In Defense of Schlock

In a 166-word blurb in the 1983 edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide, Dave Marsh, the Bruce Springsteen biographer and guardian of rock-critical orthodoxy, gave one-star reviews to all of Journey’s albums while emptying his rucksack of insults: “Stepford Wives rock,” “calculated,” “nitwit,” “plodding,” “banality,” “utter triviality,” “exploitative cynicism,” and worst of all, surely, by Marsh’s lights, “Paul Anka and Pat Boone.” Rolling Stone’s regular magazine … Continue reading In Defense of Schlock

Epic Tuesday Reads #4: Five Years, Two Million Words

In the last five years, there have been nearly 3400 songs covered from over 60 countries, with about 30,000 individual paragraph-long reviews from us adding up to about 2,000,000 (two million) words. It’d take you a week solid to read the site from front to back. We don’t recommend you do that, so here are some highlights from our first five years. Feel free to … Continue reading Epic Tuesday Reads #4: Five Years, Two Million Words

Epic Tuesday Reads #3: Why We Fight About Pop Music

In 2007, the Canadian music critic Carl Wilson published a book-length experiment in extreme aesthetic sport: a sincere and shockingly comprehensive study of music he had already decided he hated. That book, Let’s Talk About Love, named for the Celine Dion album it studied, has become a cornerstone text in the school of criticism known as “poptimism,” because it treats seemingly disposable pop music as … Continue reading Epic Tuesday Reads #3: Why We Fight About Pop Music

Epic Tuesday Reads #2: The Trouble With Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Chart

Ideally, any effective genre chart—be it R&B, Latin, country, even alt-rock—doesn’t just track a particular strain of music, which can be marked by ever-changing boundaries and ultimately impossible to define. It’s meant to track an audience. This is a subtle but vital difference. If an R&B chart tries to cover whatever might be termed R&B music, you get into the subjective, slippery business of determining what, or who, … Continue reading Epic Tuesday Reads #2: The Trouble With Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Chart

On the “Greater Mysteries Contained Within”

“Critics write about pop music because many of them actually love it, and even when they don’t, they want to figure out why they don’t. It’s like that woman’s ‘My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection’ blog, except instead of Albert Ayler LPs, it’s Katy Perry videos, and instead of a smug veneer of ‘this is elitist and bad,’ they’re genuinely curious about the hows and whys … Continue reading On the “Greater Mysteries Contained Within”

Pop as Self-denial

“I’ve long suspected that those who rail most vehemently against the banalities of mainstream pop do so because they can’t stand the fact that they react to the music. It drives them crazy to hear a snippet of ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’ and then have the damned hook bouncing around their head for the rest of the afternoon. But rather than … Continue reading Pop as Self-denial

Pop as a Sickness

“People sometimes ask why a serious, well-educated, intellectual fellow such as me wastes his time and enthusiasm on the most insignificant passing trends and the most contrived, trashy music he can find. And I don’t know what to say. I just can’t get into George Harrison, Seals & Crofts or even Van Morrison and the Band. I like that stuff, but it simply doesn’t excite … Continue reading Pop as a Sickness

On the “Pernicious Rise of Poptimism”

“Poptimism now not only demands devotion to pop idols; it has instigated an increasingly shrill shouting match with those who might not be equally enamored of pop music. Disliking Taylor Swift or Beyoncé is not just to proffer a musical opinion, but to reveal potential proof of bias. Hardly a week goes by in music-critic land without such accusations flying to and fro.” – Saul … Continue reading On the “Pernicious Rise of Poptimism”

Singles Jukebox Comment Competition

The Singles Jukebox turned five this week, and to celebrate this achievement, they’re having a contest: “So for the next three weeks, we’re having a comment competition! The best comment on any entry posted this year will win a $30 iTunes voucher, or equivalent… The competition closes at 11.59pm Friday April 4, U.S. Eastern time. So think long and hard, put fingers to keyboard and … Continue reading Singles Jukebox Comment Competition

Pet Shop Boys, Critically (4)

In light of recent and future Pet Shop Boys podcasts around here, this post from a couple years ago is probably worth a revisit — Neil Tennant Recalls Smash Hits Days in Word Magazine Podcast (the podcast is still available) — but even better is this interesting BBC program from 2012 on the same topic, which someone posted for our listening pleasure at YouTube. Continue reading Pet Shop Boys, Critically (4)