Heart-Shaped Box

Given this, I propose that Black & Blue's underperformance is actually a good sign for teenpop. As insane as this might sound, especially if you've ever toiled in a band called Expando Brain or once broke into three-figure sales in the Dutch Antilles, Black & Blueis a commercial failure. It's also an aesthetic failure. If I had anything nice to say about it, I would've said it earlier—more of my famed politeness.

In an ideal world, there would be only great teenpop records, and they would sell like hotcakes, and then everyone would mail three dollars to Yo La Tengo and Aimee Mann out of the goodness of the shape of their hearts. But the next best thing is when lousy records don't sell as much as the hype machine promises. As long as there's a matchup between quality and success—even a tenuous one, even in such a strange case as this—it means the kids are still able to distinguish between the hype and the hot rock. If this record moved 2.5 mil out of the box, kids and their personal shoppers/parents are just slaves. But hovering like a ghost around those missing sales is the possibility that judgment is being used. Max Martin or not, fans are holding out for better songs. I believe that children are the future.

But where will that future take place? It's not by chance that teenpop comes from Florida, because Florida is America's frontier. Used to be California, the edge of the West—and that's where all the good music once came from, and all the creepy presidents. But there's no more West, nowhere to go but into the dream. The final frontier opens into simulation; the gates are called Disney World and Epcot Center, Fantasy Island and Busch Gardens. The next crop of teenpop heroes, and their maxed-out programmers, will inevitably arise from an even purer form of simulation. They will spring to life full-blown from PlayStation 2, the capital of the 21st century.

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