Dear 2004 Pazz & Jop voter: In an effort to provide more points of entry for younger readers, we're making some small changes in our poll. First, we're asking that you vote for just three records. Research showed that the old method of assigning points to 10 albums came across, as one focus-group participant noted, "all like math and stuff." And for layout purposes, please keep your comments between 12 and 16 characters. One easy way to abbreviate your thoughts is by replacing the verb "to be" with punctuationfor example, "Beyoncé: Hott!!" or "OutKast? Genius!"
In one channel in one week, I encountered the following quality arts programming: 100 Hottest Hotties, 40 Greatest Celebrity Feuds, Hot Mamas, Makeout Moments, Centerfold Babylon, Marriages, Britney Vs. Christina, Rock Bodies, Bad Girls, Celebrity Breakups 2, The Fabulous Life of Paris Hilton, Reality TV Secrets,and All AccessTotally Naked. Is this the E channel, filled as always with Maxim-style soft-porn triteness? Nope. It's VH1, which some fans once turned to when MTV gave music the heave.
The problem is, being a pop star these days often means being a star of pop culture, not pop music.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Beyoncé's crowning moment this year was surely at the MTV Music Awards, where she segued from "Baby Boy" to "Crazy in Love" via a conga line of shaking derrieres. This cavalcade of booty was a bit lascivious, yes, but anyonemale or femalewho wasn't captivated by the perform- ance's grand union of sound, movement, and spectacle clearly has no love for Hollywood's great musicals either.
Bizzers have lowered their expectations and defined music not as art, not as entertainment or distraction or narcosis, but as something that attaches itself to bigger and sexier things, like movies, celebrities, or TV shows. At the highest stage of corporate synergy, every media form is parasitic on every other.
You know what I like about Kazaa? It causes people to have an actual opinion about capitalism, as opposed to just accepting that shit as if it were simply the nature of reality. File sharing has opened more minds to potent political issues than anything else this side of war. Stuff is already sold at the highest prices people can be persuaded to pay for it. That's not price-fixing, or gougingthat's a pure basic axiom of capitalism. The only thing that causes new low prices is people's unwillingness to pay the old high prices. If you believe in the greatest good for the greatest number, in the affordable CD for poor kids in the next neighborhood, it is imperative that you download stuff for free all the time, as a sort of public service. And tell Interscope, DreamWorks, and Matador I said so.
When the RIAA lawsuits hit, I decided: That's it, you assholes, when you start trying to destroy people who are nothing to you so regulatory agencies will approve your mergers, your means have become unjustifiable. I am no longer buying non-used copies of anything on the RIAA's member labels. There are plenty of other good things to spend money on.
CD sales rebounded strongly in the fourth quarter with year-against-year increases in 12 of the last 14 weeks. This isn't a business trend you've read about because it doesn't suit the RIAA's purposes. Much better to lobby Washington for anti-consumer legislation if the politicians believe your industry is struggling, yet still able to afford expensive lunches.
Bronfman's purchase of WEA for, what, $1.3 billion puts an embarrassingly high valuation on a business that claims it is desperately in need of protection.It recalls major league baseball teamswhich notoriously lose money while appreciating tenfold in 20 years. Of course, that's another business that the Bronfmans know something about.
What is theft? Is it (a) some college kid downloading songs from a file-sharing server; (b) the industry charging 100 percent markup on wack CDs; (c) the industry milking catalog and not paying the writers and performers a nickel; (d) the industry forcing an artist to pay all expenses on a project out of his/her 11-12 cents on the dollar while inflating costs and locking down masters and publishing; or (e) all of the above?
Brooklyn, New York
This was a great year for metal, indie rock, noise rock, garage rock, garage rap, underground hip-hop, overground hip-hop, country, jazz, electronica, lots of things. And corporate oligopoly and cluelessly vengeful industry panic didn't stop any of these from evolving before our eyes, as long as we kept them open.
Brooklyn, New York
"The studio system is dead. It died . . . when the corporations took over and the studio heads suddenly became agents and lawyers and accountants. The power is with the people now. The workers have the means of production!" George Lucas, circa 1970. Ain't it funny how the outsiders become fat cats?
Studio City, California
The sooner all of the major labels merge into one big label, the better, because when it eventually goes bankrupt it's just a matter of time before Lars Ulrich can get down to doing what he really wants: coming to your house personally to beat you up.