Caramanica in conversation about the music journalism industry. A few takeaways: There are not enough hours in the day. We all must rage against the dying of curiosity, and stay woke — "One should have a healthy skepticism about what's in your mailbox, and why it's there," says Caramanica. He also says the bylined are responsible for their journalism, but the focus and delivery of music coverage is effected by "way more than editors. You're talking about graphic designers and photo editors. You're talking about advertising sales people and marketing managers. You're talking about moving a very big ship."
As our intern, Briana Younger wrote, "I just love it. From an (aspiring) music writer's perspective and also as an average person who might be wondering why her favorite artist is or isn't covered in a particular way, or covered at all. For someone like me, it helps to clear it up."
Eat your veggies, then you can have Kenny G, Daddy Yankee, Baroness, Kreayshawn and Grizzly Bear.
One might assume that in these times of economic strife and Internet revolution in the music industry, the field of smooth jazz would remain anchored by its core audience of diverse, middle-aged folks and dentists' waiting rooms. Apparently not: radio stations, historically the genre's lifeblood, are switching formats left and right, and album sales are on the decline. So what happened? For JazzTimes, David Adler — who has contributed to NPR Music — talks to lots of veteran musicians and industry insiders for their takes on the situation, and how they're dealing with it. (A special sidebar goes to Kenny G, who, identified by his adopted surname G, blames bland second-rate imitators.) Part of what makes this work is that Adler and JazzTimes decline to condescend about the much-derided category — or at least keep a straight face through it all. --Patrick Jarenwattananon
Beyond Eminem, white rappers have struggled to prove their legitimacy in a hip-hop industry that is largely dominated by African-American men. Female rappers in general are extremely underrepresented, but white females are, for the most part, nonexistent — save for these compiled by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd in Spin. Labels have been searching for a female "melanin-deficient" rapper to ultimately mold into a pop star, but "it's been the rare white-girl MC talent who has been willing to sell her street cred for corporate clams." When Kreayshawn's "Gucci Gucci" became an overnight YouTube sensation, she signed a million dollar deal, and people genuinely believed this might be the one (until she dropped a monumental failure of a debut album). But most of Shepherd's list contains moments from the past five years — most meaning half — so we must be getting close. --Briana Younger
If you have friends who read about music on the Internet, this piece was the surest-fire prompt for someone in your Twitter feed to crow about proof that indie musicians are doomed. But behind a trio of misleading sensational headlines ("Is Rock Stardom Any Way to Make a Living?" on the cover of New York magazine, "Down and Out in the Top 10" inside and "Grizzly Bear Members Are Indie-Rock Royalty, But What Does That Buy Them in 2012?" on the website), Nitsuh Abebe's profile of the Brooklyn-based band Grizzly Bear is really a sensitively-drawn illustration of how confusing it is to be a moderately successful band in today's music marketplace. Why? Bottom line: Internet fame and a commercial licensing deal do not ensure long-term financial solvency, not when you can't count on turning fans into paying customers. So being a band (rather than a brand) never stops being a gamble, on top of which any major decision still involves negotiation and consensus among four strong-willed individuals, even ones who are thoughtful, deliberate and realistic about their place in the world. (I still don't buy the assertion that the band makes "irrelevantly small amounts" of money from Spotify, though.) --Jacob Ganz
In the face of tragedy, we are confronted with our own mortality. Some come out stronger than before, some never recover. When the bus belonging to metal band Baroness plunged into an embankment while on an August U.K. tour, that moment was all too real for guitarist and vocalist John Baizley. Thankfully, the band and crew survived, with nine passengers taken to the hospital. But to call Baizley's letter to fans an "update" on their situation is an understatement; it's a powerful reminder that passion is indestructible. The harrowing and savagely detailed account of the bus crash is enough to get a glimpse of the horror, but Baizley weaves disaster with revelation, especially in the final paragraph, a moment of clarity portrayed against a shattered pane of glass. --Lars Gotrich
Matt Barbot, writing at Remezcla, skewers Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee for launching a new tequila line with the same name as his record label (El Cartel Records). He calls the decision "a little insensitive," referring to the ongoing drug war in Mexico. His post itself is brief, but the comments section is worth reading as well. There are those who come to Daddy Yankee's defense and those who take the view that he's a very famous rapper of questionable talent, and one should really not take him too seriously. Then there's reader Ale Arredondo, who writes, "You want to attack glorification? Attack Telemundo." The Spanish language network airs a show about Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar's life. In other words, if we are going down this road of Latin culture self-reflection, we might not have enough fingers on our hands for pointing. Barbot provoked an essential conversation that too often happens behind closed doors: What exactly are we buying into? --Jasmine Garsd