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Thursday, February 24, 2005
Blah, blah, blah, more MIA. Lemme get this out of the way and we'll move on to independently interesting content.
First off, I think Dave has a great response, and makes a lot of great points in re: valuing one authentic representation over another, but he's wrong at the very end when he says, "When M.I.A. tells everybody to pull up the poor, it's nice, but it's not part of a dialogue." This is obviously not true, because, hey, look, we're dialoguing our retarded asses off about it.
Secondly, Carl's point about a fourth level not being an unquestioning acceptance is a very good one, and should be read.
Finally, as for Simon...sigh. There are many perhaps mean things I could say at this point, but let me at least save them for at least after I've made one more basic point.
I don't whip out the "please pay attention to the music, please" argument very much, because, as Simon goes into abstract detail about, it's not, in and of itself, valid. So when I do, I have a very specific criteria for it: I do it only when I feel like the music itself is being ignored in favor of a masturbatory bitchfest about everything that's not the music. I did this, as longtime readers (as well as, possibly, Pitchfork writers/letterpage readers) will remember, about the last Liz Phair album (funny how this always seems to happen with female musicians!), because I felt like a fantastic piece of music was being summarily dismissed because she posed nudies and worked with the wrong producers. I don't necessarily see this dismissal happening with MIA, but that's even worse, because people aren't even addressing the music, they're spending all their ink talking about how they don't really know anything about Sri Lanka.
And so I've spent four posts now bitching about this (and, to be fair, I should widen it beyond Simon's review, but that's the most egregious offense I've seen) because I love this music so much. I think it can bring you immense happiness, and joy, and excitement, and it would do that whether MIA was a Sri Lankan immigrant or a retarded circus clown from Columbus. But people do take this shit seriously, they do pay attention to some random bit of hype and use it as an excuse not to engage with a piece of music. I'm trying to stop that from happening. I'm calling out critics on this because I know as well as you do that this is essentially laziness, that you're avoiding doing the heavy lifting of assessing the aesthetic qualities of a piece of music because it's easier to bitch about people being hoodwinked, or an artist not being sufficiently leftist.
Simon wants to call me "anti-authenticist" (although I'm apparently "they," which is awesome, because I've always wanted to be they! Now when you say "they say" know who you're talking about? Me.) so, fuck it, lemme own that term. The key criteria for anti-authenticists is this: the music is central. And--this is important, pay attention please--music can be good while also being wrong, or offensive, or dangerous. Music does not have to be true to be wonderful, because music isn't about truth, it's about music. (To put it in terms of Simon's weird 8th paragraph there: music is not chocolate covered fucking raisins.) And so, yes, the context matters, but, again, the music is central, and ultimately disproving everything said about MIA anywhere ever doesn't change the actual recorded music, it just distracts us from it, and that's not good. My rule is that if you can address the context in a way that enhances our appreciation of the music, great, but otherwise leave it alone. That artists misrepresent themselves shouldn't be a newsflash for anyone.
And so it pisses me off that we're not actually talking about the music--that I'm not actually talking about the music--and instead we're actually edging toward some sort of grotesque precipice where we're debating whether or not she has the fucking right to include baile funk elements in her music. In what universe is the answer not "yes"? Didn't everyone over the age of 15 agree on this like a long time ago? The music is there for you to use, and if it works, it's justified. Should she only be making Sri Lankan music? Should she not be making music at all?
Look, if you want to talk about politics, that's fine, go talk about politics. But the politics of music is ridiculous. It's just not worth the effort. There are far too many bad things going on in the world for me to care whether or not MIA deserves to sound grimey, because, jesus, who gives a shit? Is the music good? If so, let's talk about it and enjoy it. If it's not, let ignore it and move on with our lives.
So yes, please, take it seriously, care, get worked up, I am. But do the music the favor of taking it on its own terms, which it fully deserves. If you want to talk about its authenticity, fine, but have the grace and the intelligence to discuss whether or not this actually changes your listening experience, and if so, why, and how. Please let's not place upon this thing we love, music, a lazy betrayal.