By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
Brooklyn, New York
I've written for Magnet for seven years and am presently the magazine's hip-hop/beat music columnist, which is the equivalent of serving as the bicycling editor of a fly-fishing quarterly.
Lake Oswego, Oregon
I heard a lot of music critics complaining all year about 2005 was the worst year for music since 1986 or whenever, but I don't agree. I do think that 2005 was the worst year for music criticism that I can remember. When did we all turn into this fakey glib putdown artists? I feel like we're all jumping into the same three or four boats, doing our best to punch holes in the bottom, and then bitching about getting wet. I blame the Internet, or Republicans, or something. The crisis is heightened by the fact that many important music venues (coughVILLAGEVOICEcough) have cut space down to haiku size, where all you can do is toss off some amusing bon semi-mots without actually talking about the record. It's almost enough to make a fellow start blogging again.
This was the year I started reading The Houston Press online. It just so happens that the cultural story of our time is playing out in the newspaper's backyard, with musicians screwed both in the DJ mixtape sense and by the forces of history. At the same time, this was the year that the Houston Press's parent company, New Times, bought my own paper's parent company, VV Media, a development that could either lead to a new era of cooperation between local music journalists, or represent the end of music journalism, period. More than my job rests on the outcome.
Maybe you shouldn't print that, I don't know.
Peter S. Scholtes
This is a mere guess at Top 10s. When you're sure you know your mind and heart, you can care about a list. Should be a definitive statement to a definitive poll. Pazz & Jop used to be the punctuation at the end of the year in music. Ground fine and slowly by the millstones. Now it's quickly becoming just more best-of-chaff, blown away in the media wind.
Let's pretend for the sake of argument that most P&J voters are pretty good critics. This means that Pazz & Jop has a built-in blind spot in regard to music that sucks. I mean, most ballads are sentimental shit, and they're deadening to listen to. That's why I don't vote for them. But it therefore means that P&J doesn't represent the year in pop and semipop. It can't. Myballot doesn't even represent myyear in music, much less pop's. It wasn't designed to. "Gasolina" made the bottom of my Top Ten, and I'm guessing it'll make the bottom of P&J's Top 40, but it and the hot-dance Luny Tunes reggaeton thing it represents is not the major story in Latin crossover of the last few years, or it's only half the story, the other half being genteel stuff for smooching like "Suga Suga" (which is nice enough, but kind of bland); for the most part it's only Latinos who even know that the guy Baby Bash who did "Suga Suga" is Latino.
But Pass & Jop, being what it is, is good for telling us something about "us," that is, about the sort of people who become rock critics. It isn't that we vote only for people like ourselves, it's that by liking what we like and writing about it the way we do, we turn some of the readers into people like us. This is the question P&J starts to address but never quite gets to: Why do people like us like what we like? You can't really address this unless you're willing to ask why people like us don't like the things we don't like. The P&J supplement (and too much of the ILM commentary about P&J) fumbles around because it keeps changing the question to something like, "How can we get white male rock critics to stop overlooking all this good stuff by black people/women/Hispanics/Asians?" So here are some alternative questions: Why do women rock critics hate ballads? Did they always hate ballads most teenybopper girls like ballads or did they learn to hate ballads? If the former, why don't girls who like ballads become critics?
Toiling away in semi-obscurity, Spoon is underappreciated and underpaid, but they keep going out there and doing great work anyway. Fellow music critics, this band is your life.
Los Angeles, Calfornia