Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Lorde vs Complex : Is Blog Positivity A Bad Thing?

This week there have been a number of articles written about Lorde’s recent Tumblr post. Lorde criticised Complex and music journalism in the wider sense, following the publication’s negative review of the Iggy Azalea album The New Classic, on the basis that the magazine has previously given favourable coverage to Azalea.

Lorde stated: “bugs me how publications like complex will profile interesting artists in order to sell copies/get clicks and then shit on their records? it happens to me all the time- pitchfork and that ilk being like “can we interview you?” after totally taking the piss out of me in a review. have a stance on an artist and stick to it. don’t act like you respect them then throw them under the bus.”

Of course no artist enjoys getting a bad review of something they are proud of, but as has been pointed out by Complex themselves and a number of other publications who feature criticism, publications put an artist on the cover of their magazine and interview them because they think the artist is someone their audience is interested in. Giving an artist a bad review is because the individual journalist thinks that someone that the publication’s audience is interested in didn’t make a very good record. It’s pretty simple and we’re not finding much favour with Lorde in this case, as much as we love her music.

We’re not going to repeat the arguments about music criticism at length here though, if you want further reading on this subject this piece over at The 405 (here) is pretty good.

Instead we want to ask a question from our perspective as a blog. It’s this: Is early blog-love / hype helping perpetuate a pop culture of wrapping young artists up in cotton wool too much, giving them a misguided self-perception of themselves and not preparing them for the reality of the world, which is that not everyone likes everything?

Fundamentally there are two types of blog - those that operate in a similar manner to other music publications, posting news, articles and reviews. Those reviews might be positive or they may be negative depending on the author’s opinion. But then there are many blogs like Breaking More Waves that just write about the music that the author(s) love. 

When we started Breaking More Waves we had a go at criticism. But as time passed we decided it wasn’t for us. The reason was Breaking More Waves is unfunded and we didn’t particularly want to spend our time writing negativity. We’re just like any regular music fan, albeit a fan who spends an absurd amount of time listening, thinking (and then writing) about music. We spend more time thinking about music than we do sex (despite what you might believe reading some of our ‘sexier’ posts).  We came to the conclusion fairly early on in the blog's history that we prefer to spend our spare time celebrating the stuff we adore and occasionally being a bit playful and entertaining with it and having conversations about music rather than offering negative opinion.

It’s a personal choice. Other blogs may do it differently, but the vast amount of new music blogs we read tend to do it this way, writing about the music they like, often single songs rather than albums. Criticism is sometimes implied when we don’t feature something (for example we’ve written a number of times about Banks and named her as one to watch for this year, but we haven’t and won’t be featuring her new single Goddess as we found it a little bit disappointing – not bad – just a bit average; it’s a 6.1 from us if we were Pitchfork, which we’re obviously not). However just because we don’t feature something doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t like it – we just don’t have enough time to feature everything of the 200+ submissions we now receive daily.

But as a positive ‘fan’ blog maybe we’re a small part of a problem - helping cultivate a generation of artists like Lorde who think that it’s wrong for a publication to have both positive and negative articles. When Lorde’s material was first released worldwide on line it was the blogs that picked up on her first. Royals was a massive track on the blogs – way before it went to worldwide radio. There was very little criticism at the early stages as most new music bloggers work in a similar way to Breaking More Waves. Then as more than just bloggers picked up on her, and her audience grew, she (and the likes of Iggy Azalea) would find themselves on covers of magazines and the subject of more articles, but at the same time they would be subject to more critical appraisal, much of it by journalists who amongst their roles are employed as critics. Some of those journalists will have a negative opinion, after all music criticism is subjective.

But if Lorde / Iggy Azalea etc have grown up artistically in a world where the likes of music blogs are constantly amplifying the praise, to suddenly get an apparent backlash on the release of an album must be hard to take. “But I thought these people loved me.” Maybe some of them do. But of course a review is just an individual journalist thinking that a particular record isn’t very good. Not a whole publications view. And besides, a publication is allowed to change its opinion as new information and context appears. For example, how do old fans of Gary Glitter or Lost Prophets feel about those acts now? It’s the same for journalists. One single may be great – the album may not be. 

But if as blogs we are building up artists egos too much through our praise should we stop doing it?

No of course not. 

With so much new music out there blog readers like to visit blogs to find new things to listen to that they may not have heard before - they want to hear about the good stuff – and that’s what a lot of blogs try to write about. But it’s important for those around young artists (family, friends, music industry people working for them) to give those artists a sense of realism, keep their feet on the ground and make them understand at an early point that not every person or every publication will like everything they do and to learn to accept that.

Oh, here's a Lorde remix that was released last week by Flume. Guess what, a lot of blogs loved it. So do we. There you are - that's our 'journalism'.

Lorde - Tennis Court (Flume Remix)


Unknown said...

i tend to agree they have grown up thinking everyone loves them rather than the good old days of not being listened to in clubs and ignored by records labels for years. is the problem not also that these people are kids effectively, but getting to speak their minds to the media like adults. imagine the crap you woulda said to a magazine if interviewed at 16/17 lol

Richard G said...

I am along with you on this. Life, as a none-professional blogger is too short to be worrying ones-self about finding music to criticize. I will listen to almost anything, once, and if it doesn't move me then you'll probably never know that I listened at all. The most likely exception is the comparative:
"I like 'A'but not 'B' because..."

Keep up the good work!

Casey said...

If I wrote about every thing I disliked, I'd never get around to writing about what I liked.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Thanks for the comments guys.

Lauren - yes I totally agree, the sh*t we spout as teenagers is, well, sh*t really isn't it? It's probably why a lot of young acts have their social media outlets 'managed' for them. Clearly Lorde doesn't in this case, which in a way is good - at least you get the real her rather than a sanitized record label version.