Saturday, May 02, 2015



I never get tired of reading "best record shops" articles, usually accompanied by photos to whet the record shopping appetite.  FWIW, I've only visited five of these (two in Vienna, two in Berlin, one in Milan).  For whatever reason, the Parisian shops are the most stylish and best organized of the bunch.


This has been linked everywhere over the past week, but Clickhole's "oral history" of Radiohead's "OK Computer" is genius.  I think that the best parodies are written by the biggest fans, but since I'm not a Radiohead fan, I can't really gauge whether their fans are horrified by this article or are laughing along with it (not that I really care ... screw you, Radiohead fans!)

This is the most quotable music article I've read in years, so picking a favourite bit is just about impossible, but for now I'll go with this one: "'OK Computer' was an important album because it opened the door to more music about computers doing things, like playing guitars. Now, there are albums about computers riding bicycles, boxing each other, and drinking coffee. This was inconceivable before 'OK Computer'".


I think Maroon 5's "Sugar" may be the most self-indulgent music video I've ever seen, and that covers a LOT of ground -- "November Rain", "Justify My Love", "Trapped In the Closet", "Bound 2", everything Michael Jackson released in the 90's, and way too many more to mention.  But all those other songs (well, except for "Bound 2") have one simple thing in common.  They're great songs, and great videos.  Almost by definition, an artist has to be legitimately great to reach the level of popularity (with fans and with the record labels who are paying for these music videos) where they're afforded to possibility of being so self indulgent.  Each of these acts were several years into superstardom when these videos were made as well.  These videos are special because they represent something entirely different from the kinds of videos those artists would normally do up to that point in their careers.  Their longevity and consistent success at the highest levels of the industry had made just about all of their videos iconic.  That's why it was so notable when they switched gears and made their self-indulgent hot mess.  When a relative newcomer tries it, it often comes across like a publicity stunt, a plea for attention, or in the post-2005 world, desperation clickbait (hello, "Wrecking Ball").

Maroon 5's success has always baffled me.  In 2004, I would have bet huge money them being a one hit wonder on the back of "This Love", the token alternative MOR minor radio hit of the 00's, or roughly what Fastball's "The Way" was to the late 90's.  Barring that, I couldn't possibly envision their ceiling being higher than The Black Crowes, with two songs (one uptempo, one ballad) becoming radio staples off their breakthrough album, followed by a slow slide into chart irrelevance albeit with a healthy career as a touring band until they decided to finally call it quite a decade and a half later.  And yet here they are, five albums into their career, and a pop radio phenomenon.  You can argue that it wouldn't have happened without Adam Levine serving as a judge on "The Voice", but that kind of exposure from the "American Idol" franchise didn't save Jennifer Lopez's career (barring one fluky hit single featuring Pitbull).    

Their spectacular record of success aside, Maroon 5 have made a career out of releasing a steady train of unmotivating and unmotivated bland pop pleasantries, slick enough to nicely mesh into whatever pop radio is playing at the time, but without showing the tiniest spark of inspiration or giddy creativity to suggest that they care one bit about anything other than maximizing their brand potential.  They are to 10's rock what 50 Cent was to 00's hip-hop.  Unlike the other examples of beautiful self-indulgence I mentioned, "Sugar" is an awful song, and the video is nauseating.

The video is predicated on the idea that a surprise appearance by Maroon 5 at a wedding would be the most exciting thing to happen in the lives of every bride and groom in the country.  The video then proceeds to show this premonition coming true over and over again.  Whether the video was staged or not is besides the point.  If it was "real" then we know there was plenty of prompting by anxious producers involved in getting the necessary shots for the video (everybody knows how "reality" shows work these days).  And if it was staged, well, fuck everyone involved for staging it and giving interviews trying to pass it off as real.  The interviews read like your standard reality show script -- great idea, what if they don't like us? (dramatic pause for commercial), on our way to the wedding, hey!  crisis!  what will happen, (commercial break), everything turned out all right, everybody loves Maroon 5.  Buy the album!  Personally I think it was staged, just look at the lighting and the sheer number of camera angles, and the exaggerated reactions of the wedding guests, the instant mass rush for the dancefloor for a supposed surprise.  Not to mention that anyone who's spent more than five minutes driving in LA knows that it's not plausible that they could have had the time to crash so many weddings in one day, unless LA couples aren't like couples in most other western countries and don't all get married in roughly the same two or three hour window in the evenings.

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