2015: The Year In Reading
The indie blogosphere died
2015 will forever be remembered as the year the indie blogosphere died, after 29yo Carlos Perez, best known as Carles, decided to sell his legendary Hipster Runoff for 21,200$ in January, giving up on the voice that shaped a whole decade’s taste in music and lifestyle –– quite a beginning for the new year. Over at Vice’s Motherboard, Brian Merchant interviewed the Texan blogger, whom revealed for the first time ever his real identity, for what was possibly the best eulogy for the departed website, “The Last Relevant Blogger.”
There will be no “first” anymore
Meagan Garvey called 2015 “The Year of the Internet Hangover” in a feature she penned for Pitchfork, claiming how digital maximalism of artist like PC Music and the rise of the “think piece,” together with HRO shutdown, took us to a place where “Internet culture feels like it’s reached a critical mass: non-professional bloggers feel like a dying breed, privacy is nonexistent, our most essential social media platforms have grown tedious and rife with harassment, content is branded and SEO-optimized within an inch of its life. Everyone I know is “thinking about deleting Facebook.” We use technology to help us stay away from technology.”
Thus, is it really “The End of the Music Blog as we Know It,” as Pigeon and Planes claimed? “The title of this post was going to be “Why You Shouldn’t Start a Music Blog in 2015,” but halfway through I realized something: fuck that. If you read all of this and still want to start a new music blog in 2015, you should do it. Who knows what the next wave will be. Whatever it is, you’ll have the upper hand, because you won’t have any old practices to unlearn.” Because, you know, SOCIAL MEDIA…
But, all you diehard music blogger, please bear in mind that, as Jon Caramanica noted in the Fader, even so, there will be no “first” anymore: “taste as we know it really only matters when there’s someone to lord it over, when it functions as a klieg light and a beacon for others to follow. As everyone closes in on having access to everything, those imbalances will flatten, freeing up new jumbles, new juxtapositions, new narratives. Taste will no longer be a guide for the many—we’re moving towards a post-consensus society. Instead, the impossibility of being the first will be replaced by the possibility of being the only: me, my taste, I.”
Passionate millenial males
So, has any distinction between “indie” and “mainstream” any meaning, anymore? How long have we been asking this, in the year when Pitchfork was acquired by Condé Nast to widen its reach towards “passionate Millennial males”, The Fader dedicated one of its best cover story to Zayn Malik, the runaway One Direction (also the lead of an interesting essay by Fariha Roisin on Matter, “Soft Power – How pop star Zayn Malik is rebuilding the modern Muslim man in an age of Islamophobia”) and the biggest selling artist ever, Adele, is signed to Domino Records and makes it into the Guardian pages interviewing Tobias Jesso Jr?
The ultimate “mindie” act
“Just as major labels are trying to score hits, they are now also working harder than ever to preserve the unvarnished appeal of artists on the rise. In recent years, we’ve seen major labels sign a rash of independent artists and then deliberately obscure the trappings of a major-label deal (the ready-for-radio single, the high-budget music videos, access to a crew of star producers). This is an open-secret strategy with roots in hip-hop—Wiz Khalifa allegedly released his critically beloved 2010 mixtape “Kush and Orange Juice” after he’d already signed with Atlantic, under the guise of an indie rapper—that has crept into other realms, particularly the world of female pop,” wrote Carrie Battan on her great profile of Carly Rae Jepsen, the ultimate “mindie” act: “a major artist with indie bonafides.”
Women in music and “the Kozelek affair”
But if Adele, Carly Rae Jepsen, Taylor Swift made it clear that women in pop can reach the highest and most powerful places, how are women on the other aspects of the industry doing?
Human Human’s Hannah Thacker conducted a great survey asking female musicians, bloggers, label owners and publicists three simple questions: “who are you? what changes have you seen in the music industry in regards to women? is there anything you would still like to change?”
Over at the Guardian, Amanda Holpuch, collected and commented all the replies Jessica Hopper got to a tweet asking “Gals/other marginalized folks: what was your 1st brush (in music industry, journalism, scene) w/ idea that you didn’t “count”?”
Also thanks to the Kozelek affair and all its aftermath, sparks of conversation about sexism in music generated big bonfires of discussions. Should we separate the man from the artist? David Marchese dealt with this question in his long profile about “R. Kelly’s problem” on Vulture: “He’s a musical genius — and he’s been accused of some awful things. Is it okay to listen to him?” And, “Remember When Dr. Dre Bashed a Female Journalist’s Face Against a Wall?” In case you don’t, Rich Juzwiak is over at Gawker with a (not so) quick reminder.
Other great essays
Out of the hot-takes realm and into the literary side of music writing, in related Compton-stories, the Los Angeles Review of Books ran a stunning essay, “Et Tu, Too?: Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” and the Revival of Black Postmodernism” by Casey Michael Henry. Kyle Kramer, instead, discovered for Noisey what links Grouper’s “Ruins” to “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and Jeff Vandermeer’s sci-fi horror trilogy “The Southern Reach”; and Carl Wilson did pretty much the same with Joanna Newsom, Elena Ferrante and Iris DeMent over at Slate. Plus: the stunning recount of Lagos’ nightlife by Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole, going side by side to the mixtape he compiled, for OkayAfrica.
Photos: The Disney Blog