By Dan McQuade
By Brian McManus
By Hilary Hughes
By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
JoJo Dancer had a bone to pick, a big bone, hell, a mastodon's femur. He was settling old scores, kicking ass and naming names. But to the chagrin, fury, and general amusement of both those named and those left unscathed, JoJo Dancer, a/k/a The Gay Rapper, a/k/a Anonymous, refused to yield his own name, initiating the most intriguing media parlor game of whodunit since Joe Klein penned Primary Colors. One of JoJo's victims has even promised to deliver a "beat down" to the putative author. The intrigue, for better or worse, would seem to be coming to an end; attributional evidence seems piled high against Spin senior editor Charles Aaron like JoJo, a "veteran music scribbler."
In the last week of February, JoJo premiered the "first annual Rock Critical List, a self-serving circle jerk/seance on the grinding, but not irreversible, decline of POP MUSIC JOURNALISM." Part manifesto, part industry ombudsmanship, and part bilious cheap shot at some of the most prominent rock writers in the business, the RCL was sent to a select number of critics, journalists, and publicists. Soon after, it was made available at the East Seventh Street fanzine emporium See Hear. Spin, of all places, recently posted it on its Web site.
Aaron, however, has adamantly denied authorship, interestingly echoing Klein's initial denial. "I don't know who did it, and it's not me." At its worst, the RCL is a barrage of pointless, and in some cases potentially libelous, insults aimed at targets with no recourse for satisfaction. But at its best, the RCL is a gauntlet thrown at the feet of the rock-critical community. It is in turns abusive, brilliant, petty, self-loathing, witty, juvenile, and trenchant. And if it's inspired a great deal of Downtown chatter and venomous backbiting within the incestuous circle of rock writers whence it presumably issued, it should also inspire sincere and rigorous self-scrutiny, an accreditation review which all genres of journalism sorely deserve.
If the author isn't Aaron, it can only be someone who set out to frame him, laboriously cataloguing his literary tics and compiling them into the JoJo missive. Most damning of all, perhaps, is a reference Aaron makes in an article in the March issue of Spin to "JoJo Dancer" as an alias for Method Man. Oh, but there's so much more. Both JoJo and Aaron deride "poolside... schmoozing." Further, both use the same words and syntax. They both litter their prose with unwieldy, hyphenated word pairings like "hormone- sozzled" and "adjective-addled" (JoJo) vs "hormone-addled," "idea-addled," "coffee-addled" (Aaron); and "Heineken-stained futons" (JoJo) vs. "beer-stained ambience" (Aaron). The two also share a talent, à la Tom Wolfe, for compound coinings like "cringeworthy" (JoJo) and "crushworthy" (Aaron). They even, and this is where it starts to get a little eerie, use the phrase "noontime feedings" in order to drape their subjects in condescending derision (JoJo on Joe Levy vs. Aaron on Jarvis Lestat).
And the catalogue of thumbprints continues: They hyphenate the same words ("late-era," "party-hearty"), but forego the hyphen in "catchphrase," "rimshot," and "starfuck." Incredibly, it's hard to even find a single epithet in JoJo's pile of bile that's not also present in Aaron's writing. "Balding," "bedraggled," "cheeseball," "clunky," "punchless," "self-righteous," "self-serving," "smirky," and "wounded" all make appearances in the oeuvres of both. The list continues; but what's the point?
This, at least, was Aaron's response to inquiries e-mailed to him by the Voice. "A story like yours is hurtful, and it's also impossible for me to provide any 'evidence' to refute it. How does that serve any public 'need to know'? It doesn't, and that's why it's so depressing."
The point is that, though the RCL was clearly a smear campaign, that's not all it was. JoJo did several things at once. For one, he invited the public to a game of Clue. You don't distribute a puzzle and then ask the recipients not to solve it. It looks like Aaron, it sounds like Aaron, it reads like Aaron. Doesn't mean it's Aaron. It's no easier to conclusively "prove" that Aaron is JoJo than it is for him to "prove" that he is not. But in this age of *69, people are sure as hell going to try. More important, JoJo also asked us all to take him and those portions of the RCL that actually pose substantive, thought-provoking criticisms seriously. It's a perfectly valid request. What's depressing isn't that inquiring minds want to know; what's depressing is that now that we've complied with JoJo's desire (whoever he is), he won't step to the plate and accept the applause as well as the pillory.