Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rolling Stoned

Ah, the New Year. The perfect time to take out your venomous rage on media outlets who annoy the living-shit out of you. There are so very many to choose from but today we're going after the king of music magazines, Rolling Stone.

Being the sucker that I am for best-of-the-year/decade lists, I picked up the latest Rolling Stone Magazine, which promised to give me just that. Instead, I found page after irritating page of knee-bruising adoration to three artist in particular - Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Bono. As I've said many times the aughts may not have been perfect but they certainly rocked. There were so many wonderful bands and artists that broke out - so many developments due to technology and innovation - and Rolling Stone goes and dedicates their magazine to three freaking dinosaurs who they deemed relevant on the basis of... what exactly? The fact that they showed up?

Don't get me wrong, all three of those musicians have a very legitimate place in music, but they sure as hell don't represent the music of the last decade. Okay, Bono I will allow. U2 pretty much sucked all through the 90's with their ironic pop music phase, and made an undeniable comeback commercially and artistically in the aughts. I wouldn't put them in any top ten list but they certainly have more credibility than say, Coldplay. But Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen?

Come on Rolling Stone! Simply crawling out of a cave does not make one relevant again. If that were the case we'd all be hailing Chinese Democracy as a work of genius. The magazine's arguments for Dylan and Springsteen break down like this; Springsteen is a working-class superhero who led the crusade to getting Obama elected. He stood in for the blue-collar everyman and gave voice to the millions of lower-middleclass stiffs who had had enough of the Bush era and were ready for hope and change. If it weren't for Bruce we'd probably be witnessing McCain lob nukes at Iran from the window of the White House while yelling at staffers and reporters to get off the lawn. They also credited his album, The Rising, with helping us all get through our 9/11 PTSD. Similarly they focused on Dylan because he invoked the "wild-ass 60s, towering over everyone as rock & roll's wiliest trickster." Huh? They went on to place Dylan's 2006 album, Modern Times, as the number 8 album of the decade (ahead of M.I.A. and Kayne West) and his 2001 album, Love and Theft, at number 11.

So surely you guys remember the decade going down this way, right? Remember after the twin towers fell, when we were all huddling around our Bruce Springsteen albums to get through it? No? Me either. Secondly, I have a hard time buying into the fact that Springsteen somehow swung the electorate for Obama given the fact that the Boss' fan-base pretty much consists of greying NPR listeners who weren't exactly planning on pulling the lever for Sarah Barracuda and her cranky grandpa. The Dylan argument is even more asinine. So according to Rolling Stone, Dylan's Modern Times and Love and Theft were better than Outkast's Stankonia, Radiohead's In Rainbows, The Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Amy Winehouse's Back to Black, Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker and Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake it's Morning, plus a whole slew of others? Ridiculous.

Let's call it what it is. Rolling Stone knows that the future of music journalism isn't exactly the print form. I'm not saying this is a good thing, I'm just saying it's the truth. Younger readers are buying less and less magazines every day, which leaves aging baby-boomers as the majority of the magazine's readership. While they do give props to Radiohead and Arcade Fire (they would lose every last shred of credibility if they didn't) their main agenda is to cater to their reading base by heaping false praise on formerly great musicians in the guise of making both them and their readers seem relevant in the modern music industry. The takeaway is that it does a disservice to both by not giving space to musicians who truly did push envelopes (no mention of The National, Interpol, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, etc.) and to a readership that might just feel more in the loop if they were able to learn about musicians who had not already been on the scene for forty years. This is the last gasp of a magazine, like those politicians they rail so hard against, that is unwilling to change its philosophy at a time when being adaptable is the key element to surviving. I'll be shocked if Rolling Stone is around to put out another terrible best-of issue a decade from now.


  1. Anonymous5/1/10 14:56

    Awesome article! I used to love Rolling Stone... as a lonely 15 year old who was dying to hear about Blind Melon's drug use. Beyond that, they have often annoyed me, pissed me off, and bored mr throughout the years. Yes, they have some talented writers. And I would even say they've had some darn good articles. Bt the few they have are always out-"classed" by ones like this. I'm sorry Bruce, you did not rock my decade, and I don't think you racked many other peoples either.

  2. Anonymous5/1/10 14:57

    oops, I mean rocked, not racked. Good thing I don't write for Rolling Stone.

  3. I say forget the Boss and U2. Dylan can most definitely stay but Radiohead triumphs even his best work with In Rainbows. It seems RS doesn't plan on surviving another decade considering their dated list.

  4. Rolling Stone; ('rol`ing~sto`n) a.Moving concreted or falling mineral matter {Also see} JADED, Out-of-Touch b. The rolling stone writer was jaded or out-of-touch.

  5. Anonymous6/1/10 20:29

    I don't know what any of you are talking about. I still have my mint editon, framed "Maroon 5" Rolling Stone cover hanging above the fireplace. Only the most outrageous and influentional artists make the cover, don'tchaknow.