According to this, uh, piece of journalism, you (the royal, or more properly: the oligarchical you) need no longer pretend to be highbrow to attract middlebrows with disposable income. Sorry New Yorker. You see, today’s so-called millennial omnivores boast a truly, er, organic and holistic relationship with all news, all media, all art.
And finally! The record industry expands one enormous sigh of relief, no longer prey habitually wounded by the piercing invective of poverty line English majors and whatever kind of sentient gamesman Jann Wenner is.
No, no. Stream it and they will come: both an increasingly useful truism and a potential motto for Pornhub whose future proceeds I intend to retain an unambiguous 25%.
Though I seem to differ from my peers in the most significant aspect of this silent shift toward everything: I’m not sorry about it, not any of it. I’ll share an example of how this’s worked IRL:
A coifed young man in a meticulously overstretched white t shirt and indifferent beard, a remarkably well read savant (the kind who blinks repeatedly while gleefully gutting a room of its social innards) hears through the grad school grapevine that I write a music blog. Let’s call this kid Geoff, because of course his name is spelled that way.
Geoff: “Nicholas Merryweather Heisenberg, as I understand it, you write a music blog - and even better than that, you’ve chosen to adopt the mainstream as your subject. Is this accurate?”
Nicholas Merryweather: “Yeah, it’s called odyshape.”
Geoff: “Splendid, I should put you in touch with a friend of mine, a good friend, really, though I just only met him last week in Williamsburg. He’s devoted months to the chord resolution in late Tchaikovsky, of course through the lens of Adorno’s ethics of aesthetic barbarism. Understandably, it’s a conservative position because, as you know, Adorno is always a conservative position - though I find many of his conclusions beguilingly progressive. I’m sure you’d do well to apply this to Pink or Kanye West.”
Merryweather: “Thanks Geoff, but I’m not sure we’d have much in common. I haven’t, uh, laid down much theory in the blog. Little more straightforward than that.”
Geoff: “Oh, wow. I’m… sorry.. uh… Why?”
Geoff’s literal failure to comprehend my lifeforce is an extreme but no less relevant display of the kind of omnivoring I’ve watched develop since about 2007, not coincidentally the birth year of the iPhone. The all-a-sudden vaguely pearish consultants, i-bankers, and fund analysts I graduated with may not need the Frankfurt school to legitimate the aesthetic value of a document so lurid and crass as, say, ARTPOP, but forget asking them straight up if they like it unless you’re prepared to navigate a gulfstream of ironies cited and categorically declared. “Well, you know… it’s actually bad music, and gosh she’s so stupid… and the burqa thing, so distasteful… but, you know, a song or two… in the club, with a drank, hahah… for fun.”
Well, fuck you.
I debut the new series in this way to point out that “apologetic omnivorism” isn’t just vile elitism rebranded to appear hip and inclusive (Google and its hiring practices, anyone?), but is too distinct from “guilty pleasuring” - probably the only concept of armchair prognostication I haven’t readily Xeroxed from the pages of robertchristgau.com. Sez xgau:
Warriorz [Loud, 2000]
Ooh, Eminem, scary. You want a rap record to terrify your ass, how about one with a street anthem about robbing niggaz? Socially redeeming characteristic: will discourage young African American men from wearing jewelry. Billy Danze is the coarse-grained DMX bellower with the crazy laugh, Lil' Fame his rugged sidekick. Wielding brazen, unrelenting samples, they attack like a firing squad on a spree, with a fierce joy Guns N' Roses would abjure hard drugs for. As is no secret, I hate gangsta rap-hate its smugness, its brutality, its cool, its lies, its contempt for the ordinary, its failure to provide role models for young African American men. But this specimen convinces me that, sometimes, thugs have more fun-get large in the ways that matter by shitting on anybody they fucking feel like. I scoff at "guilty pleasures," too. Pleasure is nothing to feel guilty about. This may be. A-
Okay, see there’s an intellectual getting his hands dirty. I like it. I’ve modeled myself after it. Except he’s bullshitting you about the pleasure thing. Pleasure is sometimes something to feel guilty about. I’ll give you another example IRL:
There’s a pizza joint in Pittsburgh you’ll find demarking the bleeding edge between bropolis Shady Side and the UPMC feudalists living next door. It’s called the South Aiken Bar and Grille - its liminal status a lovely metaphor attending its last-stop function at the end of a weekend night. It’s 1:30, bars are about to close. What do you do? Waddle and piss your way to South Aiken Bar and Grille, order two enormous sausages pizzas consisting largely of cardboard and transfats, chug a 2-liter of pop, sit down, crash and burn with the Asian chick who made the pilgrimage from CMU for some reason, then pass out fat and sassy in the corner.
I love South Aiken Bar and Grille. It means a night with my friends, it means glorious drunchie carbs, it means (qualifying the assumption I can heave my new gut in complementary arcs) messy fat sex, and sleep.
*eight hours pass*
I HATE SOUTH AIKEN BAR AND GRILLE. Why in hell did I recommend it to you? Have you seen a doctor recently? Christ, I’m so sorry.
Visit me sometime, readers, and I’m taking you a few blocks over to Pizza Perfectta - purveyors of the finest seafood white this lover of seafood white has tasted. Why? Because as a trusted friend, my job is to recommend you objective quality. My job as a critic is the same. But the dirty secret is: I’ve eaten South Aiken Bar And Grille maybe 35 times in my life. I’ve had Pizza Perfectta twice. I’ve listened to ARTPOP six or seven times. I’ve heard Eiffel 65’s universally panned, good-for-nothing, they-actually-kicked-us-out-of-Europe-and-threatened-to-revoke-our-citizenships Europop about two hundred times. Why? Because cool shit was going down when it came out. I was learning to roller skate; my mom bought me some violent hair gel called BulletGlop; I saw my first boob; I wore a visor backwards and upside down around my leopard-tipped highlights; I snuck a Zima at a Memorial Day barbecue; and "I'm Blue (Da Babe Dee)" has a better hook than "Paper Planes."
I know which is better; and I know which I prefer. They’re not always the same thing.
So... I will never accurately, truthfully, penetratingly, or justifiably convey to you the importance of that album, or albums like it: albums I know aren’t any good, albums I will won’t recommend to another human being. You kinda had to've been there, you know?
But I suspect in writing about them, I will learn something about both the contours my own standards of taste, and the fuzzy rickrack of my biases. As you for, probably you’ll learn little more than a new way to sympathize with a blog writer you barely know (which may well be valuable enough), but in the broader view - maybe you’ll reassess what it means to like something at all.
Pretty fucking heady, huh Geoff?
First installment coming at ya next week.