clap clap blog: we have moved

Tuesday, August 05, 2003
The letter.



Look, I clearly have a different opinion on mainstream pop than the two readers whose letters you published today do, but you have to understand where they're coming from. Pitchfork suddenly getting all dewy-eyed about radio pop is a bit like Michael Jackson starting a kids' summer camp: he might have the best of intentions, and it might turn out very well for all involved, but we're all going to be way suspicious at first, and somebody's going to ask for an explanation beyond "I just want to, OK?" Because, let's be honest, no matter what you, Ryan, have felt in your heart of hearts lo these many years, Pitchfork's public face is very, very anti-pop; I won't bore you with pointless "gotcha!" exegesis, but suffice to say I recall "it sounds like something on the radio" being the extent of the negative critical assessment more than once.

I believe you that you genuinely like this music--Matt LeMay told me as much a few weeks back, and I'm disinclined to ascribe conspiracy theories to generally honest music-jocks. And I like all this music too. Those are all great fucking songs on there, although I'd probably pick a different Eminem song. But that's part A of the problem: if you take out 5 of the songs (Punjabi MC, "Ignition," Nas, Beyonce, JT), this is a list that could have been made anytime in the last few years by the people whose critical opinion I respect about this kind of music--i.e., not Pitchfork. (No offense.) So while I would be loathe to criticize someone for being out-of-the-loop, musically (cause eek, I hate it when people do that), this does feel a little...cribbed. Which is fine, and not to say you don't genuinely like the songs (that LPTJ list got me to like "Ignition" too), but it does feel a little weird, a little phase-y, and a little like it needs to be more explicitly explained. I mean, I'm with you--Missy is about a billion times better than Krautrock in every possible way--but again, the Michael Jackson thing, if you see what I'm getting at.

The part B part is about this new (-ly public) attitude's relation to the rest of Pitchfork and its harem of critics, and this is the real head-scratcher. Because I don't think you'd argue with me that calling something "mainstream" was, indeed, quite the neutron bomb in PF's arsenal previous to this, something I and not a few other people were unhappy about. And so this needs to be addressed in a way other than with the confusing intro verbiage, viz. "fuck, days like this practically make bullshit Busta/Mariah joints hit like Mary J & Method Man." (About which: hey, I thought "we're not feeling much of a need to discriminate"?) So what gives? Is WATW going to be its own separate little enclave, or are y'all going to--rightly--start appreciating good music that does, also, get played on the radio, even if it's on an album? More importantly, are yo going to stop taking sidewise swipes at radio pop in the context of reviews? Is that going to stop being the ultimate deal-breaker, opinion-wise? Because that would suuuuure be nice. (It would also be nice--and this would be my tradeoff--if you, um, reevaluated your Andrew WK dis, but I'm not holding my breath.)

At any rate, good luck converting the indie kids. I know how hard it can be convincing them that you might as well sincerely appreciate now the music you're going to ironically appreciate in 20 years anyway, and how difficult it can be to make the point that booty-shaking music is just as valuable as sad songs to drink to. Have at it.