Rock Critics and “Teen Girl Adoration”
Posted by s woods on August 9, 2011
In response to a question posed on Tom Ewing’s (?) Tumblr — “why didn’t rock critics go harder for MCR?” (a.k.a. My Chemical Romance) — Maura Johnston (?)* writes:
Teen girl adoration, as Matthew noted, is deadly for any band that wants to be taken seriously by males above the age of, say, 13. You’re not serious, you’re too emotional/heart-on-sleeve, your looks are too much of a predictor of your talent, etc., etc. It’s a big reason why Justin Bieber’s people went to such great pains to have him collaborate with older, more established hip-hop artists — “if Ludacris likes him he can’t be that much of a pussy,” etc. (Well I guess that hypothesis falls apart w/r/t his collab w/Drake, COUGH.) See also Nick Jonas working with the NPG.
See, I find this all really interesting, but what’s a little odd about it, at least from my perspective — and note that I’m barely familiar with any of the actual people being discussed here, Bieber excepted (“Baby” being one of the better radio hits of 2010) — is that the rock critics I grew up
worshipping reading, the ones who essentially shaped my intellectual engagement with the world — Marcus, Marsh, Meltzer, Bangs, Christgau, Willis — the key writers in Stranded and in the Jim Miller-edited Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, not to mention pretty much the entire Creem crew — took for granted, mostly, not just that “teen girl adoration” was acceptable but that in many ways it was a crucial part of the story, with some critics going so far at times to even suggest that rock lost something when the Beatles “progressed” from screaming-girlism to capital-A you-know-what. I realize even while writing this that I am quite possibly engaging in some serious romanticizing b.s., in that it’s ridiculous to assume that the aforementioned golden agers a) spoke for all of rock criticism, ca. 1967-1980 (there are suggestions in some of these critics own words from the time that they too were engaged in similar battles with their critical counterparts), and b) formed as neat a consensus even amongst each other in regards to this stuff as I seem perilously close to suggesting here. Still something about that Tumblr conversation struck me. If it’s not exactly a not-in-Kansas-anymore thunderbolt of new awareness, I’m nonetheless intrigued by what appears to be a marked generational shift (a generational shift I am smack dab in the middle of) re: rock critics and teen pop/bubblegum/etc.
* The reason for all these bracketed question marks is I still have difficulty now and again following the who-what-where of Tumblr. I think it makes more sense when you’re inside the thing itself.