black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.


Lou Reed: the man rock music was waiting for

"When a famous rock star dies, there’s a natural tendency among fans and journalists alike to overstate the late figure’s importance: the former out of grief, the latter because it makes better copy. In Lou Reed’s case, that’s almost impossible to do, just as it’s almost impossible to imagine what rock music might sound like had the Velvet Underground never existed.

Elvis, Beatles and Dylan fans might be wont to disagree, but there’s a compelling argument that their 1967 debut The Velvet Underground And Nico is the single most influential album in rock history. Certainly, it’s hard to think of another record that altered the sound and vocabulary of rock so dramatically, that shifted its parameters so far at a stroke. Vast tranches of subsequent pop music exist entirely in its shadow: it’s possible that glam rock, punk, and everything that comes loosely bracketed under the terms indie and alt-rock might have happened without it, but it’s hard to see how.”

"You could tell from that first album alone that Reed was a bundle of contradictions: the man who wrote a ballad as straightforwardly beautiful as Femme Fatale was the same one that came up with Heroin, with its complex, amoral narrator and its astonishing lurches into howling sonic chaos.

He got more contradictory as his career went on. On the one hand, he embodied a certain kind of rock and roll attitude. The face he presented to the world, at least in interviews, was endlessly combative, contemptuous and taciturn and you could often see that reflected in his music: the four gruelling songs that make up side two of his 1973 concept album Berlin are quite astonishing expressions of coldness and cruelty.

On the other, he could write songs that were impossibly moving, that spoke of a tenderness and sensitivity: the lambent, peerless Pale Blue Eyes; Halloween Parade’s heartbreaking lament for New York’s gay community, devastated by Aids; his meditation on death, Magic And Loss. He was, when the mood took him, capable of writing perfect pop songs; he was equally capable of coming up with Metal Machine Music, his infamous 1975 double album of screaming noise, still the benchmark by which all musical screw-yous must be judged and are usually found wanting. Each side of his character inspired boundless numbers of copyists. It goes without saying that none of them were really like him at all. As it turned out, one of the most imitated artists in rock history was entirely inimitable.

Alexis Petridis | The Guardian

The explosion in music consumption over the last century has made ‘what you listen to’ an important personality construct – as well as the root of many social and cultural tribes – and, for many people, their self-perception is closely associated with musical preference. We would perhaps be reluctant to admit that our taste in music alters - softens even - as we get older.

Now, a new study suggests that - while our engagement with it may decline - music stays important to us as we get older, but the music we like adapts to the particular ‘life challenges’ we face at different stages of our lives.

It would seem that, unless you die before you get old, your taste in music will probably change to meet social and psychological needs.

One theory put forward by researchers, based on the study, is that we come to music to experiment with identity and define ourselves, and then use it as a social vehicle to establish our group and find a mate, and later as a more solitary expression of our intellect, status and greater emotional understanding.

"Miley exemplifies the white impulse to shake the stigma its mainstream status affords while simultaneously exercising the power of whiteness to define blackness."

The straight American “white girl” serves as the normative gender performance, the femininity from which all femininity deviates, through which all women of color are otherized. As the default, heteronormative white femininity must provide the ultimate foil to patriarchal masculinity. The “white girl” is vulnerable, trivial, and self-involved. Above all she is mainstream, either by consumer habits or design. Any resemblance to real-life white girls doesn’t matter; all exceptions are exempt from consideration. For every witchy, androgynous Rooney Mara, there’s a Taylor Swift, a Zooey Deschanel, and a Miley Cyrus. At least, there used to be a Miley Cyrus.”

For all its black performers, the rap industry has been run by the white establishment and caters to the white consumer. The commercial success of gangsta rap wouldn’t be possible without North America’s largest demographic buying in. The commercial demand for sexually aggressive and violent rap is appreciably shaped by white teens in the suburbs looking to live out their fantasies via imagined black bodies. And in guiding the market, white consumers dictate the available imagery of blackness.”

Like most dress-up games, racial drag is an exercise in fantasy, one that can exist only when femininity is constructed around whiteness, which in turn is constructed around purity. A desire to rebel against such a buttoned-up ethos leaves the white girl desperate for an identity through which to distinguish herself. To this end, white Americans have always been able to use black people.

Black women’s sexuality has been historically presented as deviant and exaggerated, somehow more “primitive.” The thrill of appropriation lies in accessing the perceived authenticity of black sexuality, the success of appropriation lies in abandoning its natural form. Transfer to a white body elevates the action. It’s no longer primitive because while nonwhite culture is assumed to be rooted in instinct, white culture is one of intent. Elaborate nail art, like the kind Miley wears now, appears stylish on a white girl but described as “ghetto” on a black girl because on the white girl, it’s an aesthetic choice whereas black girls just don’t know any better. White people clamoring to up their cred by appropriating nonwhite culture do so hoping to be rewarded for choices that are falsely seen as inherent in people of color. It’s this savvy that Miley wants us to be convinced of.”

Read on: Can the White Girl Twerk? | The New Inquiry 

©2011 Kateoplis