Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Deep from my files...

Woke up this morning at 3am and have failed miserably attempting to get those last few minutes of sleep. Yes, it's true - even professors get stressed when the new semester starts.

Anyway, I decided to go through some old papers that I've written. I stumbled across a trove of brief papers that I wrote for graduate seminar (appropriately numbered MUSC 666) on Rock and Roll. These gave me a chuckle as I was clearly trying to channel my inner Lester Bangs (or is it cooler to say Chuck Klosterman now?). Here's a paper I wrote to answer the question everyone's dying to know - who will be seen as the most influential artist of the 90's?


Fuck Generation X. We can’t seem to get anything right. The Generation that was supposed to make ‘loser’ cool instead gave the term added substance. Can you think of a group of kids with more promise, more potential than at any time before? I can’t (but then again, I am a member of this shitty group and honestly, I don’t have the desire to look up anything pesky like facts). Born in the late 60s/early 70s, we witnessed multiple failures of government, from Tricky Dick to Jimmy Carter’s Iranian uselessness to Reagan’s complete ignorance of middle America. We saw the US lose a meaningless war, multiple failed assassination attempts, the Space Shuttle exploding (now twice), our parents on welfare, our parents divorcing and remarrying, violence on TV, leg warmers, computerized spell checkers…heck, we’re predisposed to be failures. Our failed hippie parents brainwashed us into truly believing that we had little chance of affecting change in this world, not to mention that the ugly 80’s further conditioned us to be very embarrassed of our childhood.

At any rate, as we grew into our teens and twenties, music finally started reflect us. Screw Michael Jackson – now we have Nirvana! We were young enough to retain some paltry amount of youthful idealism, calling ourselves ‘losers’ but really meaning it in a self-depreciating way. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Beck (by the way, I think Beck’s “Loser” will be remembered as our anthem), Alice in Chains, and even darker groups like Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails are all examples of groups that reflected Gen Xers basic apathy toward society.

So what does this have to do with influential musicians from the 90s? Simple. It ain’t Nirvana. No way. Jeff Gordinier, writing in Entertainment Weekley, states, “If ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit” eradicated the pox of bad pop from our biosphere, will someone please pass the news along to Carson Daly?” (remember the Biosphere? Another failure) If Nirvana and Grunge isn’t influential now, just a few years removed from the 90s, then Dave Grohl has little chance of winning the “Most Influential” Grammy in 2030.

For my money, the business model introduced by Barry Gordy Jr. with Motown in the 60s has been most influential on music today. Does that mean that I see P. Diddy as the Barry Gordy of the 90s? Perhaps, but I think that we’ll look back on the rise of artist producers from the 90s as most influential. Trent Reznor, Dave Grohl and Lenny Kravitz (to name a few), wrote all of the music and played all of the instruments on important 90s albums. In Hip-Hop, artists like Dr. Dre and Puff Daddy wrote and produced a significant and influential body of work. Given the prevalence of ‘Pop’-py beats and high production values on music today, I’d name Dr. Dre as most likely to be named as most influential artist of the 90s in the year 2030.
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