Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Resonse To The Responders

First off, I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to write in. There’s been more interesting thoughts & ideas in the comments section of this blog than in the last year’s worth of Flagpoles. Secondly, I’d like to apologize for the typos. I figured I’d have time to check it before anyone got around to reading it. In the two years I’ve been haphazardly writing this blog (i.e. whenever I felt like taking the time to do it), I think it’s had about 100 hits. In the last 72 hours, that number has about doubled.

My personal belief is that anyone who takes the time to write something deserves a response (in the case of the two people who mocked one of the commenters for getting pregnant, I think the appropriate respsonse might be, “What the hell is wrong with you?”). And because people raised a lot of interesting ideas, they deserve to be addressed. And I’ve gone ahead and set up an e-mail account, athensmusicexpress@yahoo.com, in case anyone would rather contact me personally. Because, y’know, I felt some of you were holding back a little in your comments.

And let me put this disclaimer first, because it’s the most important thing I‘d want anyone to read. I recognize that all art is subjective, and that one person’s crap is another person’s treasure. By expressing my opinion, I am not looking to convert anyone to my way of thinking. I am just expressing my opinion. It does not bother me that people like her music. It does not even bother me that she makes music. Hell, I think everyone should make music, write poems, paint pictures, or however they choose to express themselves. I think it is healthy, beautiful, and wonderful that we as human beings are able to do that. I wrote this article because it seemed that everyone in this town had an opinion about Ms. Weiss, but that opinion rarely ventured any further than “I love her music. She is the best,” or “I hate her and I wish she’d leave town immediately”. I think neither one of those models puts a lot of thought into her music, and I thought she deserved better. Not more praise necessarily, just more thought. And I find the disconnect between her music and her marketing, the fact that one part is incredibly ambitious while the other seems relentlessly un-ambitious, to be really fascinating, and worth writing about.

To the responses.

We’ll start with the most polite person first. Yes, Karate Media, I would hold a male artist to the same standard. Take A.J. Weiss for example... (joke. i’m kidding). I’ve always found Lou Barlow’s lyrics pretty solipsistic as well. However, I do think his lyrics about relationships at least, on occasion, make a larger point about how power is taken & given in relationships. I could care less that Allison Weiss writes nothing but relationship songs. I’m just disappointed that she doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to say about relationships. Or that the lyrics themselves don’t contain a whole lot of imagery, poetry, turns-of-phrase, or beauty—y’know the thing that makes lyrics (for me at least, remember that disclaimer?) resonate.

And we’ll address the D.I.Y. section of my article. Looking back, I think I could have made my point a lot clearer and with a lot less vitriol. Sorry for that. I had just spent about 4 hours doing nothing but listening to her music on lala, reading her lyrics, and watching her videos. It felt like I had been made to eat nothing but twinkies for four hours while watching a marathon of Laguna Beach. I was a little cranky. Heading into this project, I told myself not to get personal, and I think I may have crossed the line a couple of times there. I apologize.

Here’s a more reasoned take on my issue with the D.I.Y. thing. The thing is, if promoting your act, booking your own shows, and putting out your own records makes you D.I.Y., then I think 98% of the musicians in this town qualify as D.I.Y. Now, I want to make this clear, I’m not saying that Allison Weiss is NOT D.I.Y. And I’m not trying to imply that someone’s music becomes less artistically valid the more support they receive. God knows, that class background has nothing to do with the quality of one's art. I just think that this D.I.Y. label is one that Weiss chose for herself, and while I find that her “D” part of that acronym exceeds anyone else’s in this town (or possibly this world), and she deserves to be commended for that, I don’t think her “Y” is anything special, and compared to a lot of other people, actually comes up a bit short. But as Karate Media pointed out, I may just have a different definition than a lot of other people do.

Also, I don’t think Weiss is shallow for not writing a song about domestic abuse. I just think that her lyrics, and for that matter her style/presentation etc., don’t seem to be informed by anything beyond her own first-hand experiences. I’m not asking for Dosotevsky here, but I don’t think asking for some sign of recognition, for ANY sign of recognition, that there is a world out there beyond her own set of experiences is too much to ask for. It’s not even that I think it would make the world a better place. I just think it might make her art more interesting (again, see that disclaimer at the beginning). See, even when I say that Allison Weiss’ music is solipsistic or shallow or whatever, I never think for one second that Allison Weiss herself is any of those things. Truth is, I don’t think anyone is those things. In my experience, people are endlessly fascinating and original if you get to know them, no matter who they are. I just wish Weiss would allow some of those parts of herself into her music, and by not putting those things in there she does a disservice to herself and ultimately to her art.

If I have one other regret about what I wrote, it’s that I didn’t do enough to praise Weiss’ songwriting ability. Regardless of how I feel about anything else, the girl knows how to craft a hook. My head still sings, “I’m ready if you’re ready,” whenever someone asks me if I’m ready. Taken purely from a pop/hook/melody perspective, Allison Weiss could teach a lot of the more respected artists in this town a thing or two about how to craft a song. I meant to put that in the article, and I can only use my crankiness as an excuse. Which is a pretty shitty excuse.

And lastly, I’d like to address the issue of my anonymity/identity. I prefer to remain anonymous because I don’t like giving people the easy option of dismissing ideas I write just based on who I am. I’d rather the ideas stand alone without my identity getting in the way of people reading it. You can see, just by mentioning my age & gender in the article, how quickly people resorted to the old, “Well you’re just old and male so who gives a fuck what you think”. Imagine the response if people knew whether or not I play in a band (you’re just jealous because Allison Weiss has more success than you) or what I do for a living (you’re just jealous because she has more success than you) or my personal life (you’re just jealous because she has more success than you). As it was, I still got labelled an underachiever, resentful of her privilege, out of touch with the internet, le fucking retarted, lame, etc.

If I do play in a band, I’d also like to remain anonymous because I’d hate for my bandmates to get saddled with whatever reputation this blog might create for me. I used to write about music when I was going to college in Boston, and turned down a job with Pitchfork when I graduated because I wanted to focus on writing poetry, novels, etc. I’ve had a couple of books published, and they’ve done well enough so I haven’t turned completely bitter. After finishing my latest book, I wanted to take some time off from writing books and starting this blog gave me a way to keep writing without the pressure/responsibility that comes with writing for publication. Plus, I’d been reading a lot of Paul Morley around that time and I found myself having a lot of thoughts and ideas about the music I was coming into contact with. That’s it.

I’m not jealous of Allison Weiss in any way shape or form, I just think she’s capable of making music that is funnier, angrier, and more beautiful than the music she has been making up to this point. And I would like nothing more than to see that happen in the future.


Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone was making fun of the pregnant person. I think they were saying that her responses were pretty typical of an old townie type that is "nowamomma" and wants to rehash how great things used to be.

If she really wants criticism to be tougher then surely she can take the soft barbs in the comments section here.

On another note, you're absolutely correct about her making too big a deal about the DIY stuff. Everyone in Athens is DIY. Musicians, visual artists, etc.

The only reasonable conclusion I can come to concerning this is that Weiss' musical background isn't filled with DIY musicians and artists and so she feels this is unique.

hillary said...

It seems like there's a lot more focus here on lyrics than on tunefulness. I think Weiss is very talented. I also happen to like a lot of sugary pop music. It's not easy to write, although it often seems like it is. Also, doesn't she get a little credit for being, like twelve?

Jon Cole said...

Wow. What a toothless response.

Glad you're everyone's friend now. Sucks that it comes at the expense of having a real opinion (or at least one worth reading).

Instead of clarifying your points, you censored them.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Jon, the writer comes back to clarify and substantiate his previous vitriol after calming down and you rip on him?

Real nice. I thought this was a nice, decent clarification of his previous points. It's not toothless at all. It's mature.

Karate Media said...

While I think Mr. Cole's disappointment in you is quite a bit overboard, part of me is somewhat tempted to pull out the old adage, "Never apologize, never explain."

You are certainly under no obligation to explain your position. but the cliche isn't just about that. It can also be seen as an encouragement to make one's statement as clear and precise to begin with, so that neither explanation nor apology is needed.

That said, I'm rarely as precise as I should be. And this is a blog, an entity unlike most previous media. A blog encourages not only more off-the-cuff writing, but also a back-and-forth with one's readers/commenters. Rebuttal/clarification is more common in a blog, and faulting you for it would be ignorant of the form.

Hillary's comment above is the second (at least) of such in the two threads, saying that you're taking Weiss too seriously, or focusing on her lyrics too much. Which is unfair not only to the critic, but to the general listening audience. Many people do not like pop music because of the banal lyrics. So why shouldn't those people be entitled to their opinions, or have a critic they can read that shares those opinions?

And certainly we could all come up with artists who write very poppy, catching music that is also lyrically engaging. Some, like Elvis Costello, are quite popular as well. So to say that an artist should get a free pass on lyrical content because they can write catchy tunes is kind of insulting to those artists who work hard to do both well.

It's also an insult to Weiss to basically say that she shouldn't be taken seriously enough to be given a considered critique, even a negative one. To say "she's a pop artist, stop taking her music so seriously" means that she is disposable fluff. Which begs the question why anyone would defend her so passionately. If she's worth taking seriously enough that her audience is offended by a review, then she's worth that serious review. Her and her audience should respect that, and the fact that most of them don't (including Weiss herself, based on her own blog post), is incredibly disappointing.

Weiss, if you can't handle critique, get the fuck out of music right now. Go write catchy commercial jingles if you can't take a serious or negative review.

As for anonymity, it's a red herring in the blog world. Back in the day, I used to pride myself on the fact that I was constantly out at shows, at various venues in Athens, and if you walked into a club pissed about something I wrote, at least one person in the building could probably point me out to you.

But in the end, it's meaningless. What would knowing that you are "Joe Smith" do? Allow people to crank call you? The fact is that you consistently post under the same name at the same site. Your real name might as well be "Ghost," because no matter what arrangement of letters you use, you consistently hold yourself accountable for what you write.

The problem w/ internet anonymity is the people posting as "Anonymous" or never using a consistent name. Therefore, it becomes difficult to trust individual posts. But by using a consistent name, anyone reading your work has enough context to make a judgment call on your work. Just because they can't confront you at a show, or call you at 4am, doesn't mean you haven't been accountable for your work.

(And by the way, I think most people would be amazed for me to be considered to most polite person in the room!)


hillary said...

I'm just saying that the musical complaints should have been elucidated as clearly as the lyrical ones. Maybe she should just start throwing out obscure strings of words, like Bob Pollard, and then all will be forgiven. Admittedly, I'm not a lyrics person. I focus on the tune before the words, and Weiss's tunes are melodic and hooky.

Dubose said...

Um, actually she is shallow.