Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Articles [NAJP]

Vote Today!

Like many of these for whom my headline has any personal meaning, I tend to put poll votes off. Want to mull the options over. Luckily, this was a slack workday for me, so this afternoon I had time to go back to and look the competitors over again, and for me it's no contest. As I've made clear, I'm at NAJP to advocate for the popular arts and for criticism. In this case, it's the latter commitment that dominates. To repeat: criticism is about writing, words, language. Not a priority in Web journalism, especially the "visionary," "futuristic" kind--but, I insist, fundamental. So though I looked at one of Departures' "non-linear community" stories, I got frustrated with its refusal of the explicit within half a dozen clicks and moved on. Flyp I've been examining in some detail since posting my anti-Jim Gaines brief Wednesday. There's now a comments thread connected to it, Gaines-to-Christgau-to-Gaines. As far as I'm concerned, I made some pretty unanswerable points in the first, but Gaines had me in the second, mostly because I failed to navigate his site correctly and hence altogether missed the blog presence there of David Ross, who's been contributing estimable visual arts criticism on a fairly frequent basis. The other arts writers ain't so much, but--all too typically, believe me--the pop music writing is the most amateurish and idea-free. Even Lindsey Schneider, whose Merce Cunningham post is presentable enough, finishes her very elementary take on the Preservation Hall Jazz Band with a rousing quote from a press release. Hard to imagine such nonsense going on at even the online versions of the Time Inc. mags Gaines has edited (and no, I don't feel obliged to make sure). Flavorpill, the only popwise project selected, has its uses, and may even be the liveliest of the five sites prosewise. But criticism is also about ideas, which are less impressive there, and I share the general unease about its business model, which involves "partnering," to use a term in need of unpacking, with artistic enterprises it covers. San Francisco Classic Voice reads like a labor of love, and the articles I read were obviously well-informed if never, in the half dozen examples I got through, scintillating or revelatory. Which brings us to Glasstire, where I found stuff I actually wanted to read even though I'm not a visual arts guy. By this I mean especially this take on the relation between art-making and theory. Though if what you're posting is a glorified listing, this an evolved version of the form. One problem: I tried three times to access the condensed Dave Hickey lecture, and failed. Once it crashed my browser. My fault, maybe. But the frequency of such glitches in the supposedly user-friendly online realm is one of the many reasons I don't believe my skepticism is mere old-fartdom.

BTW, I'm struck that my two favorite sites here both cover regional scenes that boast a real measure of internal coherence and free-floating capital. The Web is supposed to make the world a village blah-blah-blah. But one thing this reminds us is that real villages are geographically coherent entities. Like words, geography will remain with us. And maybe too the general quality level of online writing makes more sense, and has more credibility, regionally than nationally.


By Adam on November 3, 2009 8:27 PM

This website has a few kinks. I just typed an entry and it was deleted while being sent. Drat. But no sour grapes: here's a second attempt, perhaps a bit more rushed. I'll try to catch my former drift (and hopefully remember to save a draft).

It's likely easier to say something original about a local scene than about Shakira who has been, for the most part, reduced to a palatable denominator. Aside from the tens of millions of us who listen to her music, or who consciously attempt to differentiate her from her pop peers, there's a Thing called Shakira floating around and letting us know something similar to the scant information about her offered by the article you disparagingly criticized. Shakira as a Thing resembles press material, unfortunately, and the fault of the graphix-laden article isn't entirely with its writer or publisher, but with who Shakira has become. She's larger than life, and it's easier, if not necessary, in many cases to rely on the prefabricated version. The other article, which you draw our attention to as the-way-to-go in dealing with multifaceted popsters - funny, interesting, nuanced, unique - does the unlikely in revisiting the overly-familiar and under-scrutinized. Writing about Texan Zen billboard art is more of an . . . open sky . . .one would hope. The local can be cute and also surprising if it lays something remotely theoretical on you - it's got a few immediate advantages over addressing topics of global concern, like Shakira. Local bloggery does have to contend with digging too deeply or shallowly into obscurity, but clearly can be done right. Discovering a new Shakira might be a touch more intimidating to a blogger, and not necessarily the best fit for a visually wowing site anyhow. Who wants the new when you've got an eyeful of gloss? Though, we've seen Blender, etc., marry the two. Could the ideologies accompanying a new Shakira be too much to handle, rather than a containable hellbrand, or whatever the Thing is?

More to say on global vs. local, but again I'm hoping others will comment. This is a discussion forum, yes?

By Alex on January 19, 2010 4:29 PM

I am totally oblivious as to where I should post this (if I should post this at all) - I can see how this would come off as annoying.

I'm just trying to make a best of Hip-Hop list and wondered how and why you haven't made one yet?!

I know this may annoy but if it by chance makes you chuckle what do you think?

  1. Public Enemy: It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
  2. Public Enemy: Fear Of A Black Planet
  3. Beastie Boys: Licensed to Ill
  4. De La Soul: Timeless: The Singles Collection
  5. M.I.A.: Kala
  6. Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique
  7. Kanye West: Late Registration
  8. Lil Wayne: Tha Carter III
  9. LL Cool J: Mama Said Knock You Out
  10. Kanye West: The College Dropout

I mean there a few Public Enemy's that could go in here I'm thinking but I need to re-listen to them. :p

These are following so far -

  1. Public Enemy: Apocalypse 91 . . . The Enemy Strikes Black
  2. Fugees: The Score
  3. Outkast: Stankonia
  4. Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP
  5. De La Soul: Buhloone Mindstate
  6. Lil Wayne: Da Drought 3
  7. Eminem: Encore
  8. Ghostface Killah: Fishscale
  9. Public Enemy: He Got Game
  10. Notorious B.I.G.: Life After Death
  11. Run-D.M.C.: Greatest Hits
  12. Ice-T: O.G.: Original Gangster
  13. Beastie Boys: Hello Nasty
  14. Missy Elliott: This Is Not a Test!
  15. De La Soul: 3 Feet High and Rising
  16. Ghostface Killah: Ironman

He Got Game obviously deserves more and the bottom to are probably going to fall I need to get to thirty! :p

So again *rolls eyes if this doesn't infuriate you what do you think?

Articles, Oct. 23, 2009

Anybody but Flyp A Critics' Band--And How