Friday, December 13, 2013
Today's Beyonce "Revolution"-? Oh, Please
December 13, 2013
by Lawrence Wines
So, this pop person, Beyonce, releases a new album with no advance promo, and the L.A. Times and CNN and MSNBC gush all over themselves with superlatives about that being "an unprecedented act" that "revolutionizes everything." The L.A. Times was the worst, saying, "She not only changed the game. She owns it."
What a crock of crap.
As a longtime music journalist and consultant, I am disgusted by writers suffering from the anoxia of their own hyperventilation.
We're not talking about the substance of anybody's new album. In this case, Beyonce's, this being her fifth album. That isn't the object of adoration.
The point isn't even that what passes for pop is such soundalike drivel that it begs the question, "How can you tell it's new?"
The point of all the squawking and flapping is that the entertainment reporters who cover rap / hip-hop / pop were caught with their baggy shorts below their ass cheeks. (Wait: they wear them like that all the time, don't they?)
In or out of music and entertainment, it's time to slam on the brakes when someone is about to be crowned as the innovator of something revolutionary and they simply don't deserve it.
Laudits, plaudits, and hype are neither justified nor appropriate. Start with the fact that Beyonce is rich and has a label, then look for other examples that disprove her "revolutionary" act.
In the world of indie music -- and that's all the individuals, duos, trios, and bands who are NOT signed to a label, regardless of the genre of their music -- it simply is not at all unusual for a new album to appear without the hyperbole of a pre-release "campaign."
Indies spent all their money in the studio, and paying their musician friends to play on or produce the tracks, and mastering and pressing and packaging took all they had or could raise on Kickstarter. They don't have any money left for promotion. Albums "drop" every day with no advance promotion.
I know. I teach artists "how to 'work' the media" to get reviews and airplay and create a buzz on their own, because they can't afford publicists.
Even smaller multi-artist, genre-specific and "boutique" labels have no budget for album pre-release publicity. And they didn't take their cue from Beyonce.
Now, if you want to talk about the 14 audio tracks and 17 videos on Beyonce's new album, that is something of an inversion of the usual ratio. Somewhat innovative? Okay. She can afford it. But "revolutionary?" Hardly.
Bottom line: what happened today is that Beyonce is "working" the media. And the media is clustered on the poop deck, puckered-up and blowing the wind into her sails, moving her boat for her.
It's not unique for the media to do that. That get co-opted all the time by those who know how to do it (usually publicists, or in politics, overpaid lobbyists).
Other musicians should be so lucky -- especially those who craft music that has lyrical substance, strong melody lines and good harmonies, and doesn't depend on soulless drum-machine thudding.
It would be fun to place a wager: that, 20 years from now, no radio station will be playing Beyonce's tunes from today's release. But I don't have Mitt Romney's money to go around making his $10,000 bets, even when it's a sure win.
Having dismissed Beyonce as a first-time-ever innovator and bebunked the idea that she did something revolutionary today, let's dismiss something else. There's no need to single-out Beyonce for any special criticism, good or bad: ALL pop music -- not just hers -- is intentionally disposable, so you'll get tired of this week's release and replace it next week with fresh, insubstantial, soundalike 99-cent downloads.
That's Big Music's post-CD business model. Their basic, essential, one-size-fits-all, single-paradigm, sh-thump-thud, revolving-door-rehab, pop-tart-du-jour, ONLY business model.
Whether or not there was a hyped pre-release campaign, quick turnover has become the whole game. And if anything, a day-long media explosion helps fuel it.
(Hmmm. Maybe a publicist was behind the "no-publicity" publicity for Beyonce, after all...)
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