For work this week, Zach Baron and I had a little back-and-forth to sum up the year in music. You can read it here. Zach is a tremendous writer and thinker and a positive motivating force within my writing life. I really think that he makes me better.
Anyway, on a solo and, by my logic, worsened tip, I have a few stray points and elaborations about all this (and also a rant about Facebook) left to share, and so they are below:
- House's stronghold on pop music remains indomitable. If you turned on the radio for 10 minutes this year, you know that, but there is also numerical proof. Six out of ten songs on Billboard's Hot 100 songs of 2011 sport a four-on-the-floor beat (Adele's "Rolling in the Deep," LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem," Katy Perry's "Firework," Pitbull's "Give Me Everything," Bruno Mars' "Grenade," Maroon Five's "Moves Like Jagger"). That number moves up to six and a half if you count Black Eyed Peas' Frankensteinian "Just Can't Get Enough. Two more – Perry's dubstep inflected "E.T.," and Nicki Minaj's bass-lite "Superbass" – use broken rhythms that nonetheless speak to the weight of the dance-music juggernaut as a whole. If you told me in 2007 that this would be the way things would turn out, I would not have believed you. As brutish and just plain dumb as this pop-house can be, I like most of the songs listed here, even the embarrassing one (it's gotta be some primal gay response that has me so receptive to the guiding thump – I do not turn off "Moves Like Jagger" when it comes on the radio, and I sing along!). "Give Me Everything" was my song of the summer. I want Pitbull to get me pregnant. Life is good.
- That said, I love the idea of people like DEV ("In the Dark") and Alexandra Stan ("Mr. Saxobeat") being potential one-hit wonders (fingers crossed, no offense!). This is despite my lack of appreciation for their artistry (DEV's voice is pathetic Ke$sha aspiration, which UGH, and her little monster paws are straight-up tragic, while "Mr. Saxobeat" is fucking annoying and what the fuck is a saxobeat? Only in Romania!). Just like celebrities ousted supermodels from the covers of fashion magazines, pop stars took over the radio-dance scene in a sharp contrast to the '90s, when major-label deals were being flung at unknowns who'd go on to be good for maybe one Top 40 hit, maybe none (Uncanny Alliance were on A&M!!!!). If we're going to do retroism right (and we seem bent on it), we're going to need some dance divas that retain their nobody status. I'll remember them fondly.
- With Adele turning adult contemporary schmaltz back into a viable force on Top 40 radio (something that's been brewing for years, by the way – remember "If I Were a Boy?" – and at this point is either peaking or redefining our taste for the foreseeable future), I dub 2011 the Year of the Gut. Guy Maddin's words (as quoted in Carl Wilson's Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste) haven't seemed so relevant since Celine Dion was capable of landing in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100: "I think that melodrama isn't life exaggerated but life uninhibited."
- As a child who carried around each book in whatever series I was reading (it was always a series!), a youth with a box of no fewer than 20 tapes on me during even the briefest road trips and a teenager who routinely traveled with my book of 50 CDs, I have spent the bulk of my lifetime of pop-culture consuming putting a premium on the notion of choice. I currently carry around 160 gigs of music on an increasingly fragmented/decreasingly functional iPod classic wherever I go. For this reason, Spotify is of no use to me. I do not mean to come off as a chronic masturbator, but no one does me like I do. Anything Spotify can do, I can do better. This includes the social networking component – I loathe the status updates that result when people have their Facebook and Spotify accounts synchronized and I loathe the very concept of them more. Listening to something does not imply endorsement and is often in the service of my work. You'll know what I'm listening to when I want you to know.
- As a total aside to the music stuff, this reminds me of my general experience with Facebook, which is kind of a virtual rash I suspect I'll have for life as a result of my brief time at TVGuide.com (I had to sign up in order to blast out our stories, which was adding insult to the injury of having to get involved with Facebook in the first place). The idea that everyone can see much of what I do and like online without qualification is paralyzing to me because it betrays my passion and a huge part of my existence – my vision of taste has much more to do with why than what, and so to only present the latter gives a skewed vision of me as an experiencer. For this reason, I only accept friend requests from people that I know in real life (and the occasional fellow writer whose work makes the connection slightly stronger than a stranger) in hopes that they'll understand. And even then I use Facebook sparingly. Aside from invites to parties, looking at terrible photography and making sense of one's life by ascribing meaningless numerical values to potentially every facet, I'm still not sure that I see the point of Facebook at all. (This is just in case there was still any doubt in your head as to whether or not I am here to make friends.)