Plus: In praise of Joni Mitchell, why authenticity is in, justice for Lana Del Rey, and more.
Every couple of years there's maybe one outstanding performance at the Grammys, and I can catch it on YouTube. That way I don't have to suffer through hours of boredom and repetition.
I don't know if it was my age or my dislike of modern culture, but I did not know anyone who was written about it, so I went to YouTube and listened to Lana Del Rey. My cutoff point for listening to music was the turn of the century, and maybe I was spoiled to be born into an age of the greatest music. So as not to be an old geezer, I listened to Lana Del Ray's Norman F Rockwell and thought it was ok; she had a great voice, but put her in another era; she's middle of the pack.
What I found so different in what Julia Steinberg wrote was the conversation about the music. I just listened to Bono sing in U2 and was moved by the lyrics; I was awed by the masterpiece of Iron Maiden in the Number of the Beast. I thought the hair bands were great and still have not forgiven Grunge for killing them. I might have talked to friends about it, but I didn't have this vast ecosystem of social media to debate it or hear the criticism of it. I might have heard about something watching MTV, but it was mainly about the music and loving it, not making some statement about who I was or what the era stood for. That is a significant change in culture with social media; — Social Justice warriors can rage about any and everything, as everyone has an opinion and is easily offended. What has changed is not appreciating the music but sharing what I think to the world. It's not good or bad, just new.
I now know who Lana Del Ray is and have more insight into the music world. Thanks, Free Press, for giving me different intellectual tastes to savor.
I didn’t realize that I had subscribed to Buzzfeed. My eyes are bleeding.
Grammys? I think I heard of that once. A bunch of people in a room congratulating each other, right?
I've struggled for decades in search of What's Wrong With Us?. The answer was right there all the time. We have abandoned all standards.
When speaking of Russian moroseness, how can you forget Tchaikovsky, the soul of Russian angst? His Fifth Symphony is what I would like to hear while on my deathbed, especially that third movement which ALWAYS brings me to tears. One day, my wife and daughter, then BOTH quite young, came home after a shopping trip while I was sitting on the floor, listening to that Fifth Symphony. After looking at my face, my 10-year-old daughter said, "Mommy, why is daddy crying?"
Tchaikovsky struggled his whole life with his homosexuality, trying a social marriage, and then trying suicide, BOTH unsuccessful. His tortured soul produced some of the most soaring, AND overblown, music of his time. He will ALWAYS be my favorite. And if you are in an especially morose mood, try listening to the last movement of his Sixth Symphony, which ends on such a downer note that you will want to watch some Looney Tunes cartoons to recover!
"And our hunger for authentic musical artists has never been greater"
Yet nearly every artist described used MIDI to create their music and auto tune to correct their pitch. A recording process that took months now takes days, hours.
Similarly, there hasn't been a new genre of music in decades. Mumble rap and drill doesn't count, it's still just shitty rap.
The reason why most music sounds fake and stagnant is because it is fake and stagnant.
"It’s ladies’ night at the Grammys this year, with female solo acts like Billie Eilish, SZA, and Olivia Rodrigo duking it out in the heavyweight categories. And, of course, Taylor Swift. Will the Swift juggernaut keep on rolling? Surely! "
I'd watch but I've got to clean The Grout in the bathroom.
Thank you TFP. I don't have TV so didnt realize it was Grammy time. As a music lover, I enjoyed all the analysis and am looking forward to some new listening. There is so much music available now from brilliant to bad. I hear you Lana. I've missed you Tracy, shine tomorrow. And Joni, keep being the legend you are!
Btw..it's nice not to hear gloom and doom ALL the time. Turn up the volume and enjoy your Saturday friends 🧡
There's a quote in the Joni Mitchell piece where the author tells us that anyone who likes a particular album is a stupid, deplorable person. I think it was an Olivia Newton John album. Proof of which (I hope I'm not mis-remembering this) is some ranking in some Rolling Stone piece by another author.
Music is very personal to people and music can be quite meaningful in your life. Some music is very specific and other music appeals to a larger group of people.
But I look at these articles today - in celebration of whether one person or another person receives an arbitrary award - and I think you've lost your collective minds out there in TFP-land.
Whether you like Olivia Newton-John's voice or Joni Mitchell's voice, who cares? It's your album collection or digital music feed.
Music critics simply don't get it. They compete to come up with analogies to the process of listening to songs. It can get very creative and that's what passes for music commentary.
"listening to this Joni Mitchell song is like taking a walk with your beloved dog on a crisp fall morning, the smell of burning leaves in the air, chilly but not too cold. Winter is just around the corner, and you're full of anticipation for a cup of steaming hot chocolate as you climb the steps back to your home."
Just bleah. Next week, I anticipate screes about the Super Bowl from writers who hate football and wouldn't know the difference between a slant route and a zone blitz. And 500 mentions of Taylor Swift and her tight end.
I try to avoid hearing or reading about these people. Now I am being force fed this material on a constant basis by TFP. I didn't sign up for this. I mostly signed up for Bari but all I am getting is Oliver Wiseman these days.
I’ve never listened to Lana del Rey until after reading this. Quite incredible. And this coming from someone who usually prefers listening to dead people and reading Russian literature.
I’m outside his demographic by 30 years but Noah Kahan is a gift. He truly captures both old timer New England angst and Gen Z’s focus on mental health in a direct honest way that keeps you (or at least me) coming back.
Oliver, I suspect you're familiar with it, but check out Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suites 1 through 6. Almost everyone is familiar with the Prelude to Suite #1, but each suite builds on the complexity of the one before and they are simply sublime. How many of today's artists will still be treasured 300 years from now?
We have decades of better music to listen to. I stopped watching any awards show, years ago. I spent several years volunteering in and photographing an expansive, local live music scene. I've heard far better music, in person.
My adult sons don't even listen to any of the popular stuff that's out there. Awards shows are popularity contests. They're not a reflection of quality and not indicative of good taste.