Some kid on a message board must have been a real dick to Prince.
While he is normally a poster boy for how to alienate your own fan base, the once-prominent pop star took it up a notch Monday, when he said in an interview with Mirror.co.uk that the Internet is “dead” and that he saw no point in distributing his music online. In an attempt to completely sound like an embittered old man, he then referred to computers and the Web as “digital gadgets” that “just fill your head with numbers, and that can’t be good for you.”
Yes, God forbid the human race should want to utilize an effective way of exchanging information. With language like that, it seems like a pretty safe bet that Prince thinks television is some form of witchcraft too. That’s an argument for another day, though. Arguing with an old nutcase’s hippie logic will get you nowhere, so let’s break down his statements on the music industry for a second.
First of all, his specific quips with iTunes aren’t that unreasonable. His only complaint with Steve Jobs’ music empire is that “they won’t pay me an advance for [my music] and then they get angry when they can’t get it.” While he still sounds a bit whiny, at least you can give him the fact that this is a legitimate business decision. The man wants payment up front to put his songs in DRM-protected mp3 files and sell them to consumers. Even if you’re like me and disagree with him on the count that everybody sells their music like this when dealing with iTunes, the least you can say is that he is thinking like a businessman, not a cranky senior citizen who pines for the days when CDs and records were still the money makers for musicians.
However, the more general statements are where we run into problems. After blasting the Internet in general, Prince goes on to compare it to a media outlet that actually has lost its relevance in the music community, saying “The Internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated.”
Wait…the Internet is like MTV? This is where his diatribe goes from asinine to completely insane. If Prince just wants to knock MTV, that’s fine. It would be beating a dead horse, but to be fair, it has glorified some of the worst musicians and frat boys to ever walk the earth.
The difference is that MTV never fundamentally changed the way that human beings go about their every day lives, much less the way that they distribute and obtain music.
MTV changed music much in the same way that the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy presidential debates changed politics: they made aesthetics relevant. When Michael Jackson came out with his video for Thriller in 1983, he made visuals as relevant as John F. Kennedy did when he made Richard Nixon and his sweat-covered brow and pasty-white complexion seem unappealing to American audiences. While this shift in dynamic within the music industry was very noticeable, it pales in comparison to what the Internet has done for society as a whole, the music industry included.
Look beyond the traditional arguments for how the Internet has aided music as an art form (exposure to new bands, distribution through iTunes, etc). The Web solidifying itself as a part of mainstream culture has helped the industry in ways that go far beyond what the average aging rock star would think of.
For example, let’s look at how the Internet has allowed bands to stay vital in the first decade of the 21st century: not just by gaining a sizeable fan base, but by maintaining it. Bands that want to post new songs, live tracks, demos, pictures, videos or any other media that their fans would eat up can do so almost instantly via MySpace and YouTube. Beyond that, they can sell merchandise, they can give fans access to early ticket sales and they can help fans interact with the band themselves.
Also, think of any small, relatively unknown band you’ve seen at your local venue. If the first band that comes to mind isn’t from your area, they probably had to use any connections they might have to set that show up. And what more effective way is there to form connections with bands not from your area than through online networking? Obviously this isn’t relevant to a performer like Prince who has had managers book his shows for him for most of his career, but it’s still something worth pondering.
Finally, try to remember what local shows were like before the days of the Internet. The main ways to promote these shows were through fliers and marquees. Nowadays, it’s as simple for a band to let their fans know about shows as typing in tour dates and posting them on their blogs, whether it be Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. Not quite as personal as posting fliers in places where fans might see them, but a lot quicker and definitely more convenient.
While not every musician chooses to embrace the internet for these reasons, one would be hard pressed to argue that these advances aren’t good for music as a whole. Yet somehow, Prince manages to do just that. Luckily, he has a strategy for how to stay relevant in today’s industry without using the internet: he’s giving his album out for free with copies of The Daily Mirror in Britain. There’s Prince’s master plan for keeping CDs relevant in the music industry: sandwich them between subscription cards in tabloid magazines. The man is a visionary.
I've been spinning John Legend's Once Again quite a bit, and Marvin Gaye's What's Going On has been on constant rotation in my car. Also, I just listened to a few Jill Scott songs and enjoyed them thoroughly.
What the fuck is happening to me? I feel like I'm going through puberty again.
It took me a long time to come around to The Gaslight Anthem’s latest offering, The ’59 Sound. When it leaked weeks before its scheduled release date, I listened to it by what felt like necessity. Their previous album, Sink or Swim never really caught my attention, and the Senor and the Queen EP was alright, but I mainly felt obliged to give it a listen. After all, people like AP’s own Chris Fallon had made it into such a hyped album within the punk community that you’d think it was a new Joey Cape side project. So I listened to it a few times, and felt that it was pretty solid, but quickly moved on. Although the title track instantly became one of my favorite singles, I expected it to be one of those albums that I’d listen to here and there and eventually would wind up at number nine or ten on my albums of the year list.
I was also a little hesitant to embrace the album, I’ll admit it. The hype definitely grabbed my attention, but I was doubtful that Gaslight could POSSIBLY live up to these expectations. Few young bands do when they’re placed in that type of situation. Just look at what’s happened to Rise Against since Revolutions Per Minute. They became darlings of the punk underground with one farily solid album under their belt. Then they managed to spawn a radio hit here and there before sinking into a career defined by repetition and mediocrity. Gaslight’s sound could have been manipulated into a mainstream-friendly sound even faster than Rise Against’s did, and the next thing you know we’d be seeing them on MTV2 a hundred times a day. I was also pretty skeptical of the old-timey sound. It seemed a little gimmicky, much like The Killers’ attempt to sound like the “definitive American band” or The Strokes’ extremely calculated garage-rock style. But I still saw the album as listenable, and wished the band all the success in the world.
Then one day I saw the officially released disc on sale at Wal-Mart (-100,000 punx points for Andrew) for eight dollars. I jumped at the opportunity to simultaneously support a young band with a heaping amount of potential and Sam Dalton’s ever struggling franchise. It entered my rotation of albums that I popped in while driving, and in two weeks of listening almost non-stop, I realized how wrong I was about this disc.
The ’59 Sound is not only a shoe-in to be the album of the year for 2008, but it marks the arrival of the most promising young group in recent memory, by far. With this release they’ve proven that they can tweak their sound enough to stay fresh between albums, while not deviating too far from their overall style. In addition, the album is more of a grower than any that you can name. By the seventh or eight listen you know that what you’re hearing is incredibly special, and from they’re on you’re completely hooked. After repeated listens, you know that you’re in for a ride as soon as you hear the opening notes of “Great Expectations.” You expect it. By now you’ve probably become a little addicted to it. By the time “The Backseat” is drawing to a close, you’re left wanting more. What more could you ask for in an album?
Why this band and their sound is constantly grouped in with punk rock bands is a little beyond me. Their music, especially with this effort, doesn’t seem to fit in with more traditional punk bands like Dillinger Four or even bands like The Lawrence Arms that frequently bend the rules of the genre but stay within it. The Gaslight Anthem seems too big for punk rock. If anything, they definitely qualify as that album that your friends who aren’t fans of punk rock would enjoy, and this release solidifies that. Maybe the reason they’re lumped into the punk genre is because they don’t have a lot of variation in their songs. ’59 has no acoustic ballads, experiments with hardcore and ska, or depressing attempts at dance rock (sorry Against Me!, I still love you guys). The furthest the band goes off from the three and a half minute rock song formula is with the blues vibe present on “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues,” and to a lesser extent, “Film Noir.” But there’s a reason for not messing with the formula: it works. With The ’59 Sound, The Gaslight Anthem have mastered the concept of taking a single sound and making it into a solid album.
I would definitely consider myself a skeptic when it comes to hype, but nothing makes me happier then when a band shuts me up. The Gaslight Anthem have done just that with The ’59 Sound. If you haven’t already given this album a spin, get with it. But more importantly, if you’ve listened to it once or twice and it didn’t do much for you, give it another chance. You’re a lot more likely to find your favorite album of 2008 than you might think.
This week I got my first two reviews posted on the site. One for Andrew Jackson Jihad's People Who Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World (which can be found here), and one for Anti-Flag's A Benefit for Victims of Violent Crime EP (which can be found here).
The lead singer of AJJ even sent me an email thanking me for the review.
dude, thank you so much for reviewing our record! i really like what you wrote about it, i just posted it on our myspace with some other reviews i found.
check's in the mail! hehe
I'm pretty pumped. Except now my mom wants to read them, and the Andrew Jackson Jihad review uses the word "fuck" twice. She's not going to be mad, she's just going to be disappointed.