Welcome to our new series, “Bad Music Journalism,” where we analyze and laugh at bad writing.
For our inaugural entry in “Bad Music Journalism,” we are lucky enough to have a double-whammy. Let’s begin with Slate’s article, “Cry Me a River (of White Male Tears).”
(Just start by reading the subheadline. I’m not even going to comment on it, because I have zero idea what he’s saying.)
This week, Carl Wilson demonstrated a long-running trope in bad music journalism: he only listened to the first song on the album. “Keep Your Name” features some pretty intense lyrics, but it’s the only song on Dirty Projectors with the confrontational tone that Wilson writes his article around.
I’ll concede – “Keep Your Name’s” confessional bridge is annoying. I kind of want to edit it out of the song. But this 25 second rant is really the only bad part on the album.
What’s more — as Wilson realizes halfway through the article, in a bizarre 180 — “Keep Your Name” switches between perspectives. The phrase “keep your name” is spoken by both him and her, alternating and together. The best part about this song is the jumble of emotions, from spite to acceptance, from concession to doubt, to apology and forgiveness. From “Fine! Keep your fucking name!” to the pained, “Okay. I was wrong. It’s okay, keep your name.”
Longstreth is known for dense, shifting lyrics, which reveal new meaning with every listen. Of course, if you only listened to it once, you probably wouldn’t notice.
Jillian Mapes wrote a delightful article for Pitchfork yesterday called, “Know How the Pop Music Sausage is Made? Keep it to Yourself.”
I’m going to tell you exactly what I tell my fellow meat-eaters: if you are uncomfortable knowing how a sausage is made, you probably shouldn’t be eating meat. And if you don’t want to know how music is made, maybe you shouldn’t be a music journalist.
On Max Martin’s rules for pop music, Mapes says, “It’s subtle enough so as to be seamless, but when you’re aware of the song’s seams, they’re all you see.” You are the freshman in every “Intro to Film/Music/Lit/Art Theory” class who says, “Learning the technique ruins the art of it.”
The thing is, Max Martin has written hundreds of songs, and only 22 of those are number one hits. Even Max Martin doesn’t know why some songs work, and some do not. There will always be a magic to music, no matter how much theory you learn. If you’re doing it right, knowledge only heightens the beauty of art.