March 24, 2008

Some music notes

- Nelly Furtado, whose right hand can clearly be seen here, has a slightly masculine digit ratio and stands only 5'2".

- Miley Cyrus, who plays teen music idol Hannah Montana, has a YouTube channel where she and her best friend / backup dancer Mandy Jiroux record their girly goofing off and answer readers' questions. (At 2:08 in the first video, you can clearly see that Miley Cyrus' digit ratio is slightly masculine. It must take balls to be a performer.) I haven't seen her TV show or heard her music, but it's worth keeping a finger on the pulse of youth culture -- in this case, you'll breathe a sigh of relief that this is who younger teenagers look up to. It's not like if the Blonde Ambition-era Madonna had a YT channel.

- Indie bands often get too much credit for making revolutionary or pioneering music. Here's how Wikipedia describes the sound on The Jesus and Mary Chain's album Psychocandy, which is the Farah Fawcett swimsuit poster of '80s indie rock:

The album fused together the Reids' two primary influences, the guitar noise of The Stooges and The Velvet Underground with the '60s pop leanings of The Beach Boys and Phil Spector -- in fact, the album's opening song, "Just Like Honey," borrows Hal Blaine's famous drum intro from The Ronnettes 1963 classic, "Be My Baby", produced and co-written by Spector.

A whole four years before this album came out, a very similar sound -- a dark, noisy guitar take on the oldies -- was "pioneered" by 19 year-old girl pop singer Rachel Sweet, in "Then he kissed me / Be my baby". The scarequotes are there since this may go back even earlier, but it goes back at least this far. (At 0:24, you can barely make it out, but she too appears to have a slightly masculine digit ratio.)

- Speaking of noise rock, is it angry nerd rock? Take the legendary noise rock band Big Black: Steve Albini went to Northwestern for undergrad, and Santiago Durango went to law school after the band broke up. Also, Ian Mackaye, frontman of hardcore punk band Minor Threat, was born to a wealthy smarty family, and guitarist Lyle Preslar studied briefly at Northwestern (playing in Big Black while there). Indeed, the very wealthy Georgetown neighborhood was central to the DC hardcore and later "underground music" scenes. I think it was only around 1998, or a bit earlier, when most of those punk-themed stores on the otherwise ritzy M Street began relocating, except for Smash!

So what distinguishes noise rock from, say, death metal, which has lower-IQ / lower-class fans in addition to some college student fans? It can't be musical complexity or technical skill, literary sophistication, allusions to classical music, or song length.

Noise rock may have been popular among smarter people just as a fad, with no rational explanation for it, in the same way that ugly, stripped-down painting, sculpture, and movies were (and somewhat continue to be) fashion statements within the contemporary elite art world.

4 comments:

  1. Spike Gomes3/25/08, 2:05 PM

    It's the heroin chic, dude. You can trace a straight line with that stuff all the way to Nico, the Velvet Underground and that king of posteuring, Warhol.

    That being said, I still hold a soft spot in my heart for Patti Smith and some of the shoegaze stuff that arose or spun off out of all that New York/London art scene shite.

    Me, I always preferred the poppier end of the spectrum. It was less fucking pretentious to boot.

    Speaking Patti Smith, how does she fit into the whole female musician thing you got going on? My theory is that if she didn't look like a man in drag, she'd be rightfully regarded as one of the greatest woman rockers of all time.

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  2. RE: Nelly Furtado's digit ratio

    Quelle suprise! She called her album Loose, had a hit single called Promiscuous, and had a child out of wedlock didn't she. I actually think she's a worse roll model than someone like Britney Spears. The Spears saga has proceeded like a morality tale, while Furtado seems to have gotten away with behaviour that would sink people without her fame and money.

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  3. The Spears saga has proceeded like a morality tale, while Furtado seems to have gotten away with behaviour that would sink people without her fame and money.

    Spears is white trash, but Furtado is Portuguese from Canada and in tune with the Whiterperson vibe. The Whiterpeople who run the media won't rag on someone who brags about multiculturalism, sings in foreign languages, and has non-degenerate Black friends (like Timbaland, who accompanies her on "Promiscuous").

    Ragging on Spears, though, let's them feel superior to low-IQ Southern Whites.

    ...And aside from that, Furtado has spellbinding looks, while Spears is "just" very pretty, so the press may be less blinded by beauty in Spears' case.

    It's like how Angelina Jolie could do whatever weirdass shit she wanted -- wear a vial of her bf's blood around her neck, make out in public with her brother, etc. -- and get a free pass.

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  4. Spears gets ragged on because she went from super-famous, good girl virgin American pop princess to a woman who regularly flashes her vagina, married a dubious publicity-hungry dirtbag, has had her children taken from her by the state, is a known drug user, gets carted off to mental hospitals in the middle of the night, & appears to be having a nervous breakdown.

    Any comparably famous female celebrity who suddenly started behaving this way would get the same negative attention, regardless of how beautiful & upper-class (even better - the bigger the fall, the greater the spectacle), multicultural, or whiterpeople-friendly she is.

    Many, many famous female musicians & actresses have had children out of wedlock & have sexually provocative images, but since they appear to be in control of their lives, careers, emotions, etc. and don't exhibit the kind of wildly trashy & destructive public behavior exhibited by Spears, the press & public don't turn them into morality tales - unwed motherhood, especially in show business, in and of itself, is no longer remotely scandalous or considered reason for moralizing as long as there is no indication that she is a bad mother. Who ever hears about Nelly Furtado acting out?

    And BTW, as someone who has watched Jolie's career with interest from the start - during the whole making out w/ her brother/Billy Bob phase, I can tell you she got a lot of negative, "look at this crazy chick" press even though she was "edgy" from the start. The press changed their attitude towards her & covers her more respectfully only now that she's transformed herself into a classily dressed Holy Earth Mother & United Nations Ambassador who writes Economist editorials and donates millions to charity. If she suddenly goes off the rails a la Spears, you better believe the press would go crazy.

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