Sunday, April 06, 2008

FAT GUY IN WEDDING DRESS, FRONT & BACK: Cream-of-the-crop music journalism

"Besides, the flow of new music is so daunting that critics find themselves buried beneath piles of 'important' new stuff," Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times boldly proclaimed a couple weeks ago. "The channels that help determine which artists 'matter' have multiplied as well. There's no consensus. Established critics need to be knocked from their pedestals."

If "no consensus" now means "knee-jerk consensus" this is exactly true.

Music journalists -- rock critics -- are at their very best when being phony about the true state of affairs in their profession. They never like to admit the obvious. Ignore the people behind the curtain who, in a world with an overwhelming number of outlets for publishing, choose to run with the same subject, often on the very same day, in many places.

Excellent groupthinkers, they march in lockstep to the schedule of record releases even when it exposes them as tools in the tank for record companies and publicists. Instead they pretend it's something deeper, like starting a dialogue about an artist or the putting of a new release in its proper context.

Keep in mind, music journalists aren't exactly like reporters on the national desks at major newspapers and networks. Covering some ludicrous-looking fat guy named Cee-Lo Green and "THe Odd Couple," the latest release by Gnarls Barkley, isn't the same as covering the President's latest embarrassments and atrocities. With elections coming, it's helpful to civic life in America to see that the outgoing leader of the GOP is adequately covered in hundreds of newspapers. But no one would be hurt if deprived of hundreds of pics of the tattooed obese fellow in a wedding dress just because he has a new record.

DD subscribes to the Los Angeles Times and the Sunday New York Times. On opposite sides of the continent and the top standard-bearers in newspaperland, they have a readership that's a little bit beyond that of whatever local shopper passes for the town daily in thousands of 'burgs 'cross the land. They can afford to show a little latitude.

So what do they do in their arts sections for the biggest edition of the week? The great pop music journalists and editors cover exactly the same thing, almost as if they worked it out between themselves.

To illustrate:


Tough-looking fat guy, Cee-Lo, in wedding dress -- front view. In the Los Angeles Times, article by Richard Cromelin.


Tough-looking fat guy, Cee-Lo, in wedding dress -- aft view. In the New York Times, article by Jeff Chang, same day.

Of course, reporters and free-lancers generally don't pick the pics or art for their pieces. But the brain-dead choices on display in the country's flagship Sunday editions undo any impression that a reader is about to get some hot scoop. (Well, maybe a different kind of steaming hot scoop.)

Instead, it says: "This is the promo art to go with the cattle-call interview, done in Beverly Hills, where the stars consented to grant an audience to the corps of professional suck-ups."

" 'Those images of the marriage and the name 'Odd Couple' are symbolic of our commitment to [Gnarls Barkley]' says [Cee-Lo Green], sitting in a Beverly Hills hotel suite with Danger Mouse during a recent round of pre-release interviews," reports Cromelin for the LATimes.

"[Cee-Lo] is the bride," Danger Mouse told Cromelin, who told readers, in case they couldn't tell.

"When [Gnarls Barkley] performed [their previous single] 'Crazy' at the MTV Movie Awards in 2006, Cee-Lo dressed as Darth Vader and Danger Mouse as Obi-Wan Kenobi," reports Jeff Chang for the NYTimes.

"During the interview, Cee-Lo wore a white T-shirt and black polo sweat pants, a diamond-encrusted necklace and a sparking Rolex beneath a tattoo of a laughing clown. Danger Mouse wore a thick camouflage jacket and an ironic rock T-shirt."

Hey, more more more!


Gnarls Barkley wedding-dress shtick -- at the LA Times.

Gnarls Barkley wedding-dress shtick -- at the NYTimes.

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