[Note: If you aren't in the mood for a pedantic, smartypants, 90's-R&B obsessed rant, look away. Look away now! While you can!]
"It's easy to wax nostalgic," begins Danyel Smith's editor's letter in the VIBE's March issue. It's the magazine's 150th, and an occasion, apparently, to look back at what is egocentrically dubbed in later pages as, "the VIBE era." If it's easy to wax nostalgic, why does VIBE make it look so tough? The issue is littered with fact-checking errors. As someone who came into an intense, ride-or-die love for R&B at the beginning of said era, I find this infuriating.
Normally, I would feel crotchety for detailing such errors, but VIBE is way too proud of itself: in the intro the the reviews section (Revolutions) in which most of the factual errors pop up, it's callously stated that, "...we [VIBE] make lists because--when it comes to this stuff--we know of what we speak." That's not nearly as absolute as they make it sound. It's always a bit suspicious when a blogger takes on a mainstream publication because people inevitably assume there's bitterness behind it ("You're just hating because they would never hire you"). There's probably some of that behind what I'm doing here, but really, I like VIBE. Even before the indiscretions of the current issue, I wished I could love it. I wish it were less lowest-common-denominator oriented, that it thought more of its readers, that it offered a challenge at least once. Bringing Smith back on board appeared to be step in the right direction, but it's not big enough. Maybe the next order of business is to hire a decent fact-checker, for what follows are the inaccuracies that I found in the March issue. I'm putting them after the jump because things get really pedantic here and maybe even too dry for their own good:
- p. 163: In a cover story of Mary J. Blige (which, by the way, details her past with the magazine, but spinelessly leaves out the whole cover controversy of 2005 thing, the most memorable VIBE-Mary moment ever), "Real Love" is identified as Mary's "first video." It wasn't -- her first solo video was "You Remind Me" and even before that, she appeared in Father MC's "I'll Do 4 U" clip, since she sings on the hook.
- p. 214: In a brief write-up of SWV's It's About Time, "Teddy Riley's indisputable production" is lauded. The thing is, Riley had nothing to do with the creation of that album. It was largely helmed by Brian Alexander Morgan, whom at that point admittedly did little more than aim to copy Riley's swing. Riley did end up remixing many of Time's singles, most notably, "Right Here." His "Human Nature Remix" of the track went on to become the most popular, definitive version and was tacked onto future pressings of the disc. But that was just an afterthought (for the love of riding boots, it was on the Free Willy soundtrack!). When I think of that album, and I think about it a lot, I think of "Weak," "I'm So Into You" the original "Right Here" and "Downtown," the former being all Morgan and the latter, the work of Genard Parker.
- p. 215: Aaliyah's "Rock the Boat" is counted among Timbaland's "most sweltering work to date." This would be correct if Timbaland actually had a hand in that track. It was produced by Rapture Stewart and E Seats (Static from Playa wrote it). This is a mistake so common that Timbaland himself even seemed to make it: in "Make Me a Song," a track he produced for Kiley Dean, she requests that he craft her a track like "Rock the Boat," and he repeats, "OK." Maybe he can, but what he can't do is rewrite history.
- p. 215: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is referred to as Lauryn's "sole solo work." As much as everyone would like to forget Unplugged, it doesn't mean that it didn't happen.
Oh, and there's also on p. 183 the erroneous assertion that a diamond certification from the RIAA is for albums that have sold over 10 million units; it's for albums that have shipped that many units. Again, it's a common mistake and not exactly a world of difference, but if accuracy is possible at the cost of just a few more letters, why not go with it?
All of the above are, by themselves, minor points, stuff that music geeks quibble over and that any normal person would otherwise gloss over. And let's not forget that VIBE gets plenty right. But I don't know, there's something about them all together (and the possibility that there are more -- I may have missed some inaccuracies the hip-hop coverage, as I'm not so proficient in the minutae of that genre) that really irritates me, especially in light of that "we know of what we speak" arrogance. Everyone fucks up, but when you flaunt your knowledge so unmistakably, you make erring a lot less forgivable.