Jack White said something back in April that has been bothering me for almost five months now.
In a Rolling Stone interview, White said, “I consider music to be storytelling, melody and rhythm. A lot of hip-hop has broken music down. There are no instruments and no songwriting. So you’re left with just storytelling and rhythm. And the storytelling can be so braggadocious, you’re just left with rhythm. I don’t find much emotion in that.”
For the sake of this argument, let’s never mind that Jack used the word “braggadocious” in an interview. There’s nothing more despicable than dismissing an entire genre of music with one sweeping statement, especially when the one doing the dismissing is currently the most important and influential man in rock. I’m tempted to call Jack a racist, but then I remember that he’s actually an elderly black bluesman stuck in a young white man’s body. He’s more of an ageist who hates his own age group. Go figure.
White’s comments reflect a dangerous traditionalist attitude that has been creeping into our culture since the rock revival started a few years ago. Indie and modern-rock elitists hate everything new (or at least new-sounding) and long for the days of yore when music was purer and less commercial.
Throwbacks like the White Stripes remind them of happier times when artists did it for the music and not the money. (Not surprisingly, two weeks after the White interview, David “Davy Ramone” Fricke, Rolling Stone’s resident traditionalist and Jack White’s kindred spirit, wrote a gushing five-star review of the Stripes’ latest record, Elephant. Must the media promote such attitudes?)
Pop and commercial artists so often serve as the object of hatred like Jack White’s, because with most detractors, the attitude is guilt by association, a way of thinking that is both arrogant and irresponsible. Their argument states that because pop stars are financed by evil major labels, they are therefore wicked.
(Don’t think for a moment that I’m suggesting that major record labels are saintly organizations who faithfully serve the common man. They are some of the most despicable establishments on the planet and are run by greedy, ignorant, deceitful megalomaniacs. Please, by all means, go ahead and hate them. Lord knows I do.)
With other critics, the popularity, and not the money, is the issue at hand. They need to feel that they are part of an exclusive club, like they know something that the rest of the world doesn’t. They’re always on the lookout for the next big thing, but once it actually becomes the big thing, it’s no longer desirable.
Of all the targets of mainstream bashers, no one stands out more than Justin Timberlake. Whether they’re willing to admit it or not, all the ladies want Justin, and all the fellas want to be Justin. However, as the pop-est of the pop stars, Mr. JT inspires obscene amounts of hatred, a great deal of which must be attributed to his association with the boy- band phenomenon that many feared was a threat to their “real” music.
This unnecessary hatred and fear leads many to the conclusion that pop music is awful and utterly without merit. I’ll admit that I was never a huge fan of boy bands, but I certainly enjoyed many of their polished pop singles and found some pleasure in their novelty.
I assumed that within a few years the boy band craze would fizzle out and the teen idols would be forgotten. While boy bands have certainly waned in popularity, it turns out that the latter part of my assumption was dead wrong.
My mind was changed when I first heard Timberlake’s solo debut, Justified, a record of pure pop perfection and easily one of last year’s best releases. With flawless production from the Neptunes and Timbaland, a confident, commanding voice and earnest lyrics, J-Timb quickly emerged as the heir apparent to Michael Jackson’s deserted King of Pop crown.
But still, the Justin bashing continued, simply because the haters were unwilling to even give the record a chance.
I am by no means against indie artists; in fact, I often prefer them to more popular artists. All I ask is that Justin Timberlake and other pop stars be shown some respect. You don’t have to love them, and you don’t have to buy their records. Just don’t hate them, and certainly don’t fear them.
If you give them a chance, you may find yourself in a situation like my most emo associate Sean Dailey, who has taken to advising people that “Justin Timberlake makes great pop music.”
At the very least, remember that without the mainstream, there could be no indie. After all, where would God be without the Devil?
The damage is done, so I guess I’ll be leavin’.
– Joel Hoard is a latin-singing sensation. Fan mail and autograph requests can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.