The internet has been buzzing over the antics of US music critic Chris Weingarten, again.
Last year, he volubly announced at a Twitter conference that the internet was killing music journalism and to prove his point, he launched on a one-man mission to review 1000 albums on Twitter (in 140 characters or less) just to prove it could be done.
This seemed a strange move: like kissing Prince Charles on both cheeks to prove you really don’t like him. For example, his Twitter review of Alicia Keys’ The Elements of Freedom read:
@1000TimesYes Vintage Whitney-style ballads — even though the Beyoncé rip is the best track #6
It describes, sure, but doesn’t give a single insight into the music whatsoever. But perhaps that was Weingarten’s point, to show up the transparency of the internet’s approach to “first-past-the-post” music journalism.
My knee-jerk reaction to watching the newest video of Weingarten was to think of the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons — the overweight 40-year-old balding virgin who runs the comic book store in Springfield, an archetypal elitist snob who delights in making heavily sarcastic comments at the eight-year-olds who come frequent his shop.
There’s something about Weingarten’s manner, his indier-than-thou soliloquies (he smugly calls himself “The Last Rock Critic Left Standing”), his horrible, horrible baseball cap and beard:
Listen in, however, past the appalling introduction, and it becomes apparent that Weingarten is giving a great rant about the way websites such as The Hype Machine have caused homogenisation across Web 2.0 environments by aggregating music blogs and reducing personality journalism to a lowest common denominator, utilising the star rating system.
In other words, search engine optimisation is killing music.
“Internet? I give up. You can have rock writing because you’ve officially sucked all the fun out of it. In 2010, writing about music, reading about music, learning about music, is math,” says Weingarten.
Weingarten goes on to argue how immediacy and the race to be first on the internet is killing quality criticism (and journalism) stone dead:
“Let’s talk about firsties! Firsties! The race to be first! The race to be first is currently the most fucked-up, nasty, Ebola virus devouring music writing from the inside. Let’s say I’m at a rock show and something interesting happens, like Jay-Z brings a guest out or Lady Gaga’s fucking face falls off … I could go to one of my editors and file one of the most evocative, lucid pieces of writing about it, I could have my photographer friend there shooting these gorgeous, artful photos, but the most clicks for that story will go to whoever got it up the fastest. Insight and artistry are no longer an end-goal, they’re afterthoughts.”
Now I think about it, this whole “indie music critic = Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons” sums up the problem with the Australian street press.
All these dullard arseholes who’ve been given an outlet to express opinions that have been copied wholesale from other slightly better-known dullard arseholes that have been copied wholesale from other slightly better-known dullard arseholes, and so on.
There’s no point in such a trans-local world where the only people who listen to you are the ones who live on your block. And you don’t want to be pissing them off.
Everything on the internet is Brisbane. How fucking depressing.
Music criticism in Web 2.0 environments exists within a set of trans-local parameters, and hence is bound by the rules and regulations that exist within such scenes:
1. That you don’t speak out of turn; that you don’t criticise, only praise;
2. that you write about music within an incredibly narrow context;
3. that you carry out your craft alongside a hundred Comic Book Guys that you despise, knowing that all the while someone’s going to be mistaking you for them;
4. that you’re unpaid because everyone rates what you do so little (and rightly so, looking at the folk around you);
5. that if there is any opinion it’s opinion plagiarised from the popular zeitgeist and made a lot less interesting …