Nick Hornby reviews the Billboard Top Ten.
August 21, 2001 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Nick Hornby reviews the Billboard Top Ten. Quote: We have been told often enough that to disapprove of gangsta rap is pointless, middle class, and smug, like disapproving of modern urban life itself. Nevertheless, one is entitled to feel queasy about the enthusiasm for and endorsement of the gangsta life audible on "The Saga Continues . . ."
posted by acridrabbit (19 comments total)
If I could get a New Yorker writer to deem listening to one of my works as "the single most dispiriting moment of my professional life so far this millennium," I'd really feel like I'd accomplished something.
posted by aaron at 6:18 PM on August 21, 2001

Parts of this article really bothered me (warning: self-link). He really isn't the right guy to talk about rap, I'm afraid. Basically, he announces by way of a joke about P. Diddy that we shouldn't confuse the artist with the narrator, and then goes on to do just that, in the case of Eminem. To me, it all comes across as painfully condescending.
posted by D at 6:19 PM on August 21, 2001

"Kids these days and the terrible music they listen to" rants have been done, pretty much to death. However, sentences like this

The D12 album "Devils Night" offers no respite, needless to say; listening to the fourth track here—a "skit" entitled "Bizarre," in which one of the gang members' attempts to seduce a colleague's girlfriend goes awry, because he farts all the way through it—was, I think, the single most dispiriting moment of my professional life so far this millennium.

make me appreciate Hornby's talent immensely.
posted by swell at 6:25 PM on August 21, 2001

He's definitely a fearsome writer. I just wish he would use his talent for good, instead of evil. He mostly does, I guess, but I thought this one was misguided.
posted by D at 6:29 PM on August 21, 2001

You know, I can possibly accept Eminem's claim that he's portraying a character (although I don't know his work all that well, and I find it hard to believe that when he raps about events in his life he's not speaking from a personal viewpoint) rather than expressing his own opinions. But I still don't think he should be in "Bop!" magazine, middle school girls being known for their poor perception of irony...
posted by tweebiscuit at 6:29 PM on August 21, 2001

"Someone on your street might be listening to 'Fuck a Dog' right now." It's funny because it's true.
posted by kindall at 7:04 PM on August 21, 2001

I'd like to point out that these artists are far more staid in their "rebeling" than, say, the Beatles:

Not one of these pussies would dare reject Christianity or Islam.
posted by Ptrin at 7:34 PM on August 21, 2001

D, I read the article the other day and thought that he was poking fun at himself throughout. I read his critique of rap as just that--acting like a New Yorker writer who has no idea what those krazy kids are into these days. Because really, have you ever read the New Yorker's reviews of hip-hop or rap? The pretense is unintentionally amusing.

Twee, with you re: Bop magazine and so forth.
posted by acornface at 8:04 PM on August 21, 2001

For this article to be condescending, it would have to have run in some publication far more hip and cool than the New Yorker--some mag that might speak to readers who are likely to appreciate one or more of the artists Hornby is talking about.

As it is, the core group of people reading Hornby's criticism hate the Billboard Top 10, no matter who is on it, and want to read someone more eloquent than themselves explaining why they hate it.

one of the strengths of the album is Keys's recognition that there was black American music before Whitney Houston.

This is a perfect example, I think, of Hornby knowing exactly who he is writing for -- readers who (in this case) naturally assume that today's black artists have never even heard, let alone appreciated, black artists from the '70s and earlier. Of course, there are plenty of other fuddy-duddy things that his readers assume/believe about current popular music of all genres, and Hornby speaks to a lot of it in a voice that confirms everything they already thought.

I don't mean to say that, if you find the article condescending, you're wrong. I just mean that Hornby didn't have you in mind as the audience when he wrote it.
posted by Bixby23 at 8:08 PM on August 21, 2001

Oh rats. acornface just said everything I wanted to, only more clearly and using way fewer words. My bad.
posted by Bixby23 at 8:11 PM on August 21, 2001

At least the New Yorker doesn't try to sound pretentious using big words. As a matter of fact, I could barely read the article... what is that, 6 point type?
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 8:48 PM on August 21, 2001

D - the way I read Hornby's comment about "not confusing the artist and narrator" was that he was just slightly taking the piss out of the fact that rappers so often trot out that line in their defence. In that light, his comments about Eminem are entirely consistent.
posted by pascal at 11:06 PM on August 21, 2001

This actually reminds me about an interview that Hornby gave on radio around the time that "High Fidelity" came out on film in the UK, where he spent most time defending Cusack's shift of location to Chicago. He also talked about the way that the film updated Rob's musical tastes from 60s soul -- Hornby's own beloved genre -- to the slightly newer, more eclectic stuff that makes the soundtrack, and wryly noted that he was now an old fart. And I think that's the premise: along with the slightly condescending, but fairly justifiable idea that no-one could write a "High Fidelity" about those 10 albums... or any "official" top 10 albums.
posted by holgate at 2:03 AM on August 22, 2001

Excuse me, but High Fidelity sucked. The guys at the New Yorker probably think Hornby's still cool, but he's not.
posted by matteo at 6:13 AM on August 22, 2001

Who said Hornby was "cool," for God's sake? Hornby is an intelligent and witty writer with well-known interests in popular music. The "guys at the New Yorker" certainly know that much, or they wouldn't have commissioned this piece from him. You're entitled to your opinion about High Fidelity, but it takes a little more than "it sucked" to convince anybody you really have anything to say.
posted by m.polo at 7:16 AM on August 22, 2001

I know when I'm beaten; I can only offer sporting congratulations and a firm handshake.

Seems to me that one of the points Hornby is making is that his generation assumed they were too cool to be shocked at mere rebelliousness. Thus if hipsters like Hornby find music that's offensive, then, they assume, it must because the kids are truly evil. But Hornby points out that, no, they're just deliberately trying to shock the older generation and have found all the right buttons to push.

He's not saying rap is evil. He's saying, yes, you have found subjects that I personally find so distasteful, that I don't want to listen to them. Congratulations, I am now just as unable to listen to the kids' music as my parents were.
posted by straight at 7:39 AM on August 22, 2001

High Fidelity was pretty sweet, actually. It wasn't the world's greatest movie or anything, but I enjoyed it a lot. But then, I always like coming-of-age stories, even when the person coming of age is already middle-aged. "It's never too late to grow up" is the message I took home from that movie, and looking at the yahoos who live in the world around me, I think more of them could stand to hear it.
posted by kindall at 7:48 AM on August 22, 2001

Bravo, straight! That's what I got from the article as well.

I still think the music sucks, though (and I'm not going to attempt to support my contention, either).
posted by rushmc at 9:16 AM on August 22, 2001

I found that review to be stuffy, pompous, narrow-minded and dismissive of popular music.

I also found that review to be intelligent, insiteful, honest, and the most asute view of today's disposable McMusic that I've read in months.

Bravo, Hornby, for this endurance test. I actually like a few of those artists (Staind and Blink 182, on occasion), but there's no way I could tolerate sitting through all of the albums of the Top 10 artists, most of whom are awful (How the hell does that hack Pee Doody still manage to get on the charts? ...I think the labels buy back their own albums to tip the scales, actually.). The review is pretty much on the mark on the creatively vacant state of pop music today. Maybe once people start "suffering" again like in the early 1990s, the talent and craft of music will again rise.
posted by Down10 at 12:36 AM on August 25, 2001

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