Maura Johnston Says Farewell to Idolator


It was always going to be a thankless task, replacing Maura Johnston at Idolator–she was fluent, smart, informed, and took the thankless task of wading into the morass of pop kudzu on the internet seriously. It was her sensibility that garnered whatever readership the site had. Now that her tenure has ended–“Just wanted to let you know that today is my last day as editor of Idolator,” she wrote on the blog yesterday, adding that “The site will continue on, and I will continue to write about music, but we’ve decided to part ways”–it seems fit to briefly run back what in retrospect was an impressive run. Rob Harvilla, where to even start here?

H: Well, I’d start by saying I like Maura a lot, and dug Idolator pretty well considering its early penchant for sassing me/us.

H: “Worthy f***in’ adversary,” as John Goodman might put it.

Z: Yes, Full disclosure, America: “Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bloggy: An Online Poll Covets the Territory Once Owned by Pazz & Jop.” I mean, they called it “Jackin’ Pop” and everything. And yet today, I miss Maura.

H: As do I. Thanks to extensive therapy, I can scarcely recall that era now, and given the state of Writing About Music for Money I’m as disinterested as ever in having “enemies.” She was great at her job, I read it every day, and that’s that, or was that, I guess.

H: In short, as we say in this business, “sad frown-y face.”

Z: In retrospect, one of the last meeting points outside of ILM or whatever for a like-minded community of music crits. Everyone I know who does this read that site regularly, though most of them probably did not finish the posts about Lady Gaga. It is perhaps ironic that she now appears to have been replaced by the fansite GaGa Daily.

Z: “Robbie Daw writes about the U.S. and U.K. pop music scenes daily at his blog Chart Rigger.” He might have considered introducing himself. Also: Happy 40th B-Day, Sesame Street!

Z: Tell me if I’m violating your “enemies” dictate right now. We wouldn’t want any of those.

H: Nah. As someone with experience abruptly replacing a beloved writer/editor, I empathize with these folks, whoever they are.

H: But this is a pretty rough start, not least because they didn’t immediately introduce themselves, maybe throw some praise Maura’s way, and make at least an attempt to be like “OK, here we go, we’ll get through this together.”

Z: Yes, the knee-jerk reaction out here is always going to be to hate. Ironically, when I was searching for the reaction that greeted Idolator’s launch, all I found was stuff that was incredibly hostile. Surely many of the people mourning the departure of Maura today greeted her arrival with sarcasm and scorn. So we shouldn’t do that! Though today it is tempting. Suffice to say “F2K: Idolator Counts Down The 50 Worst Songs Of The ’00s, One By Ear-Splitting One” is probably doomed though, and that is sad. Maybe Chris can finish writing all those record reviews early this year and the two of them can finish the list off at @1000TimesYes.

H: I strongly suspect F2K will resurface in some form, somewhere. It was doing splendidly for them, plus Chris won’t tell me what #1 is and I”m sure I’m not the only one who’s curious.

H: I think the challenge for these new folks is to combine Maura’ knowledge with Maura’s skepticism.

H: She saw through hype and Internet-echo sort of bullshit really clearly. Debunking the “Kanye declared himself the King of Pop” myth for example.

H: It unnerves me to think that skepticism is maybe undesirable from a strict hit-count perspective, if mirroring and/or antagonizing fan clubs/message boards is the only way to make the numbers work anymore.

Z: Yes–coolly considered and patient evaluations of things don’t really toggle the Internet’s either/or favored binary. Especially as far as music writing goes, the default blogging mode is very often pure boosterism. Occasionally, people run far in the other direction and complain bitterly, all the time. Neither are a particularly interesting read. Exclamation points are poor substitutes for actual excitement. One is hard pressed to identify many other websites devoted to music where the dominant editorial voice is critical (in the non-pejorative sense of that word, obviously).

Z: For that alone, Maura’s Idolator will be missed.

H: Indeed. And I think the question now is to what extent this new, Maura-less Idolator plans to jettison what Maura’s Idolator was.

H: And on another quick note, as with Blender, my main reaction is lamenting another lost outlet for freelancers, though obviously mostly that’d been true of Idolator for a while, to Maura’s chagrin.

H: We had a lot of overlap in terms of writers, of course — Weingarten, Beta, etc.

Z: Now seems like a great time to specify that Maura is very much still with us, and will presumably continue to write elsewhere. She is not dead. In fact

Z: Smart money says we will see her byline many other places in no time at all.

H: Definitely. So good luck to her, but I suspect her replacements will need way more of it than she.

Z: They will have to earn it, as they should. It’s still her spot till they make it otherwise.

H: And in the meantime, happy 40th birthday, Sesame Street.