Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Getting Subjy with two Azies

This is hard work. I am trying to avoid making too many aesthetic claims about the artists in question: whether I like it or not, the relative critical worth of Iggy and Banks is subjective. As Mark Boyle from BHP pointed out when I kept playing Iggy's videos: 'this music is not for us.' 

(He didn't mean that in any cultural sense, just that some pop music has an intended audience that doesn't include Glasgow's top rock DJ and a semiotician with a fetish for performance art.)

The question of whether Iggy is performing blackface or just making generic pop might be beyond my ability to discern. I am, however with Lodge, Rahman et al when they consider Iggy's music as an appropriation of hip hop. But since I live in a postmodern milieu, I'm not sure whether this is a priori a bad thing. 

Hip-hop is now so global, a passive listener would be forgiven for not being familiar with the politics of race relations, Lodge continues. But even if you look at this situation oblivious to the issues, it’s not hard to see that something has gone wrong.

Azealia Banks is making creative, boundary pushing music that deserves awards, whilst Iggy Azalea’s music is dull, formulaic pop. Yet it’s Iggy who is being hailed by Forbes as "one of hip hop’s most exciting new artists". I'd hazard a guess that 70 per cent of Iggy Azalea’s appeal is based on the fact that she is a conventionally attractive white woman doing work that’s associated with black men. She captures the imagination of white consumers. It’s a gimmick.

I broadly agree with Lodge here although - at the suggestion of my man Psignal, I am listening to Azealia Bank's album. I really loved 212, but I am not sold on Broke with Expensive Tastes as 'boundary pushing music.' Tracks like Heavy Metal and Reflective has a harsh rhythmic energy and an eclectic orchestration, which graft EDM intensity onto a bold, sexual aggression, while BBD recalls an updated version of Missy Elliot's tracks with the antics - coarse, intelligent music for the club, all rattling percussion and snarled whispered. But it is anyone's guess what she was thinking when she recorded Nude Beach A Go Go

I'm also worried about 'the gimmick.' Most of pop music is a gimmick. To challenge myself, I am going to list ten artists and define them by their gimmick. A gimmick is another word for a unique selling point.

Lady Gaga: she's pop, but she's well art.
Public Enemy: the political commentary you can dance to.
Led Zeppelin: it's the blues, but toughened up.
The Wurzels: they have West Country accents.
Ariel Pink: he records Kim Fowley tracks, which are kitsch and poppy.
The Bee Gees: it's disco, but they are straight men.
Amanda Palmer: oh, she's so fucking alternative.
Steve Albini: he's all about the honest rock sound, man.
Miles Davis (1970s): it's jazz, but with rock ambitions.
Miles Davis (1950s): it's jazz, only cool and laid back.

And as for the list of artists who sell their music through a filter of soft porn imagery...

I suppose what I am saying is: taking sides in this beef means assuming that subjective opinions have authenticity. And that's got me on the phone to Baudrillard.

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