This may be the greatest thing the world has ever heard. YuNG
Steve, you just completely made my point. Being an “outsider” is not real hardship. It’s just not. And that’s what pisses me off so much about my generation. We think that not being popular in high school is now cause for righteous indignation.
There are kids in high school that don’t know where their next meal is coming from. There are kids in high school who get beaten by their parents. There are kids in high school who have nowhere to live. There are kids in high school who can’t make it to school some days because they’re afraid to leave the house. And I’m supposed to feel sorry for this bitch because she “doesn’t fit in”?
I’m sorry, but it’s just such bullshit. This is exactly what I’m talking about with the participation trophy generation. Maybe it’s not about being poor, but if you’re going to live the motif of a tortured artist, you have to actually have been tortured.
It’s not really about race or poverty, though. There are lots of rich white kids who have real issues. Real bullying goes on in schools, the physical kind. There are kids whose parents are so strung out on prescription meds that they’re never around. There are kids who are hooked on coke by the age of 14. These are real problems. Not fitting in? No, that’s not a real issue. I mean, not everyone can be pretty. Them’s the breaks.
One of my favorite famous people ever is Tim Tebow who grew up rich and white. He doesn’t try to act like he suffered so much in high school and is now doing it for everyone who had to go through what he went through (and for the record I would put growing up as a home-schooled, evangelical son of Missionaries with a mildly effeminate voice up there against being not as rich as your peers at Sacred Heart Convent School as far as ostracism goes).
Also, the whole “not fitting in” narrative is a fabrication at best and an outright lie at worst just like most everything else she says.
From The Article (FTA): “Stefani was always part of school plays and musicals,” recalls a former high school classmate. “She had a core group of friends; she was a good student. She liked boys a lot, but singing was No. 1.”
“She was a very suburban, preppy, friendly, social party girl,” says a former dorm-mate, who was friends with the boys in Germanotta’s then-jam band.
“Her ‘crazy’ outfit,” recalls another pal, [sic] “was putting suspenders on her jeans.”
So yeah, there goes that. The article also points out that she didn’t “invent” the Lady Gaga persona (or the name).
I’ve already said that I think she’s a good singer. I also think she’s a talented songwriter and that there aren’t a whole lot of those left these days. For me, though, I cannot get past the complete lack of any artistic or general integrity. She steals (blatantly) from other artists – not borrows, STEALS – and she parades herself around pretending to be a person that she is not.
(I’m not saying that she doesn’t think she suffered. Quite the contrary, I think she thinks what she went through was just the most awful thing that can happen to a person. The problem is, it’s not. Fate deals many a much more cruel hand than to be rich and white in America and raised by both parents in a quaint little city like Manhattan. She just so perfectly sums up this participation trophy generation’s incessant and unremitting ability to feel sorry for itself despite how good they really have. It makes me sick.)
As for your commentary on The Trevor Project and things like that, my point wasn’t that I’m tired of hearing about the issue of gay teen suicide, it’s that I’m tired of hearing people use that to defend her. I think that’s also part of the lie. She may be sincere in her desire to help those kids, but it’s also part of her act. She does it to drum up support from people like yourself who are sympathetic to the cause. Also, by martyring the kids who do commit suicide, I think she’s doing more harm than good. (I wrote all about that in a different post, so I won’t bother repeating the argument here.)
I think she recognized early on that she had a big fan base in the gay community and wanted to play to that as much as possible. So since she’d hooked up with a few girls (as every other 25-year-old girl I’ve ever met has) she decided to make that part of her act.
And I’m sorry, but how are “Poker Face” or “Bad Romance” about standing up for yourself? I read through the lyrics and I think you might be projecting on that one. Metaphors only go so far.
It also bugs me that she prances around in skimpy outfits when she doesn’t actually have a good body, she’s just skinny. And she’s not naturally skinny, she just looks emaciated, like she doesn’t eat. I guess I’m one of the few people in America who wants pop stars to actually be attractive.
I’ll give you the last word, Steve.
Even if everything you say is true, I very much enjoy her, her music and admire how much she’s standing up for young people who feel alone and are being bullied.
In truth, it’s not terribly important how she got there. Do you think Madonna was honorable? Are you kidding????
However, I vehemently disagree with your arguments and am not quite sure why this particular young woman deserves such vitriol. No one has the right to quantify “hardship.” As for Tim Tebow, he did a television commercial for that gay-hating group Focus on the Family. Not to mention his need to constantly shove his religious “values” in everyone’s faces. Don’t get me started.
But what I will try to remember, and what I’ll close with is:
You can ALWAYS find someone who has, or has had, it better or worse than you. That does not mean THEIR PAIN is not REAL.
You cannot JUDGE someone unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.
And finally, [Big] Dion — Women’s bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Be nice.
Steven Ginsberg is the Pendleton Chair of the Ithaca College Los Angeles Program. He also writes the blog Notes From a Chair, which can be found at notesfromachair.wordpress.com
[Editor’s note: I didn’t think I was being vitriolic.]
I’ve decided to call this series of back-and-forths “Arguments With Friends” and the topics will vary from music to entertainment to sports to politics to anything else I’m right about and some other stupid idiot disagrees.
For this particular incarnation of Arguing With Friends I took on Mr. Steven Ginsberg, the esteemed Pendleton Chair of the Ithaca College Los Angeles program and my former advisor, to discuss our disagreement about Lady Gaga. I detest her, he adores her. Let the arguing commence.
[Editor’s note: It’s a bit long, so I split it into Part 1 (which is actually the second half of the argument) and Part 2.]
I Googled “Why I hate Lady Gaga” for a bit of inspiration (and to really get the full brunt of hatred seething) and found that there is a real dearth of substance on this matter. Ergo, I’m convinced this will be the preeminent Lady Gaga hate piece. I take that as a great honor and responsibility and plan to proceed henceforth with that in mind. In the words of The Sappy Mulatto a.k.a. Canada Dry a.k.a. Drake, thank me later.
I digress. My problem isn’t really with Lady Gaga. I don’t like her music, but that’s not because it’s particularly bad, it’s just not my cup of tea. I think Stefani Germannota is a fine singer and songwriter. What I don’t like about Lady Gaga is Lady Gaga. I’ll explain.
I grew up in what’s becoming increasingly known as the participation trophy generation. We are the children for whom struggle and failure were deemed simply too damaging to our future psyche and self esteem, so they were eschewed at all costs. Parents rushed in white flight to the suburbs to protect their children from the indignities of city life and those brazen few that remained in the cities did their best to instill in their children the values and core consistencies of suburbia: nothing bad can happen and if something bad does happen, it’s not your fault.
Bad grades? Must be the teacher’s fault. Not starting on the football team? It must be that racist coach. Didn’t get into the college you wanted to? It must be all those black students and their damned affirmative action.
We are the generation of entitlement and false, unearned pretension. Everyone in my generation (and it’s only gotten worse with the kids after us) thinks that they are so fucking smart and so fucking interesting and that they all have such great ideas. This has permeated into just about everything we do. This is why I think this recession is kind of a good thing. While I’m sure that few of my confreres have taken to blaming the man in the mirror for not having a job (it’s the economy’s fault or Obama’s fault or Bush’s fault or the 1%’s fault or their parents’ fault depending on who you ask) at least they will have gotten some taste of unmitigated failure in their lives.
This also explains our current pop culture. It explains why Snooki gets paid $35,000 to speak at a college campus and why Khloe Kardashian is a millionaire and married to a professional basketball player. We don’t believe in talent. We don’t think it’s necessary. We don’t value it and we don’t think having talent makes you better than someone who doesn’t have any (because no one is better than anyone else ever at anything in this fucking generation).
It also explains the ascent and staying power of Lady Gaga. She’s a farce, a running gag, a glib rich girl from the Upper West Side of Manhattan who decided that she was going to be Madonna and made it happen. In previous generation’s she would have been laughed away as quickly as she came, but today she’s the biggest thing since sliced bread.
And then I saw her standing there
With green eyes and long blonde hair
She wasn’t wearing underwear at least prayed that
She might be the one maybe we’d have some fun
Maybe we’d watch the sun rise
But that night I learned some girls try too hard
Some girls try too hard
Some girls try too hard to impress
With the way that they dress
With those things on their chest
And the things they suggest to me
This is Lady Gaga. She just tries SO hard to be interesting and different and outré and creative and it is just such bullshit. Real interesting and different and outré and creative people don’t have to try, they just are. Nothing about her is honest or real or genuine or actual. It’s all just an act to be famous and no one notices or cares.
Her music is the same way, it’s all completely derivative. She tries so hard to be shocking and different, but she doesn’t do anything new. It’s all just a hodgepodge of David Bowie, Madonna and Britney Spears with this artist or that artist sprinkled in for taste. Hell, sometimes she doesn’t even bother trying to hide her larceny. She flat-out lifted Madonna’s “Express Yourself” for “Born This Way” and did the exact same thing with Ace of Base’s “Don’t Turn Around” for “Alejandro.” Both were singles and again, no one gave a fuck. No one stopped and said, “Wait, I’ve heard this before.” It’s not like she’s Coldplay and ripped off some underground guitarist, she ripped off one of the most famous singers of all time and released the song as a single to radio and made it the title track for her album and people ate it up. I felt like I was taking crazy pills.
Music is supposed to be about self-expression, but the thing about self expression is that it’s supposed to be an expression of self. When you’re just rehashing an image that we’ve already seen to go along with music that we’ve already heard, what part of you are you actually expressing?
In theory she’s no worse than those soulless teenage boy bands and pop princesses that get trotted out every five to 10 years, but at least they aren’t pretending to be artistic and creative. They accept that they’re peddling heartless bullshit intended solely to move units and get 14-year-old girls moist. But not Gaga, she wants to run around pretending that she’s giving herself to the world and that she’s a whirlwind of unfettered creative beauty.
That’s why Lady Gaga is such a perfect embodiment of the participation trophy generation. She and all her fans think she’s so fucking smart and so fucking interesting and has such great ideas. But she’s not interesting. She’s just another rich girl who didn’t enough of daddy’s attention growing up. (I will give her credit for being smart enough to realize that she could just redo songs from 20 years ago and still make $65 million in a calendar year.)
That’s her appeal, though. She appeals to other people who don’t have genuinely good or creative ideas and aren’t really attractive or talented. We don’t want people who are supremely talented or genuinely elite. What we want are people that are like us.
Yeah, yeah, she can play the piano and she’s really not a bad singer, in fact I’d go so far as to say she’s a pretty talented singer. But so are millions of other girls and they’re not Lady Gaga.
Post Script – The whole “I’m a bi-sexual and I’m representing for all the LGBTQEYZ community” thing is tired. There are real homosexuals out there who have done so much more to advance the cause than she has and I get so sick of hearing people present that angle to defend her. You like girls, we get it. So does every other single 25-year-old girl living in a metropolitan area.
God, Gaga, it must have been so hard for you growing up as a semi-attractive blond girl living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and being into boys and girls. Did you get death threats? I bet they threw rocks at you.
As someone who’s actually had to deal with prejudice growing up, it just sickens me that she wants to sit here and pretend to know how hard it is for other people. Being a gay man in Laramie, Wyoming, is hard. Being a transgender female in Falls City, Nebraska, is hard. Being a bi-sexual girl in Manhattan…not the same thing.
But again, our generation doesn’t get the difference. Because we don’t really understand struggle, so we don’t appreciate it. Lady Gaga is the participation trophy generation and I hate her.
Post Post Script - “Poker Face” may be the second worst song ever written (after “My Humps” by The Black Eyed Peas, which is unquestionably the worst song ever written and can never be dethroned even by Rebecca Black’s “Friday” because, sweet Jesus, she was a 14-year-old girl who wrote a song and made a video at the mall. Of course it was bad).
Lady Gaga is a continuation of a string of strong Diva stage performers. She’s Bette Midler’s Divine Miss M, Madonna’s Material Girl. She’s also no different from the ethnic sensibilities of Barbra Streisand or Cher.
Ultimately, It’s not about her stage persona or her performance art persona. It’s about her talent. If she weren’t a great singer she’d be the Snookie or Khloe Kardashian of the music world. Or perhaps she’d be Nicki Minaj.
But she isn’t.
She invented something that got her attention. If she hadn’t, given where the world is these days, she’d simply be Stefani Germanotta performing at the Bitter End. (check youtube) Which would be fine with me. I’ve always been a sucker for the singer-songwriter gals – from Joan Baez to Carole King to Joni Mitchell on up. But the sixties and seventies were a different time. You could be just that then and impact the world grandly - her admitted goal. You can’t do that anymore. And good for Stefani for recognizing it.
She wouldn’t be world famous successful and couldn’t get her message of tolerance out – of love; of sex; of equality — and of something more than tolerance for something that is different than the way that you grew up - were she not Lady Gaga. The fact that she didn’t grow up poor (but she was by no means ultra-rich for a person who grew up in Manhattan, she just went to a school for rich kids) shouldn’t be held against her. She got bullied, she was different (she certainly looked different than the rest of the rich girls at the Sacred Heart Convent School, which included uh, Paris Hilton). She was significantly an outsider in a closed, privileged society of uber uber-peers. In other words, she didn’t fit in.
And if you think all it takes is not being poor, or non-white or having enough money to attend a good school in N.Y. to not be bullied within an inch of your life in Manhattan as a child – well, you haven’t spent much time in Manhattan or any of the other boroughs of the city. It might not be the obvious torture to some because she wasn’t living on the streets and wasn’t in peril of getting lynched. At least not on the surface, for the latter.
But the deep pain is the same of being marginalized and erased.
Would being date raped or murdered by the sons of one of those rich privileged .01 per centers by trying to fit in make her any less of a poser in some people’s eyes? Probably not. How do you quantify ostracism? Hate speak? The pain of being browbeaten by your peers and told in any way possible daily by still others that you are nothing? By all accounts, given her fierce dedication to ending the accepted adolescent habit of school bullying, all of this and more was not unfamiliar to her. Yes, it happens in cosmetically nice places, too. And it ain’t pretty. Would that make her any less of a poser? Would that make her daily suffering more real? Oh please.
Of course, much art is created by pain and the healing of the pain part is where the music comes in. Creativity is often an expression of who we are inside – of the who that is rejected and in many ways torn down by the world at large.
Her songs “Bad Romance” and “Poker Face” are about standing up for yourself, turning the tables, female empowerment. They’re also about being an outlaw, passion, moments of glory (sometimes literally – e.g. “Edge of Glory” written for her dying grandfather) and grace. She wrote what is the ultimate defense (as if it needed it) about being gay and different: “Born This Way.” Perhaps it wasn’t all about her. Even though the starting lyrics are the words of advice her own mother told her each day.
My momma told me when I was young, we were all born superstars…
Her family had its own issues but overall she was fortunate in that she was supported by her parents. Hence the lyrics she was able to shout out to the world:
I’m beautiful in my way, cause God makes no mistakes, I’m on the right track baby, I was born that way.
They speak to what she had to go out and deal with by not quite fitting in. Or perhaps it’s about what she saw happen to all her gay best friends. Because as the gay best friend of more than one Stefani in my life, I can tell you that if it weren’t literally for people like her (and their love and support), people like me, who were also indeed born this way, very likely would not still be here. It wasn’t always popular to have a gay BFF. In fact, it was frowned upon. And still is.
Go to the Trevor Project website (Trevorproject.org) and look up the countless cases of young teen gay bullying and suicides. Sorry if it feels tired to anyone. Or if you’re weary of hearing about it. Hundreds of kids all over the country are being bullied to death or killing themselves because of it and the Lady that is Gaga spends each day of her professional fame standing up for them because she felt bullied herself – not because she was bisexual, necessarily, but because she fell outside the personal norm. She wasn’t beautiful. She wasn’t demure. She wasn’t traditionally femmy. You don’t have to be poor to be hurt or marginalized or kicked to the curb over and over again, both literally and psychically. You just have to be human. As for money, there’s always someone who has more. A lot more. It’s ultimately not about that.
Of course, your politics and message can be great and your creativity can still be disappointing and unappealing. I’m not sure how you defend art to people who don’t like that particular brand of it. Perhaps you just listen to her performance on “Saturday Night Live” of “You and I.” (couldn’t find the one from SNL but this one is from “The View”).
Or you listen to her spectacular a cappella version of “Born This Way” that closes her HBO special.
She wrote both songs and does amazing vocals. I think they’re excellent and master class examples of how to be a compelling artist. One man’s opinion, granted.
Yes there’s the German-influence techno music; the over-the top fashions; the use of the self as the vehicle for the message. And there’s an industry that works at Haus of Gaga who keeps it all going with as many accoutrements as the market can bear. And the record company. And the touring. And the personal appearances. And, and, and….
But none of it would exist at all without the surprisingly petite young woman (only 25) at the center of it. And – her immense talent. At many things. But mostly as a singer-songwriter with something relevant to say and the stellar voice she uses to sing it.
I know I’m a couple weeks late with this, but I originally wrote this on my old computer and forgot to add it to my new computer, so it’s been sitting in Atlanta for three weeks while I was in Denver. If you’re still interested, this is my take on music in 2011. My list of the year’s best albums is below. Enjoy. Or don’t. Whatever.
My friend Kelley – also a journalist and one who is much more successful – posted on her facebook wall a conversation she had with her personal trainer. It read:
“got roped into a ridiculous argument with my trainer. He says music made in 2011 is the best ever since the history of the world. I, of course, told him that wasn’t the case. I then asked him to name the most engaging song of recent years by a newbie artist, one that defines an era, etc. He goes: “Easy.’I’m On One.’”
Naturally I laughed, because that’s a completely laughable statement. I can think of four years that were exponentially better musically just in my lifetime – 1991 (Nevermind, Ten, Efil4Zaggin, Cypress Hill’s self titled album, Low End Theory, We Can’t Be Stopped, Death Certificate, Achtung Baby), 1993 (Enter the Wu-Tang, Doggystyle, Midnight Marauders, Siamese Dream, Liz Phair’s classic Exile in Guyville, In Utero, and Mariah Carey’s Music Box), 1996 (Evil Empire, ATLiens, Pinkerton, The Fugees classic The Score, Beck’s Odelay, All Eyez on Me, Sublime’s eponymous classic, Reasonable Doubt) and 1998 (Dr. Dre 2001, The Roots’ Things Fall Apart, Beck’s Midnight Vultures, The Slim Shady LP, Santana’s Supernatural, The Battle of Los Angeles and Mos Def’s classic Black on Both Sides).
I thought to myself, “Self, there’s no way I’ll be telling my kids about the schlock that came out in 2011 in 20 years. I laughed for a while, incredulously, and then I stopped to think about it. In fact, I will be telling people 20 years from now about the music that came out in 2011. As much of a musical and pop culture curmudgeon as I am and have been for quite some time, even I have to admit that 2011 was a breakthrough year for great music. It’s like everyone finally figured out that they weren’t going to go platinum and just stopped trying. Instead of trying to make albums that would sell, artists finally got their shit together and put together well-thought and tremendously well executed albums.
When I look back at the decade from 2001 to 2010, I will tell my children about three artists: TI, Kanye West, Rise Against. That’s really it. (I suppose an argument can be made for Beyonce, but someone else can tell my kids about her. Beyonce to me is like a CBS sitcom. I don’t feel like I even need to elaborate on that simile.)
When I look at just the year 2011, there are so many artists and albums worth talking about that I’m going to devote however many words are in this blog to talking about them right now.
The Befuddlingly Popular Enigmas
Adele “21” and Drake “Take Care”
I will live my entire life never knowing why either of these people are so popular. I think part of Adele’s appeal is that she’s fat. I think she appeals to not-so-attractive white girls who have had the world handed to them but can’t say no to the scones and blueberry muffins and think it’s everyone else’s fault they don’t get hit on at bars. I think that’s part of it; she appeals to our millennial entitlement complex (I need to trademark that) but that doesn’t explain the worldwide phenomenon. She’s not that great a singer – Joss Stone is immeasurably more talented – and she’s obviously not much to look at. Her songs aren’t even that well written, “Nevermind I’ll find someone like you/I wish nothing but the best for you too/Don’t forget me, I beg/I remember you said/’Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead/Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead’” is apparently enough to bring on the waterworks now.
It’s not that she’s terrible, she’s just not that great. She does absolutely nothing for me. Adele is like a glazed donut (and I’m not just saying that because she’s fat). Will I have a glazed donut if you offer me one? For free? Sure, I’ll take one. But I’m not going crazy over a glazed donut.
I feel the same way about Drake or as I refer to him The Sappy Mulatto. Never have I been as underwhelmed by an artist this profoundly popular. I don’t get it. Normally a ridiculously popular artist is at least worth hating – Britney Spears, N Sync, Creed, Soulja Boy, to name a few. I’ve transcribed his interviews and he’s a nice guy, for sure, and he’s certainly a pretty decent rapper. But so-the-fuck-what? I listened to “Take Care” trying to maybe grasp some semblance of what makes this half-Jewish Canadian former teen sitcom star so popular…and nothing.
I feel nothing when I listen to Drake. Nothing. I don’t want to sing along, I don’t want to recite the lyrics, I don’t want to nod my head, I just sort of sit there waiting for something good to happen and it never did.
Maybe it’s because I’m a man and not one of these new-age men who’s all in touch with their feelings. Maybe I just don’t see the value in some megalomaniac (I gather this from his lyrics, not the interviews. He’s a really nice guy in the interviews. Really nice) lamenting about all his exes one minute and then bragging about all his cars the next.
The Indefensibly Awful Turds
Lil Wayne “The Carter IV,”
Bon Iver “Bon Iver”
Foo Fighters “Wasting Light”
Everyone can admit “The Carter IV” sucked, but for some reason no one can admit “The Carter III” sucked. I don’t understand this. “Carter IV” wasn’t even as bad as the mind-alteringly awful “Carter III” and some critics called that brown bag of shit the album of the year. Perplexing. They’re both basically the same album: a few good songs surrounded by a moat of shit-stained, drug-abused, apathetic, poppy shit that’s supposed to reach as many and offend as few as possible. Thanks to Spotify, I didn’t even have to waste 15 minutes downloading this turd.
Bon Iver’s eponymous album has made every single magazine’s “best of” list, so I gave it a listen. It’s a terrible piece of shit. If you’re not a pretentious douche bag who only listens to music you think other people aren’t cool enough to enjoy, you will hate this.
Feist “Metals” – see above. What happened to Feist? “The Remainder” was really good. I think maybe this was her “In Utero-ing.” Except that In Utero was a good album.
I’ve listened to “The Colour and the Shape” and since then I’ve never bought a Foo Fighters album or even bothered borrowing or downloading one. Is it because I’ve always secretly hated Dave Grohl for picking up the guitar and singing rather than properly mourning Kurt’s death and legacy after Nirvana ended? Not entirely. It’s also because the Foo Fighters have been making the same exact song 14 times and calling it an album since 1999. How many more times are we gonna hear “Monkey Wrench,” before you write a new song, Dave? Seriously.
The Albums Everybody Else Liked that Weren’t Actually Very Good
Mastodon – “The Hunter”
Arctic Monkeys – “Suck it and See”
Jason Aldean – “Tattoos on this Town”
Beyonce – “4”
Cults – “Cults”
Bon Iver - “Bon Iver”
You’ll notice there are a preponderance of rock albums in this section. You will also notice once you read my selections for the best albums of the year that hip hop is decidedly overrepresented and you might think to yourself, “Self, maybe Big Dion just doesn’t really like rock music and is telling us that these albums are bad simply because of his own personal tastes.” That would be wrong.
I wanted desperately to love a rock album this year. I even listened to My Morning Jacket just hoping there was something there I could grab and enjoy…there was nothing. I love rock music. I’ve loved rock music since 1993 when I finally stopped letting the music I was “supposed” to listen to as a little black boy in the inner city influence what I really liked. My favorite album of all time is “Nevermind,” my favorite song of all time is “Santaria” by Sublime. Probably my favorite mixtape ever is a mashup of Lil Wayne verses over 90s rock songs. I fucking love rock music. I do. I wanted to put at least two rock albums in my top five, but none were good enough.
I was so excited about “The Hunter.” I kept hearing that it was going to be the album that brought hardcore to the forefront of music – and really there’s been such a complete void in the rock music scene, that pop hardcore was exactly what we needed – and then the album fell flat.
I think the critical acclaim for “Suck it and See” is simply critics not wanting to accept that the genre is dead. Rock music is like white point guards in the NBA and Arctic Monkeys are Steve Nash. They’re the last thing you have left, so you want them to be great, but really this release was not. It’s almost tragic compared to “Whatever People Say I am…” and even the “Cornerstone” and “My Propeller” EPs were better. I like Arctic Monkeys, I’m just not willing, during a music revolution, to grant them clemency on a bad album.
Same basic sentiment for Cults. The song “Go Outside” was amazing, but the album was mediocre at best. It was like this group came together and made this really great song and then felt like they had to do an album, but had absolutely no idea what to do next so they just slapped a bunch of songs together and hoped no one would notice.
I don’t buy or bother listening to R&B or country albums for the same reason: they’re all going to be formulaic slop with no soul. I gave both Jason Aldean and Beyonce a chance. They let me down. I will say, though, “Party” is my favorite song in I don’t know how long. It’s hands-down my favorite Beyonce song of all time and if the album weren’t so pathetically predictable it would almost change my perception of her. “Countdown” is also really good.
Oh and as for Bon Iver, I couldn’t put that fucking shit stained turd sandwich on this list enough. Seriously, who enjoys shit like that? I could make that album. Really, I could. Shit, maybe I will make that album. I’ve got an auto-tune program and Audacity and I can sing in falsetto.
The Yeah, That Was Kinda Cool, But…Meh Albums
Jay-Z and Kanye West – “Watch The Throne”
The Roots – “Undun”
Fucked Up – “David Comes to Life”
Lupe Fiasco – “Lasers”
Yelawolf – “Radioactive”
Pistol Annies – “Hell on Heels”
The other thing that happened in 2011 was artists completely front-loaded their albums. “Watch the Throne” is incredible tracks 1-5. “No Church,” “Lift Off,” “Niggas in Paris,” “Otis” and “Gotta Have it” are great. From there the album sort of vacillates between OK and sucky for the rest of its running time with the notable exceptions of “Who Gon’ Stop Me” and “HAM,” which is actually Travis Barker’s track.
I keep wanting The Roots to make an awesome album, me and everyone else on planet earth, and they keep not doing it. Maybe they do it on purpose. I don’t know.
Fucked Up’s “David Comes to Life” is about as hardcore an album as I’ve ever really liked. It’s a lot like Mastodon’s album, but a little better. There are still those moments where they’re brilliant and then the very next track they seem to settle for good enough for people not to hate, like “Queen of Hearts,” which made me want to listen to every song the group had ever made, and “Under My Shoe,” which made me want to not listen to the album anymore after track 3, for instance.
“Lasers” and “Radioactive” were basically the same album: a gifted lyricist attempting to go mainstream. All was not lost on either album, but neither were great. As far as I’m concerned Ghostface’s “Fishscale” will always be the gold standard for selling out. Rappers being forced to make crappy songs for radio and stupid girls in the suburbs should be locked in a closet and forced to listen to that album for a week before entering the studio to record a sell-out album. Lyrically, though, both albums were good and hopefully did their job of introducing the talented rappers to a larger audience. Yay selling out!
[In Jon Gruden voice] I like Pistol Annies! Those girls can play the guitar! They can sing! And man, can they make country music! I like Pistol Annies! “Hell on Heels” the album actually wasn’t especially good – in case you couldn’t tell, this category is made up of albums I liked– but “Hell on Hells” is such a great song and I do love concept albums.
I actually really like Miranda Lambert (the most famous of the Pistol Annies) when she’s not whining about being fat or how her man left her. In fact, I refer to that singer as “Whiny Miranda Lambert” so as to dichotomize the songs I love and the songs I hate. Whiny Miranda Lambert only shows up a couple times on this record and the other singers are less annoying when they whine.
There were five* albums that stood out among the rest this year as the absolute best. Each one of them, though, marked an unmistakable style marker and breaker. When you look back on the music released in 2011, it may not be the best ever, but when you hear it, it will undeniably take you back to a specific sound, a specific style and a specific era.
The music released this year was unique and precedent setting. That’s been missing from music while the record companies tried to figure out how to make people pay for music and artists scrambled to make a buck any way they could. The year 2011 marked seemingly the first time music stopped trying so hard to be marketable and instead just tried to be good. That said, these were the best albums of the year.
*there are actually more than five
5. The Mixtapes
Admittedly this is sort of a cop out. I normally have a very strict “no mixtapes” rule in place when I’m contemplating the albums of the year. But this year, any one of a few mixtapes (really, two mixtapes) could be considered the best album of the year. So rather than try to decide whether Big K.R.I.T.’s “Return of 4Eva,” Nipsey Hussle’s “TMC - The Marathon Continues,” Machine Gun Kelly’s “Rage Pack,” Lupe Fiasco’s “Friend of the People,” Meek Milli’s “Dreamchasers” or A$AP Rocky’s “LiveLoveA$AP” was the album of the year, I can just put them all in the number five slot and be done with it.
If I had to order the above mixtapes it would go like this:
“Friend of the People”
“Return of 4Eva”
“The Marathon Continues”
Truthfully all six are amazing works. I thought it was important to violate my rule and include mixtapes on this list because I couldn’t justify making a list that didn’t include them.
The mixtape has become a new artform and “TMC” and “Return” completely exemplified the new mixtape archetype. First, they’re both complete albums. They have a recognizable beginning, middle and end and they all have the distinct, belabored consistency of an album that took a year and a million dollars to produce. Both albums perfectly display the strengths of their respective cultures. “TMC” is a West Coast classic. It’s a return to the laid-back grooves and swagger that made Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre household names. Lyrically, it’s simple but it has a complexity that make you appreciate and respect Hussle as a rapper. It’s a party album and a gangsta rap record, but it’s more than that. Hussle is surprisingly clever, cunning, intelligent and inspiring and it’s the kind of album that just makes you love hip hop.
“Return of 4Eva” is the same way, but with a decidedly and deliberate Third Coast, Dirty South twinge. The first time I ever heard Big K.R.I.T. I thought he was an underground rapper from the early ‘90s Dungeon Family days. And his first mixtape, KRIT Wuz Here was a return to everything that I loved about that era of music – conscious lyrics, big bass beats, simple subject matter with complex imagery and an unrelenting reality of the problems and the solutions the world had to offer. “Return” was that and so much more than that. It was the next step. It was polished. KRIT isn’t saying anything Goodie Mob, Outkast and Cool Breeze weren’t saying in 1996, but he’s found a way to present it and a platform to present it on that have evolved the sound.
The best thing about 2011 was that after years (maybe even a decade) of musical stagnation, artists have cast off the shackles of making music that sells to make music that people want to buy, but don’t have to.
4. J Cole – “Cole World: The Sideline Story”
I think I would have liked this album a lot more if I hadn’t been waiting for it for three years. Everyone who calls themselves a hip hop fan should listen to Cole’s mixtapes “The Warm Up,” “The Come Up,” and “Friday Night Lights.” I have to give credit where credit is due, though, “Cole World,” the album was better than all of the mixtapes, as a whole. “Lost Ones” and “Nobody’s Perfect” are amazingly beautiful rap ballads and the album is full of great songs.
3. Eminem and Royce Da 5’9” – “Bad Meets Evil, Hell: The Sequel”
This album was quite simply a clinic on how to make a duo rap album. It’s as close to perfection, lyrically, as I think any rap album has ever been. It’s just sublime. There really aren’t enough superlatives for how spectacularly fucking awesome Eminem and Royce were on this record. If history has any conscience this album will be remembered as one of the all-time greats.
2. Florence + the Machine – “Ceremonials”
This is the part of the blog where I prove that even though 80 percent of my top 5 albums are hip hop, this really is a best-of list and not just a best-of hip hop albums list. If you need any more proof that the genre of rock music is dead, you need only look at the sorry crop of rock albums critics are trying to champion this year.
There was the Arctic Monkeys “Suck it and See,” which sucked. There was the new Foo Fighter’s album, which was actually the same album they’ve put out the past three times they’ve put out an album. The band hasn’t had an original thought since “The Colour and The Shape.” Then there was Bon Iver’s God awful piece of shit album that I think I’ve addressed enough. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds was boring. EMA’s “Past Life Martyred Saints” was good, but top heavy and short on real substance. Then there was a giant vacuous void of shit and then there was this album.
Florence + The Machine were to rock music in 2011 what Sleigh Bells were to the genre in 2010 – a savior that simultaneously melded and shredded genres while highlighting what female-driven rock music can still be. Ceremonials was an amazing confluence of genres that nobody really knew how to label. It was certainly more of a pop album than a rock album, but in a year of famine, beggars can’t be choosers. In contrast to the giant turd Feist dropped this year with her album “Metals,” “Ceremonials” was indie without being pedantic and pop without being Britney Spears.
1. Childish Gambino – “Camp”
The thing that totally makes this album is the spoken word piece Gambino, a.k.a. TV’s Donald Glover, gives at its conclusion. He describes a trip he made back from summer camp as an adolescent that changed his life. The parable explains everything. It explains every track on the album and more than that, it explains him.
The first time I listened to the album I didn’t think it was that great. Gambino reminded me of a less lyrically gifted Lupe Fiasco or a less musically gifted Kanye. After listening to the story at the end of the album, I listened to it again. And then I listened to it again. I loved it.
More than any album this year, Camp illustrated what music in 2011 is. It’s art, it’s deeply personal and it’s music that has no fear of straying outside pre-conceived musical boundaries. Camp jumps from jazz to orchestral to gospel to soul to electronic while somehow managing to always remain true to itself. It’s not an album that was made to appease old fans or create new ones. It’s not an album that was made to move a ton of units or sell a lot of ringtones or even be an underground, cult, indie classic. It’s an album with no expectations and no rules.
I asked my cousin Tre, whose musical taste I often question, for his thoughts on the album. He summed it up like this (copied directly from his text):
“First of all ill start by saying this hip hop is a very conformist genre most of the rappers write songs the same way …styles p…freddie gibbs eminem…royce…etc…everyone feels they have to be super aggressive as black men/rappers…even if they are not that way in real life….people are scared to be who they are because they are scared that people are gonna judge them as this or that…little do they know they get judged anyway…then you have your Kanye’s your pharrell’s your Kendrick lamar’s your childish gambino’s that do music anyway they feel…dress, talk, act how they want…they are different…and that is “Cool”…Why do i like him so much?….because he is just like me, simple and plain…why dont i like these people “ya’ll” think are good/great?…because im nothing like them…as far as best album of the year….for what he is doing yes…yes it is…..he has his own lane…if you have your own lane your the best.”
I thought that summed it up about as perfectly as anyone could.
“Camp” is a new wrinkle in the evolution in hip hop and a new wrinkle in the evolution of music in general. This may not have been the best year in the history of music, but it was certainly the start of something. In 2011 we saw the future and nothing will ever be the same again.
Adam Carolla is completely wrong and completely right in this rant. Listen to the entire thing. I completely agree with his overall thesis that this generation of “participation trophy kids” are coming of age and they’ve all become a bunch of whiny, entitled, underachieving babies who expect everything handed to them and cry when it’s not (yes, I’m talking about you and your friends). His rant from about 2:22 where he begins, “We created a bunch of fucking self-entitled monsters” is spot-on. But he, like so many other people I’ve heard who disagree with the Occupy Movement, don’t understand a few very important details.
First, a little fact checking. The top 1 percent don’t pay 50 percent of the taxes. The top 10 percent pay about 50 percent of the taxes. I keep hearing this point brought up again and again and again by conservatives and OWS detractors. There’s a very simple reason the top 10 percent pay 50 percent of the taxes: THEY HAVE 50 PERCENT OF THE FUCKING MONEY. Of course, they pay 50 percent of the taxes, they have 50 percent of the thing that gets taxed.
Why does nobody ever say this? It’s so simple, yet I never hear anybody ever mention it. No on ever thinks, “Gee, 50 percent? That seems awful high. I wonder why they pay so much” and then looks it up? I feel like I’m taking cray pills.
I also hear people point to the fact that the top 10 percent pay a higher tax rate. Of course they pay a higher tax rate, because they have more money to be taxed. If you have more, you can afford to give more. And that’s not an argument for communism, it’s simple math.
Because the top earners have so much more than everyone else, it is necessary to tax them at a higher percentage rate than everyone else to get enough money to run the country. If we increased the tax rate on the top 10 percent of earners by (I think) 3 percent, it would generate the same amount of income as taxing the people who pay no taxes because they’re too poor (expanding the tax base) at a rate of 50 percent. Which of those two perspectives makes more sense, increasing rich people’s taxes by 3 percent or increasing poor people’s taxes by 50 percent?
Let’s also remember the article Warren Buffett wrote a couple months back in the New York Times. The rich aren’t actually paying higher taxes. They’re supposed to, but they don’t, because they hire expensive accountants to do fancy math and exploit loopholes. Buffett even pointed out that he pays a lower tax rate than his cleaning lady. His cleaning lady!
But I’ll get to the point. There seem to be two main points of contention, both wholly incorrect, that OWS detractors make to disagree with the movement. The first is that they think OWS is anti-capitalism. The second is that OWS is about envy or hatred of the rich or corporations or even Wall Street. It isn’t. (Certainly there are factions within the movement that are opposed to all of those things or any of them individually, but OWS at its core isn’t about that.)
SIDE NOTE: This is the problem with not having a leader or representatives. There’s no one to speak on behalf of the movement to reconcile misunderstandings like this one. Adam Carolla can’t bring someone on and discuss this with them who has any concrete authority within OWS because its structure necessitates a leaderless format. This allows misunderstandings and blatant falsehoods about the movement to continue and keeps the movement from attracting new audiences while also emboldening detractors.
I digress. The first point of contention is the one I’ve read the most scholarly opposition to. I’ve read articles by professors ardently defending the good name of capitalism and screeching from the rooftops about how wonderful and magical this economic system really is. They say, “How can you be opposed to capitalism when it has done so many great things for people? There are all these wonderful inventions and advances in technology, health, standard of living, etc., etc. ad nauseum.” No disagreement. Yay capitalism!
The problem isn’t that capitalism exists, it’s that it exists in a bastardized and perverted form that at present moment benefits only 1 percent of the country’s populace. That 1 percent is using the bastardized and perverted capitalism to hold down and hold back the other 99 percent of the population (or at very least, the 50 percent at the bottom) and prop itself up. It (the 1 percent of the population) is doing this by exploiting legal loopholes, legislation and an overly coy relationship with congressmen, judges and presidents.
To the second point of contention, the people who point out that Occupiers are using iPhones and Samsung video cameras and wearing Nike hoodies, who think it’s just about envy and entitlement, don’t seem to understand the first point either. The problem is not that the 1 percent have the money, it’s what they’re doing with it. The movement wasn’t started because these people own private jets and islands and sex slaves, it was started because these people unhinged our economic system by making excessively risky investments with no oversight or repercussions and eventually it crashed our entire economy.
It’s occupy Wall Street because that was the scene of the crime. Wall Street is where Lehman Brothers employees lost billions of dollars of other people’s money and then got it back in the form of a bailout from the US taxpayer and never faced any consequences whatsoever. Not only did no one lose their job, no one even lost their bonus. They and other large banking institutions just got a bunch of money from the government, kept it for themselves and continued to pay their CEOs exorbitant salaries for doing the same thing that fucked shit up in the first place.
Companies like Bank of America made hundreds of mistakes in accounting, took on economic burden that was beyond their means and couldn’t pay what they owed. What happened to them? They got a bailout from the government. Once they got their free money, they started kicking home owners who made mistakes in accounting and took on economic burden that was beyond their means out of their homes and onto the street.
So yeah, now when we see some guy driving a Rolls Royce maybe our impetus is to throw shit at his car rather than celebrating him. (In reference to Carolla’s point at around 5:55 of the video.) It’s not because we’re jealous, it’s because we know that he probably fucked over hundreds or thousands of people to get it. The dad is probably telling his son to hate the guy in the Rolls Royce because the guy in the Rolls Royce probably laid him off six months ago to bump the quarterly sales figures a couple percent and he hasn’t been able to find work since.
After reading Bill Simmons argue with one of his staffers on Grantland.com about Mariah Carey and other nonsense having nothing to do with sports, I decided I should rip him off and do something similar.
I’ve decided to call this series of back-and-forths “Arguments With Friends” and the topics will vary from music to entertainment to sports to politics to anything else I’m right about and some other stupid idiot disagrees.
For this particular incarnation of Arguing With Friends I took on my friend and fellow journalist E. Richard Korn, a reporter for Newsday, to discuss who was a better band, Pearl Jam or Nirvana. Both were great bands and at the forefront of the grunge music scene, but there can be only one champion.Let the arguing commence.
I had been looking for a parallel that would accurately depict advocating the notion that Pearl Jam was a better band than Nirvana for the past couple weeks or so unsuccessfully and then I stumbled upon it while reading a Bill Simmons column. It’s this Pabst Blue Ribbon commercial from 1979 starring Patrick Swayze (note the Top Comments). Here’s why: hipsters love PBR. They don’t love it because it’s cheap or because it actually tastes good, they love it because it’s what hipsters drink and it’s how you tell the word how obscure and alternative you are. It’s like Mac people with Mac laptops or the iPad.
SIDE NOTE: The iPad is the single most worthless popular invention of the past 20 years. I swear to God, in 50 years people will look back on the iPad and tablets in general and will have no way to explain what was going on or why anyone would waste their money on them. “Wait grandpa, you mean there was a thing that performed the exact same functions as a laptop or mobile phone but was bigger than a phone and didn’t make phone calls and also didn’t have a keyboard but people bought it because some asshole in a black turtleneck kept telling them it was ‘revolutionary’?” Rest in peace to Steve Jobs. I hope he’s been reincarnated as an ant colony queen or a puppy that’s been adopted by a family with a great big backyard.
I digress. You could show hipsters that Swayze commercial, which is so completely antithetical to everything hipsters are supposedly about and rather than making them turn on PBR for their blatant and unrepentant commercialism and attempts to be mainstream and good in years past, hipsters would just like PBR more because it’s ironic or something. People who say that Pearl Jam was a better band than Nirvana are like hipsters drinking PBR.
At the end of the day, there really is no comparison. Nirvana was the band that changed music, the band that changed history and Pearl Jam was a band that was pretty good over a fairly long period of time.
It’s like saying the hottest girl on Saved by the Bell was Jessie Spano. Yeah, Elizabeth Whateverherlastnameis was hot in “Showgirls” and yes, she’s been able to maintain some semblance of a successful acting career that hasn’t been pathetic enough to inspire skits on Funny or Die. But Saved by the Bell’s hotness was Kelly Kapowski. It’s ridiculous to argue otherwise. You can pretend you have a thing for curly hair or tall women or that “traditionally attractive” women don’t do it for you, but there’s a clear cut and obvious winner.
Kurt Cobain made apathy cool. He made feelings cool. He made it cool to not give a fuck. He did everything on a much bigger level than anyone from Pearl Jam ever did anything. And you can make the argument that PJ eschewed fame and Kurt secretly thirsted for it while public scorning it (which I’ve heard) but in terms of general public influence, at the apex of both of their careers, one man and one band were significantly more influential.
SIDE NOTE: I have this theory that every musical wave dies when its one true artist stops making music. (This theory is only for musical subgenres, by the way.) With rap metal you had Rage Against the Machine. With Horrorcore hip hop you had the Geto Boys. With grunge you had Nirvana. When Kurt died the musical movement died. If Eddie Vedder had died in ’94 instead, I think we’d still be listening to some incarnation of grunge music to this day.
To wit, since Courtney got full rights to Nirvana’s catalog a few years ago and needed cash to fuel her various drug binges and pay someone to look after Kurt’s daughter, “Breed,” “Lithium,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit” “In Bloom” and I think “Sliver” have all appeared in commercials this decade (2001-2011). Why? Because Nirvana’s music speaks to people. Even people who weren’t old enough or even alive enough to appreciate it in the ‘90s can relate to it today. The audience is often gen x’ers wistfully hoping to relive their glory days, but just as often its teens and 18-21-year-olds who have no established connection to Nirvana’s music.
There’s a reason Kurt Cobain was the voice of a generation. Nirvana’s music penetrated every level of musical enjoyment.
On a purely superficial, pop level they were great. They wrote rhythmic, anthemic songs that kids could sing along to even if they didn’t really know the words. The melodies and harmonies of their music were undeniable and while they were never sugary sweet, the songs never tried to be too cool for school or overly complex. You didn’t need to be grunge or alternative or counter-culture to appreciate Nirvana. That was the beauty of the band. Nirvana appealed to the palate of everyone, from the most ardent guitar rock purist to the most KYUP suburban top-40 yuppies. With Nirvana, you didn’t have to choose whether you wanted to be angry or catchy, hard or soft, rebellious or popular. Nirvana was all of the above and more.
Even at their most anti-pop (the entire Incesticide album for example), Nirvana still made songs you could hum to and in a world where we hum our favorite songs, that means something. Their music almost always managed to tow the line between subversively garage and top 40 pop and it always seemed authentic.
Lyrically, Kurt was a genius. He wrote songs that were amazing not just in their content, but in their packaging. In the world we live in the pretty box is almost as important as what’s inside and no one was better than Kurt at composing quality songs that meant something deep and profound but were still fun.
While I see the value in writing songs with no intelligible lyrics (“Yellow Ledbetter”) or weaving a fan letter from a Japanese girl into your songs (I don’t know what song this is or if this is actually even true, but I heard it somewhere), it’s not particularly impressive. Writing a song called “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that encapsulates the hopelessness and misanthropy of a generation with a chorus derived from a party joke (Kurt used to say “here we are now, entertain us” when he walked into house parties) and a title derived from a running gag about a brand of deodorant is significantly more remarkable.
Kurt was a master of hiding in plain sight. Nirvana’s songs were always a confluence of social commentary, introspective feelings, inside jokes, sarcasm and general pessimism. And somehow they were internationally popular. He said everything he wanted to say and told you everything about himself in a verse, chorus, verse form that you could sing along to.
That’s what makes Nirvana so great. It’s not that they were massively popular, it’s that they were massively popular while being so uncompromising and so groundbreaking and so creative. Nirvana is pop music at its absolute best and it ranks up there with anything from Stevie Wonder to The Beatles. Pearl Jam was a good band, but they were just that.
I’ll go back and compare the two most prominent grunge groups to baseball players, since that is what I do. Nirvana is Sandy Koufax, a group with a short, if spectacular, prime. Pearl Jam is Rickey Henderson, a band that came out like a shooting star while maintaining a high level of performance over a longer period of time.
But my biggest problem with your argument is that you sort of minimize PJ’s impact and importance at the apex of their career. Their first album, “Ten”, went 12X platinum. Their follow-up, “Vs.,” went 7X platinum. At their respective bests, they were commercially more viable than Nirvana. After Nevermind, it became clear that Nirvana’s commercial success was beginning to fade, just as Pearl Jam’s popularity would wane in the coming years. “In Utero,” which some consider a better album than Nevermind, sold about 3.5 million records, a monster figure in today’s music climate but indicative of an upcoming Nirvana decline.
Then… Cobain dies, and a fleeting musical genre, a more refined version of disco and hair metal, died with it. Meanwhile, Pearl Jam kept moving along, fighting a battle with the conglomerate Ticketmaster while making excellent records like “No Code” and “Yield.” At the same time, Vedder and company maintained a fanatical fan base that still exists.
You knock the unintelligible lyrics of “Yellow Ledbetter”? Am I missing something? I needed to read the liner notes to “Teen Spirit,” just as I did with “Ledbetter.” Not to mention, Vedder is no doubt the better singer and stage performer, a showman without the mopey “woe is me” attitude of Cobain. To this day, PJ puts on some of most epic live shows, selling out arenas while putting out records that fail to go platinum…that goes to show me that the PJ fans are in it because they dig the music, not because they need to validate their group against one that died 18 years ago.
PJ supporters respect the group for the consistency of their music, for the fact that 4-of-the-5 members have been there since the beginning. There is a dominant front man in Vedder who the rest of the group cedes to, sacrificing ego in the name of making great music. Sure, the PJ fans enjoy being in the minority, especially since Nirvana STILL generates headlines (granted, Courtney Love is usually the one making noise). Not to mention, if Cobain continued to live, his erratic behavior and drug use would have slowly but surely lessened the Nirvana brand.
In the end, Pearl Jam has done more, has written and recorded more memorable songs and given hundreds of more epic concerts. They are the gift that keeps on giving. Nirvana was a shooting star whose impact grew in death; Pearl Jam is still living and doing its thing, which is why I and millions of fellow PJ fans consider them the kings of the grunge movement.
OK, first of all, when you make a baseball analogy you can’t compare a pitcher to an everyday player. That’s just heresy and furthermore makes it completely impossible to reasonably compare. But I think you did it on purpose because Nirvana to Pearl Jam is such a ludicrous comparison that it defies rationality.
I’m not a baseball buff, so I’ll stick to a sport I do know: football. Nirvana is Gale Sayers and Pearl Jam is Kerry Collins. I had to go running back vs. quarterback because there’s not a quarterback I can think of in recent memory whose career was ended that prematurely by injuries and there isn’t a running back who carried on his career long past his prime, racking up yards while still doing just enough to be a suitable starter. If you think of one, let me know.
Kerry Collins deserves our respect. He’s one of the NFL’s top all-time passers, he’s played in a Super Bowl and in a few years he’ll probably be inducted into the Hall of Fame (no. 10 all-time NFL passer). But Kerry Collins is no Gale Sayers. Gale Sayers was a magical, once-in-a-generation player that was like nothing anyone had ever seen. That’s what Nirvana was.
When DGC released Nevermind in 1991, they were hoping to sell a couple hundred thousand copies. The album sold 10 million copies and for 10 years after it was released still sold 200,000 copies a year. Nirvana completely redefined the entire music scene. People still credit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for killing ‘80s hair metal and ushering in a new era of music that Pearl Jam was a part of, not so incidentally.
Yes, “Ten” sold more albums than “Nevermind,” but it didn’t start selling until 1992 after “Teen Spirit” had taken the country by storm and “Nevermind” had become the number one album on the charts. If anything, Vedder should’ve been writing Cobain checks. Kurt and Nirvana were the Seattle scene and everyone that got famous making grunge music – this includes Soundgarden, STP, Pearl Jam and the like – all got there thanks to Nirvana.
As for “In Utero,” everyone says that album was a deliberate attempt by the band to shake their pop superstar status. They worked with an underground producer, made louder, edgier songs and only released one single. Of course it didn’t sell. But I maintain that to this day, “In Utero” is a better album than Pearl Jam or anyone this side of the Wu-Tang Clan has ever produced.
And let us not forget about the Unplugged album. That performance made the series and is still the best-selling Unplugged album ever made.
As a matter of fact, let’s not even get into sales. Pearl Jam sold more records, but they’ve put out something like a dozen studio albums and Nirvana put out three. So yeah…
As for “Yellow Ledbetter” it doesn’t have lyrics. Try looking for them. To this day, no one is quite sure what Vedder is saying. The song is something of a legend (so I’m told, I never really kept up with Pearl Jam folklore) because of that fact. That’s cool and all, but it’s not exactly spongeworthy.
Also your argument that PJ has given more concerts and blah, blah, blah is completely irrelevant because it was impossible for Nirvana to play anymore after 1994 on account of Kurt’s brains being blown out. You can’t make a longevity argument against a dead guy. But even allowing for such tomfoolery, if you compare the two bands in terms of hits, quality of music and songwriting, and lasting influence on music and culture, Nirvana wins in a landslide despite having a career 14 years shorter (and even if I concede quality of music and songwriting to PJ, which I don’t, it’s still Nirvana).
Kurt Cobain was Rolling Stone’s Artist of the Decade, he was the voice of generation X, he was “the last real rock star.” You could make this argument if PJ existed outside the era of Nirvana or in a vacuum unto itself, but they didn’t. They existed right alongside the cresting wave that was Nirvana and they were merely one of many ships that rose.
To quote the immortal Bill O’Reilly, I’ll give you the last word, Korn.
P.s. How dare you compare grunge to disco or hair metal. How dare you!
I love this video. I just found it a couple days ago. One-shot videos are always impressive and it’s about time someone thought to make one with naked French women, right?
What’s great about this video is it genuinely looks like they just walked through the streets for four minutes and got this. I’ve seen two “parodies” of the video, one shot somewhere they speak Spanish and one shot in Santa Monica (which I only know because I recognize the Third Street Promenade). The problem with both other videos is neither looks at all realistic. All the people in the Santa Monica shoot look like they were paid to be there and the one from the random Spanish-speaking location looks like a closed set full of paid actors.
In the Make the Girl Dance video, I am genuinely convinced that these are just three (2.5 if we’re being honest) hot women who threw of their clothes and walked down the street. It’s sexy, it’s dangerous, it’s fun. None of the others have that. It’s the little things that make a video.
The video also goes perfectly with the song. Whoever the song’s character is she seems like a demanding, overbearing narcissistic bitch, but you’re OK with it because she’s walking down the street naked holding a boombox. I suppose that’s what art is really all about.
I actually wrote this days ago, but I wanted to sit on it for a minute and let it marinate until more facts came out. I’ve been watching the media coverage and talking to people and I’ve decided that I was right in the first place. I still think it was unfair what happened to Joe Paterno. Everyone wants to pretend they would have done the “right” thing if they were in Joe Paterno’s position, but put yourself in his shoes for just a second.
Sandusky was a man he had known for close to four decades. He’s a man with a wife, two children and six adopted children. He’s a man who has taken in foster children. He’s a man who, as far as you know, has worked tirelessly to help underprivileged children of all backgrounds and circumstances overcome adversity and improve their lives.
This isn’t just some guy. This is a man you’ve laughed with, cried with, shared the best and the worst times of your professional and personal life with. You’ve eaten at his house, you know his wife, you’ve watched his sons grow from boys to grown men. He’s the man you selected to replace you as coach after you retired. He’s a man who has stood beside you and helped guide your program for decades and helped nurture and mentor thousands of young men who were a part of your program.
You know all of this about the man and then one day an assistant coach, who has been on your staff for a few years, comes into your office and tells you that he saw this man raping a 10-year-old boy. What would your reaction be? Would it be to immediately call the police and report him? Really?
It’s more likely you’d be a little suspicious of the charges and you’d sit your friend down and talk to him. You’d ask him if what you heard was true and of course he would deny it.
Here’s how I’m guessing their conversation went:
JoePa: jerry, come on in here.
Jerry Sandusky: What’s going on Joe? I heard you wanted to talk to me. You know, I haven’t worked here in three years so I’m wondering what’s up.
JP: It’s not good Jerry. I can’t believe my ears. One of my assistants told me he saw you doing something awful the other day. I can’t even say it.
JS: Well…what’d he say, Joe?
JP: Gosh, Jer…he said he saw you…I can’t even believe this.
JS: Well, what was it, Joe. This sounds bad.
JP: It is bad. Real bad. He said he saw you…and a kid in the bathroom together.
JS: In the bathroom together how, pal?
JP: He told me you were raping the kid, Jer. Now tell me this isn’t true.
JS: Of course it isn’t true, Joe. I…I can’t even believe someone would say something like that. You know me. I played for you back in ’63. I was on your staff for 30 years. You were the one who brought me into Penn State. You promoted me. We’ve known each other for almost 50 years. We were pals you and me, Joe. You know my wife, my two boys. Why, I’ve even adopted six kids and taken in foster kids. You can’t seriously think I would do something so…so awful.
JP: I can’t. But my assistant, he was pretty shook up about it. He could barely get the words out of his mouth. He came in here shaking.
JS: Come on, Joe. That’s crazy. Crazy! I can’t even believe someone would make up this kind of thing. Do you know how serious this is?
JP: I do, Jer. I do. Look, it hurts me to do this, but I gotta report the incident to Curley. He’s the athletic director, he handles stuff like this. I believe you, Jer, I really do, but this sort of thing I just gotta report. I can’t have stuff like this around my program.
JS: I understand, Joe. I’ll go right to Curley and discuss this with him. This has to be some kind of mistake or someone just out to get me. This could ruin my reputation…imagine what it could do to my family. And I just wrote a book called, “Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story.”
What reason would you have to have to take the word of a GA over a man you’ve known for 40 years of your life? And it’s not as if Paterno did nothing or “turned a blind eye” as the media has become fond of saying lately. He reported the matter to the people whose job it is to handle matters such as these. Sandusky wasn’t on his staff and he wasn’t a part of Penn State football except in an emeritus status. My guess is that when no further investigation was launched, Paterno assumed nothing had been found, his friend had been vindicated, and he went on about his work.
Jerry Sandusky hasn’t even been found guilty in a court of law; he’s only been convicted and crucified in the court of public opinion. What if he isn’t guilty? (I’m not saying he isn’t guilty, by the way, he probably is. Obviously the grand jury indictment is pretty damning, but this is America isn’t it? Aren’t we all – even those among us accused of the most heinous crimes – entitled to a fair trial, not in the media but in a courtroom?)
To me this all just seems like a witch hunt. Something terrible happened to some innocent victims and now somebody has to pay and pay dearly. Rather than a need for justice, this seems to play right into our American need for vengeance and a need to see someone go down. It had to be a big name and Jerry Sandusky’s wasn’t big enough.
So an 84-year-old man lost his job. He probably didn’t have a long life ahead of him and coaching was what he loved. It was a job that he had been doing for 46 years and he wasn’t even allowed to retire on his own terms simply because someone had to pay and they had to pay right now. That’s not justice.
I think Joe Pa had five, maybe six good years ahead of him if he had stayed on as coach. I think without the routine of coaching this guy probably doesn’t have much longer to live. I understand why Penn State had to fire him, but that doesn’t make it right.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this 84-year-old coach knew about everything the whole time and was part of the elaborate cover-up that kept this hidden for years and allowed Jerry Sandusky to take advantage of numerous innocent young victims. Maybe he actually masterminded the whole thing after he caught Sandusky with the boys back in the ‘90s. Maybe Paterno even helped Sandusky set up the organization so that he would have access to all the young boys he wanted, because he wanted to make sure nothing tarnished the reputation of his football program. But that’s not what the facts say. The fats say Joe Pa heard one story from one man about another man and he reported that story to the people he was supposed to. For that, I stand by Joe Pa and so should you.