Rockism should be dead by now. The perceived slight, that critics beat down other forms of music for the sake of the purer, more real form of Rock ‘N’ Roll, serves little purpose in an age where no genre has an upper hand. The democratization of music, and music criticism, which has taken place since the turn of the Century, when coupled with the flattening of the old music business, has ensured as much. We now live in an age of specialization, and one of tribes, where the success and validity of one form of music does not come at the expense of another. Any more, fearing Rock ‘N’ Roll will eviscerate your favorite form of music seams as rational as fearing the boogey man, or the cookie monster.
Yet, these old fights remain. Earlier this year we had Dave Grohl apologizing for a perceived slam of electronic music during his Grammy acceptance speech. In turn, the internet exploded with half baked commentaries like the one by Pitchfork’s Nitsuh Abebe, who had a full blown existential crisis over (shock) liking new rock albums by Pop.1280, Cloud Nothings and The Men. And now, we have this: A study from the University of Minnesota which purports to draw a direct link between Rock ‘N’ Roll and racism.
Let me save you the click. Basically, what the researchers have discovered is that when you play music sung by a white man, you’ll picture a white man and favor the cause of the white man over those of women and minorities. Similarly, when you play music sung by a woman, the listener will be more sympathetic to women’s cause. And the same correlation holds true for black and latino music. Brilliant. It’s just what Rock ‘N’ Roll’s critics have been saying for years. Rock fans are racist, misogynistic assholes and the reason rock fans hate rap and pop and disco has nothing to do with a person’s taste, but it’s their innate, racist, misogynistic asshole selves.
Thankfully, others are starting to see realize the irrelevance of these continued rockist vs anti-rockist arguments. Emily Mackay just penned a brilliant takedown for The Quietus. Here’s just one, of many choice paragraphs:
It’s not a warning that many critics seem to be heeding. It’s become received form to have a sort of guilt about or scepticism towards bands who dared to consist of MEN playing GUITARS. The reformation of the Stone Roses was one recent bone of contention between rockist and poptimist camps, writers rushing to to their barricades. One of the greatest British guitar bands ever! Ladrock chancers! I wasn’t around so this means nothing to my flaming youth! Over in no-mans land, I wondered where I was supposed to stand if I was too young for them the first time round, liked Robyn but was actually quite excited because the Stone Roses wrote a lot of amazing songs? (I settled on ‘down the front, dancing’). You can automatically criticise, it seems, a band for being into the Roses, or Oasis, or the Jam, without needing further explanation as to why that indicates a stunted taste any more than if they cited Beefheart and Can or Aaliyah and J Dilla. Much as I’m not the biggest Vaccines fan, or the biggest Yuck fan, I do wonder what people are on about sometimes when the just as stylised and retro synthpop and industrial electronica of the likes of La Roux (who I love) or Zola Jesus (who I also love) get no such stick. They’re women, you see, with keyboards, so that means they’re from THE FUTURE. Are the likes of Client, with their haughty, I-am-a-sex-robot, Euro-froideur more modern because they wear PVC dresses and fetishise cold electronics rather than licks? Or are they pretty much Brother with a different, more critically acceptable set of references?
Basically, what writers like myself and Ms. Mackay are saying, some people don’t like Rock ‘N’ Roll. That’s ok. Others don’t much care for pop. That’s cool, too. However, let’s quit with the notion that other personal qualities can be universally inferred by one’s taste in music. Let’s quit with the notion that only one form of music can be supreme.
Oh, and, here’s a song called “Rock ‘N’ Roll.” It’s by the Australian band feedtime, who’ve just had their first four albums re-issued by Sub Pop Records. Some may find it real and authentic. We’re not going to judge.