The Singles Jukebox is seeking writers!


The Singles Jukebox is seeking writers! We’re looking for anyone who is unafraid to tackle unfamiliar genres, open to analyzing new sounds, and — most importantly — possesses a unique voice. We are not a Pitchfork or a Rolling Stone; we are an international site that thrives on diverse voices and opinions. We are particularly interested in applicants who are under-represented in music writing and strongly encourage women and people of color to apply. However, all are welcome, including those who have previously expressed interest in writing for the website.

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There are still a few days left to submit an application! All y’all who went last during class presentations, it’s time to press send. 

"Brooklyn Girls": Pop in the Age of the Worst


This was supposed to go up Friday, but Pitchfork Festival intervened. It’s pretty long, so it’s behind a cut. It’s also a first draft; I welcome pushback on any of it, or suggestions for further research. It will likely be revised with that in mind, because it’s my blog and I can do that. 

Many people believe the failure state of pop is B-list. They don’t usually say it, but it’s implied. They are wrong. If this was ever true, it’s certainly not true now. The pop economy works like the normal economy does: slicing away the middle class, middle management, the midlist authors, the middle-class clergy (I literally just saw that posted to Twitter while doing a final copy edit on this; examples are everywhere, and emerge so often) and the midlist pop stars. There is no narrative for sliced-away midlisters; regardless of how much you’ve accomplished in what span of time or what span of time awaits you, society and posterity will plop you down on one side of a binary: success or failure. It’s perverse, but the failure state of pop is obscurity.

Read More

(via nuplan)



Can you party to my rules?? 

Pitbull has an exciting future in corporate brochure design should the pop star thing ever go sour.

pitbull has a tumblr. it’s all pictures and gifs of pitbull. this is the best news i’ve had all week. 



Can you party to my rules?? 

Pitbull has an exciting future in corporate brochure design should the pop star thing ever go sour.

pitbull has a tumblr. it’s all pictures and gifs of pitbull. this is the best news i’ve had all week. 

(via nickminichino)



We might disagree about Grimes, but surely Crystal’s conclusion can bring us all together…

Katherine St Asaph: Grimes is writing for Rihanna, which is somehow a surprise to anyone — like, what the fuck did you expect to happen when Grimes signed with Roc Nation? Beyoncé is recording Caroline Polachek demos and Rih just cut a Kiesza track. There’s always been a market for indie songwriters to purvey their outré, anyway, and given that big-name indies aren’t often big-money indies, and that you can attain the level of celebrity to make getting a day job untenable without earning the amount of money to make getting a day job unnecessary — and given that in this economy, no one’s getting any jobs — why wouldn’t you get that Jay-Z cash if it’s offered? Writers, most of whom do moonlighting they don’t talk about, should know better; bro Grimes fans might understand once they graduate. The problem is knowing this existed, and was rejected, puts me in less of a receptive role than the role of a QA or an A&R — a human who is an acronym, who doesn’t pour feeling into songs but takes notes. 0:21 is too jarring. Verse two is spare in a way that doesn’t say “haunting” but “finish the demo.” (Unfinished demos can be better, i.e. “Everything Is Embarrassing.” This is not.) If this is really for Rihanna and not Ellie Goulding it should be at least an octave down. The drop needs something — anything — prominent in its second half; slightly different synth skronking doesn’t cut it, nor does mixing percussion low or shrieking like a pigeon flew into the studio wall. (A mashup solved this by splicing in “Pour It Up,” which is cool but should’ve sounded crowded, right?) The lyrics are piffle. “Diamonds” had the same problem, but at least those words were by Sia, one of earth’s rare people who probably really does find light in the beautiful sea. I’m not sure “Go” means much to anyone.

Crystal Leww: Don’t get me wrong: Diplo is a hateful little shit, reverse sexism doesn’t exist, and he absolutely shouldn’t have said “if skrillex or I put out that grimes song [Pitchfork] would have fuckin trashed it #reversexism ?” (immortalized in a manual RT because it’s 2014 and music bloggers are vicious). But let’s pretend for a moment that he has a point and that we exist in a world where people don’t treat “female rappers” like a separate genre of music and DJs who happen to be female get their respect: “Go” does indeed sound remarkably similar to Diplo’s “Revolution,” except maybe with worse vocals and nonsense lyrics. Still, that world I described doesn’t exist, and Diplo’s own Instagram is proof that women are used for their bodies and their talents are marginalized in EDM. Grimes made what is basically a standard EDM track that could be played to a field full of a bros at Lollapalooza next month and got the cool music crowd to lose their shit over it. This is the same cool music crowd that has spent the last two years sneering at a really significant part of the musical landscape and blithely dismissing it and the people involved in it as dumb. Who cares, though; this stuff is outrageously fun and gets people moving. “Go,” tuned up a little bit with Rihanna on the vocals and someone else penning the lyrics, could have been a powerful follow-up to “We Found Love” and could have gotten Men Who Know Better to care about a style they’ve previously dismissed. That’s powerful, and that context matters. I don’t care if it’s just because she’s a woman; female EDM producers deserve their due, too. So fuck off, Diplo, now and forever.

[Read, comment and vote on The Singles Jukebox ]

I sort of hate Grimes and in that hatred I didn’t consider how yucky it was that most people responded to the revelation that she wrote a song for Rihanna with “how cute,” but Katherine and Crystal (bookending some other great writing that I edited out for brevity) really highlight both how ordinary and important that detail was. 



On our fifth podcast we have Women Talking About Dudes Talking About Lana Del Rey, what’s next for 2013/2014′s #1 assist Charli XCX, not being offended by “Cut Her Off” and asking why in the name of all that is good and holy is there an Aaliyah biopic happening? Your hosts are Crystal Leww, Megan Harrington and Katherine St Asaph.

A higher quality version (MP3, 38.5 Mb) can be downloaded from the following mirror: [Sendspace]

Here’s what we played and talked about:

Lana Del Rey – Shades of Cool [Jukebox entry] [YouTube]
Lana Del Rey – Brooklyn Baby [YouTube]
Lana Del Rey – Fucked My Way Up To the Top [YouTube]
Charli XCX – Boom Clap [Jukebox entry] [YouTube]
K Camp ft. 2 Chainz – Cut Her Off [Jukebox entry] [YouTube]
Trina ft. Lil Mo – Cut Her Off (Remix) [YouTube]
Keyshia Cole ft. Sean Kingston – Loyal (Remix) [YouTube]
Tinashe ft. Schoolboy Q – 2 On [Jukebox entry] [YouTube]

Note: This podcast was recorded before Zendaya left the Aaliyah biopic. There might also be some minor changes to the charts since then.

Further reading (and listening!):
Emma Carmichael – These Hoes Ain’t Heard: The Women Who Remixed “Loyal”
John Caramanica – Retro Rap That Puts Women Down

Teamed up with Megan and Katherine for a #TEAMGIRL episode of the Jukebox. I can’t say this nearly enough (and yes, I’m fully aware that I say this once every week or so), but it feels like a blessing to have surrounded myself with such talented, smart, warm, and funny women to be genuinely good friends as well as role models. I get to hold to their lil’ coattails and receive some of that shine, too.

This was an especially exciting podcast because I so admire Katherine’s writing and opinions (and Crystal and I are scheming to get her on #SWOONSTEP in the near future). Also, this is a little technical Oscars, but Edward did a really magnificent job editing. We are all VERY funny and VERY smart, but it also plays so smoothly that you might be distracted by how good we sound. 


actually, I have the opposite tic: to type my thoughts into search boxes. which brings me to my favorite ice-breaker: “Who could perform the best character assassination of you based on their data: Larry Page, Tim Cook or Mark Zuckerberg?”

Larry Page, hands down. 

Fortunately, Prince’s reputation has rebounded from a dark period, when he was locked in battle with his record label, declaring himself a slave to the endless glee of late-night TV hosts. Once free from his contract, he initiated a years-long re-evaluation of the standard distribution model, experimenting with subscriptions, MP3 stores, albums packaged with newspapers and bundled with concert tickets. The records themselves were often uneven — to his unrealized chagrin, the major-label paradigm nurtures quality as much as it quashes it — but they always offered Princemusic, a heady blend of styles and passions that added to our conception of the man, even if they didn’t shore up the legacy. But when you’re the forever king, your legacy is already written. Not to say that he’s always reigned securely. Like Michael Jackson (a ruler of another galaxy, even if critics dreamed of a real rivalry), Prince worked to rule the charts without forsaking his black audience, which put him in a prolonged repulsion/attraction cycle with hip-hop before he matured into his current role as a funky elder statesman. Too smart to self-destruct, too restless to fully settle into a stylistic cul-de-sac, he’s now a living treasure, the greatest, weirdest gift ever sold.

Brad Shoup on Prince. (via katherinestasaph)

Shoup also has an amazing opening paragraph:

In baseball, the five-tool player is kind of a bullshit concept, but it connotes a particular beauty. The five-tool player hits for power, hits for average, throws well, fields well, and roams the basepaths like a guerilla warrior; when the term “five-tool” is deployed, it implicitly presents these skills as equally weighted. As the greatest solo pop artist in American history, Prince boasts an unprecedented skill set. He writes, arranges, sings, plays, dances, and performs, all like a motherfucker. He busts taboos, flashes unstoppable ambition, blends genres together like paint. Ballads and rave-ups, autobiography and fantasy, sexual abandon and divine devotion. He’s Willie Mays and Ken Griffey, Jr. and Rickey Henderson and Bo Jackson. He’s Paul McCartney with the funk, Stevie Wonder with the freakiness, Joni Mitchell with the proper respect.

A truly beautiful diptych of America. 


EPISODE 4 - Britt Julious

Here’s episode 4 of Swoonstep, a podcast where cool babes talk about music cuties. This week we’re joined by Britt Julious, and Swoonstep turns into a light audio-only version of Post-Babestep, the dream video series by Britt co-starring the hotties who spin you tracks in the club. Before we get there, the three of us get deep into UK pop house, get real about Lady Gaga, and get curious about what’s happening with Angie Martinez. Three babes get complex, going from full-formed dissertation ideas dissection to silly teenage swooning.

Britt is a Chicago-based writer who just launched Inland Magazine, a publication focused on present-day Midwestern culture. She’s also a senior editor at This Recording and has written just about everywhere, including Noisey, Buzzfeed, Pitchfork, and WBEZ. You can find her at Smart Bar in Chicago, dancing the night way, or at her tumblr and twitter, talking about bleep bloops, fangirling about Shonda Rhimes’ shows, and advocating for crop-tops and sequins. She is basically a cool, smart, and gorgeous dream.

Shoot us a message if you’re a cool babe down to talk music and music babes, and thanks for listening!

Britt really knows her babes. Best combination of “Oh! Yes!” and wild giggling to emerge from Swoonstep yet. 




To know Lana Del Rey is to know her story, except she hasn’t told it to you (at least not first). As the press cycle for Del Rey’s second full-length album Ultraviolence enters its second week, so the cycle of history enters its second revolution. During the Year of Born to Die, Rich Juzwiak posted a brilliant essay that aggregated piece after piece that all told the same story, a series of microphones and amplifiers creating a feedback loop. It was difficult to read, but that was the point. The bullets of Del Rey’s story had been sorted to emphasize the tedium, to illuminate the parroting. And truly, it usually just takes one piece to know the basics: Lizzy Grant. Small shows in Williamsburg. A pulled album called Lana Del Ray a.k.a. Lizzy Grant. Reinvention. “Video Games” and YouTube. Hollywood glamor. Saturday Night Live. Gender politics. Authenticity. It’s basically a campfire story at this point, a folk legend that everyone can parrot at cocktail parties.

Two and a half years later, and we’re now in the same place. History isn’t being revised so much as it is being shaded in: she’s still a lightning rod, but now the following facts seem pretty clear: Born to Die was not a good album, Dan Auerbach helped create the full-band sound, Del Rey is swamped with buckets of water-based metaphors regarding the reverb, and Ultraviolence is ultimately a success (there are also more bullets to add, see: the feminism remark, the death wish remark, the response to Frances Bean). Add in a No. 1 Billboard debut, and it seems like Ultraviolence’s place in pop culture history has been solidified.

The critical cycle has long fascinated me, because it often feels like a funhouse of mirrors; each essay reflects back rays of context, until it’s impossible to discern from where it originated. The reflections amplify the original thought until it is canonized, until, yes, Lana Del Rey is far more confident on this album because of one lyric (“My boyfriend’s pretty cool/But he’s not as cool as me”), yes, she’s now showing that she doesn’t always need a man in her life because of one lyric (“I’m finally happy now that you’re gone”), and yes, she has a sense of humor about herself. This last bullet point is most pressing, because it represents what happens when the feedback loop seeps outside critical circles. Titles like “Money Power Glory” and “Fucked My Way Up to the Top” have led most to agree that Del Rey is firing back at critics’ perception of her, implying both that there exists a critical consensus and that she is privy to it. On one hand, of course these notions are both true. On the other, it fortifies the house of mirrors. Who’s to say Del Rey didn’t have a sense of humor before this? The serious-faced dirge of “Carmen,” the squeaked-out “I’m your little harlot, starlet!” from “Off to the Races” — could she have just been taking the piss? But then again, that was not the story being told at the time. No, the story was that Born to Die was cynical, incendiary, and too insistent on its red dress gangsta Lolita aesthetic. And it was set in stone.

It fascinates as much as it frustrates, because in both albums’ cases, the music proper is left to the wayside. Sure, there’s lip service to Auerbach and mentions of wah-wah guitar and reverb (always the reverb), but so much time is spent explaining the concept of Lana Del Rey that the music almost seems like an afterthought, or a tool that services her story. Rarely do I see connections made, like how much of Ultraviolence’s production recalls that lost album Lana Del Rey a.k.a. Lizzy Grant, or how, appropriately enough, the dusky drum loop of “Fucked My Way” would have sounded right at home on Born to Die. Rarely do I see analysis of the few moments when the live-band arrangement is set aside, like on the Greg Kurstin-produced “Money Power Glory.” And I know it’s a bonus track, but cocaine anthem “Florida Kilos” is just bonkers. I understand that readers need context to set the stage, but Lana Del Rey as a hot topic usually takes precedence over Lana Del Rey as an artist.

It’s also the knee-jerk nature of this context that irks. Del Rey isn’t the only artist who falls prey to a common critical narratives — it’s par for the course for pretty much any high-profile star — but the sudden hindsight of many of these writers’ sentiment (regarding the quality of Born to Die, for example) is jarring. For all its flame-stoking content, Born to Die remains gorgeous, a luxurious album of strings rested atop manicured beats, and killer pop hooks galore. Regardless of Del Rey’s current stance toward it, it remains a solid debut record, a consistent-verging-on-repetitious mission statement from a highly detailed character. Ultraviolence is also gorgeous, for obviously different reasons. It sprawls and sprawls, immersing the listener in its haze as Lana’s voice flips through several filters: distorted amps, reverb (yes, the reverb again), and up close and clean. Lyrically, it isn’t a far cry from Born to Die – there’s still this aspiration to luxury, the glamorization of the American upper class. And yes, Ultraviolence is a successful, fascinating album, one of the best of the year so far. My one hope is that this album’s success will allow Del Rey to rise above the context and leave behind the result of one of the most confounding artists of this century. So the story goes.

Will nailed all my complaints about the critical response to Ultraviolence. Whether the review was positive or negative, most amounted to “Lana Turner! Ted Bundy! Dan Auerbach! Nina Simone! —Ed. repeat to end of page!” There’s still a huge problem with seeing Lana Del Rey as more than a lump of signifiers as well as an unwillingness to believe she’s as involved with her music as she is with her performative identity. Required reading for all Lana scholars. 


Terry Richardson, Dov Charney, Vice, Bush, & Cheney: A Unified Theory of the 00s

This was so good that I could feel the universe shifting while I read it and I never even realized the universe was out of place. 


Terry Richardson, Dov Charney, Vice, Bush, & Cheney: A Unified Theory of the 00s

This was so good that I could feel the universe shifting while I read it and I never even realized the universe was out of place. 


This would be the perfect time to do a Pop World Cup final press release, if a) I knew any PRs, b) it wouldn’t completely skew the game and c) an influx of viewers wouldn’t probably knock the poor old server over anyway….

I got to watch some World Cup with my dad over Father’s Day weekend and I explained the Pop World Cup and the woes of Pop Team Ecuador and then Real Team Ecuador lost which was very fitting. I’m wishing England and Nigeria a great match with minimal flopping. 



EPISODE 3 - Tara Hillegeist!!!

Here’s episode 3 of Swoonstep, a podcast where the girls who run the world talk music criticism and musician cuties. This week we’re joined by Tara Hillegeist, where we discuss more than you can even imagine: #pray4kellileigh, robot rock and how Britney Spears is the perfect fembot, m e l o d r a m a, and women in experimental/electronic/industrial scenes. We hate on the men who both won’t give women credit and just straight up hate women. We imagine what it’s like to kiss Chief Keef. Plus, find out who Tara’s crushing on now and before, and Tara schools us on what is a “weird” crush anyway. There’s a lot of giggling for a bunch of grown ass women.

Tara writes for The Singles Jukebox, and you can find her on Tumblr at aintgotnoladytronblues. You can find her there also talking about everything: authenticity, movie liveblogging, anime, and hell, even deodorant. She’s so smart and ready to school you that you might wanna think twice about that #actually, bro.

Shoot us a message if you’re a girl who runs the world and wants to chat about music and qt musicians, and thanks for listening!

A little behind the scenes: Tara sent us an email after the first SWOONSTEP episode, and immediately I sent the most embarrassing, fangirl-y email ever asking her to be on it. Some truly, standing on her doorstep, stammering like a lovestruck lad and asking her to go to prom with me in an oversized suit type of thing. Luckily, she was into it, and so now we have episode 3 of SWOONSTEP.

The concept behind this episode was “Ok, Tara, just talk.” I highly recommend anyone interested in learning, life, women, music, or mystery find three quarters of an hour for SWOONSTEP 3. 



"Fisherman’s Blues" by The Waterboys from Fisherman’s Blues (Live, 1988)

Going through the book 1001 Albums You Must Heat Before You Die, I found what seems to be a forgotten album. For what I read, Fisherman’s Blues is a departure from a grandiloquent style to traditional music. I guess that I’ll see the progression of this band when I listen to their earlier (following for me) albums. 

The opening title track shows clearly the spirit of Fisherman’s Blues. You could call it “bittersweet”  but it’s a lot more than that, because the emotions are very passionate. On one hand you have the illusory description of being completely free sailing in the sea full of joy, but from the beginning we’re told that it’s just a yearning that may never become true. You can sense that coexistence in Mike Scott’s voice and the violin; they are both are playful but piercing at the same time. 

"Musical simplicity, intuitive fluidity, how magnificently good they combine the instruments and the perdurable bucolic and seclusion feeling" wrote Ross Fortune in the book about the album, and I couldn’t agree more. Maybe this isn’t something new and mindblowing, but it’s a lot better: it’s tremendously pleasurable. 

I was just starting to read critical analyses of music at this point in history (I was 12) and I remember Rolling Stone jocking the hell out of this album, and me having no way of hearing it, or any songs from it, until years and years later. While I do own a Waterboys album today (This Is The Sea, which is the immediate predecessor to Fisherman’s Blues, has a much more U2/Chameleons-like sound, and includes "The Whole Of The Moon"—which is a stone classic and I don’t care who makes fun of me for saying so), it’s not too much like this, and I haven’t actually heard Fisherman’s Blues all the way through… ever, I don’t think?

Anyway, hearing this song now, it just makes clear how the critical adulation over this album paved the way for the whole devolved anarcho-Pogues folk-punk thing that was happening in British alt-rock circa 1991 with groups like The Levellers and The Wonder Stuff (Tom Ewing just shuddered, but I, er, still kinda like some of those bands?). And I mean, it’s decent, I guess, but I’d rather hear Mike Scott doing the whole “big music” thing, or at least that’s my first impression.

The Pogues, though—they still rule. Juana, I know you’re doing 1988 right now—please check out If I Should Fall From Grace With God before you’re through with that year. I sure don’t think you’ll regret it.

I also discovered the Waterboys in print (my source was the Mojo book’s review of This is the Sea) and I think there’s something to reading about a band before you hear them that makes them forever feel like they belong solely to you. Incidentally, almost certainly on account of what I listened to around the same time, I always traced their sound as a tributary to alt-country (all that frenzied fiddling, I guess) but given the UK connection between Van Morrison, the Waterboys, and the Pogues that seems a much more direct lineage. 

I have not stopped thinking about schlock for going on a week now. Schlock is where I live, schlock is what inspires me. My senior year of college I spent a day listening to “Bandela” until I was so swept up I tried to cut my hair into David Cassidy’s 70s shag. I made a box set of 90s alt-rock that included “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Counting Blue Cars” and “If You Could Only See” right alongside their more revered counterparts in “1979,” “In Bloom,” and “Been Caught Stealing.” I made a mix of schlock for the purpose of scream sing-a-longs any time I was alone in my car (including everyone’s agreed upon schlocky faves: “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” “Love Is a Battlefield,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” but also “Whole of the Moon” and “Ship of Fools” bastard children even by as nebulous a genre as schlock). Whenever I’m at my most vulnerable and uninhibited, there’s some schlock playing. 

Except that I don’t really consider any of those examples “schlock,” an adjective that has the same air of high irony as a “guilty pleasure,” but they are all dramatically emotional songs, performed with an emphasis on sincerity, and alternately maligned or embraced depending on the era’s critical quarterback. Rosen’s list is a fine enough starting point (and he made pains to clarify that it’s his list and based around his taste) and since part of what frustrates me in talking about so-called schlock at all is the canonization of the inherently un-canonizable, I’m loathe to pick at Rosen’s work. But part of the glee surrounding loving something perceived as unlovable is the freedom from hierarchy. Admitting you love “Hey There Delilah” should mean never having to say your sorry. 

"Hey There Delilah" has not breeched the culture divide between things that will mark you as untrustworthy and things that are acceptably quirky to enjoy. As someone who loves that song, I’m sensitive to the fact that my love is not a shared sentiment and that it calls everything else I love into question by association. But I feel no shame. "Hey There Delilah" is every bit as loveable as "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" and "B.O.B." (two other songs I love, one profoundly similar and one profoundly dissimilar to "Hey There Delilah"). I love it because it doesn’t exist in the same world I do, though it isn’t quite a fairytale. Good fairytales have an instructional component (don’t trust strangers, seek inner beauty, don’t break promises); "Hey There Delilah" is a dreamy lie set to an easy rhyme scheme. It’s a refrain of swooping "OH"s countered by whispered "it’s what you do to me"s. It shares the most important quality that unites all high schlock: it sounds just like the sentiment it’s expressing. I have some pet theories as to why "I Won’t Back Down" (tough and clipped, but with a big, shouty outburst of a chorus) or "Space Oddity" (celestial melodrama) are on the well loved end of the schlock spectrum while "Hey There Delilah" (tender, acoustic, pining) is still read as insincere hackwork, but it’s less important to understand why "Hey There Delilah" is a critical ghost town than it is to understand what makes the song great. 

I can’t speak to songwriter Tom Higgenson’s authorial intent (though the story goes that he wrote it to woo track star Delilah DiCrescenzo) maybe he’s a savage creep; it doesn’t matter. “Hey There Delilah” works because Higgenson purports to care about Delilah in a way that everyone, especially the young, hopes to experience. Higgenson doesn’t dress the song up, his words are simple and the acoustic guitar even simpler. Had he not spoken so plainly to the happy heights of first love, he might have been Elliott Smith, but his naked naiveté and guileless hope are qualities associated with suckers. I prefer the completist’s approach to love songs — gut-wrenching depression and loss can only command such critical deference when it’s considered in comparison to the bliss of fantasy that precedes the fall.  ”Hey There Delilah” is sweetly oblivious, and that’s a good thing. 

Schlock, at its finest, is where bad taste becomes great art. Schlock is music that subjugates all other values to brute emotional impact; it aims to overwhelm, to body-slam the senses, to deliver catharsis like a linebacker delivers a clothesline tackle. The qualities traditionally prized by music critics and other listeners of discerning taste — sophistication, subtlety, wit, irony, originality, “experimentation” — have no place in schlock. Schlock is extravagant, grandiose, sentimental, with an unshakable faith in the crudest melodrama, the biggest statements, the most timeworn tropes and most overwrought gestures. Put another way: Schlock is Rodgers and Hammerstein, not Rodgers and Hart. It’s “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” not “Manhattan” and “My Funny Valentine.”

Jody Rosen, “In Defense of Schlock Music,” Vulture, May 27, 2014

Rosen’s piece on schlock seems one of those rare articles in which the accompanying list is more useful than the essay. The list is, like all lists at their best, a reimagining of history that highlights forgotten or ignored works and offers new understandings of existing ones.

But the thesis underpinning it — that “schlock” is an underappreciated and critically under-engaged quality requiring renewed appreciation — seems lacking. At base, the argument is Kelefa Sanneh’s “Rap Against Rockism" plus Carl Wilson’s schmaltz-musings in Let’s Talk About Love (which Rosen mentions in his article), and I’m not sure Rosen offers more than a synthesis of those two (very fine) pieces. Which is OK as an entree, but being well acquainted with those arguments already, I kinda thought, is that all?

Or in another way: welcome, guy, thanks for catching up. For a start, whatever other critics have been doing, I don’t think I’ve been ignoring schlock as a positive quality — here, for instance, I praised a Blake Shelton single, saying the singer “pours on the sugar for a big, goopy love song that brims with the same unabashed enthusiasm as Martina McBride’s ‘I Love You’ or Liz Phair’s ‘Why Can’t I.’” Or here, where I welcomed Taking Back Sunday’s “convergence of theatricality and emotional honesty, pop hooks and abrasive hardcore, bad teenage poetry and brilliant hyper-emotionalism.” Or here, where I wrote, “The Used, quite obviously, is a consummately ridiculous band, and no band should wield a weapon as powerful as ridiculousness without taking full advantage of its potential.” (Rosen’s essay has a distinct lack of emo; perhaps for many critics the genre is still a schlock too far?)

But, no, I’m not chiding Rosen for failing to scrutinize my archival work, just saying that I don’t feel his ideas are particularly new ones. And, after all, his examples of great schlock don’t lack for traditionally praised tunes: are all those stuffy rock critics who nonetheless appreciate the majesty of Prince’s “Purple Rain” really revelling in anything but the schlock? As such, his attempt to redeem the better parts of Lionel Richie seem a mere matter of taste — we both like “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “The Boys of Summer” but depart ways on “Three Times a Lady” — than a revelation of hidden depths the Commodores singer might possess.

Could critics look more kindly on plain, even gauche, emotionalism? Sure. Critics at large are still too apt to lionise authenticity and traditionally white and male approaches to creativity. Could even critics interested in the varying schools of “poptimism” expand their definitions of pop, and remember how wide is the world outside rock? Absolutely. But as much as I enjoyed Rosen’s 150 songs that form the blueprint of a schlocky canonical alternative, I don’t think he’s identified a quality as rigorously defined nor as consistently marginalized as he presents it to be.

(via screwrocknroll)