By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
Is this the first Pazz & Jop poll where all the writers are just reposting their Twitters as this year's comments? I'm not, but everyone else is, right?
I think 2009 was a pretty weak year for new music, but it's entirely possible I just didn't give it a fair shake, considering how much of my annum was spent: 1) listening to Beatles remasters, 2) re-evaluating and re-appreciating Michael Jackson, and 3) making best-of-the-decade lists.
Artists getting fans to fund their records is a great idea—it gets them a real connection with their boosters (see Jill Sobule and Josh Freese). Now if only we writers could find the same support. Surely there's someone out there who'll pay us to tell the world how bad the latest Bruce, U2, and Eminem records are, right?
New York, NY
For me, 2009 was the year I officially lapsed into zealous hypersensitivity about the "Loudness War." When I'm looking forward to hearing a new album these days, I don't just wonder, "Will it be good?" I wonder, "Will it be so loud that it sounds like crap whether it's any good or not?" Miranda Lambert's Revolution should have had a place of honor on my list, but the distortion caused by excessive loudness means I just can't stand to listen to it anymore—so I left it off altogether. Is it right that an album that boasts uniformly top-shelf songwriting and stellar performances is literally unlistenable?
Ten favorite albums? What's an album?
I'm fine with my pitches being ignored after I refused to cut my price, which only a couple of years ago had been set by the paper. And I'm fine with my pieces being reassigned to cheaper writers. And I'm fine with those writers being naïve hopefuls lured first to the paper's website with promises of pittances and unlimited word counts. What I'm not fine with is the terminology. Recognize yourselves, pipsqueaks, for what you are: scabs.
Nothing disappointed me more than the regime change at Idolator. I came pretty close to crying when I read Maura Johnston's goodbye, but the aftermath was especially disappointing. That there wasn't enough interest to support the smartest, most well-written blog dedicated to music was unfortunate; that there's a viable business plan for one run by two idiots that ask "Pop or Poop?" is tragic.
What can I say about the flow motion of dubstep, the numbness of chill wave, the insularity of Animal Collective, the supposed death of hip-hop, the omnipresence of Black Eyed Peas? Not a whole lot. I am expert on nothing except my own experience and the particulars of whatever's in front of me. Having a career in music writing would have sharpened my ability to find the truths of history and history being made, but I've got a stable, decent-paying job that has nothing to do with music, and I figure I should leave paid gigs to those who eek out a living in journalism. (Unless they suck. Then I've got no qualms!) I promise to do better next time.
New York, NY
Apparently, 10,000 metal albums alone came out in 2009. If you figure an average length of 50 minutes each, that's 2,083 days of straight listening. This one year, in this one genre, would take me more than six years to listen through. A lot of it sucks, so that winnows the number down, but it's enough to make one want to curl up in a ball and quiver at the futility of it all.
Los Angeles, CA
My favorite moment in rock criticism—not just in 2009, but ever—was at the EMP Pop Conference this year, when David Thomas from Pere Ubu was going off on some rant about how Britney Spears was something of a vapid idiot. He looked like he was going to have a heart attack, he worked himself up so much. Then Robert Christgau told him during the Q&A portion, "I believe Britney Spears has made better music over the past 10 years than David Thomas has." I felt like all was right with the world after that.
For all the talk of how indie music critics, MP3 blogs, and the general hipster webiverse are so hellbent on finding and disproportionately salivating over the Next New Thing at the exclusion of any artist who's been around for more than 10 minutes, 2009's three greatest success stories were arguably Animal Collective, Phoenix, and Neko Case, veteran artists who spent the entirety of the 2000s developing and refining an aesthetic, releasing their most focused and accomplished effort in the decade's final year.
As support for gay marriage collapsed in the New York legislature, Adam Lambert and his Rolling Stone cover reminded us that minstrelsy is still popular.
Someday—and it'll have to be someday, to provide the proper perspective, a foreign concept in the era of the refresh-every-30-seconds-news cycle—pop archaeologists will have a field day figuring out when, exactly, the music business turned into two fairly distinct camps. Those would be, simply, Before and After: those who made their names before the musical universe splintered, and those who came after. Forget the usual eras of pop: This is the only divide that matters. Those in the first camp are guaranteed a notoriety that the others can likely never touch; through the magic of everything from commercials to YouTube to Rock Band, their songs and images will recycle themselves endlessly through the generations, with only the context changing. In the same way that kids of the '70s learned about the Beatles through cartoon reruns, kids of the aughts will reminisce about mastering "Yellow Submarine" on their Wii. But the songs remain the same. The returns on a new Wu-Tang project or the latest comeback album from Echo and the Bunnymen may be diminishing, but both acts have a place in the musical firmament that remains secure.
Beaver Falls, PA