Monday, December 28, 2009

substance, passion, commentary...or death cult shtick and tragic hipness

Robert Hillman: I have no idea where music is going and I have even less idea what rock’s role will be in that music. At present in America, rock ‘n’ roll has become very much a minority sound. There are many great young bands, such as Arcade Fire, but they only speak to a small fraction of the music world because most of the media and audience are caught up in what I’d call the American Idol/Celebrity complex. American Idol may be entertaining television, but it has been horrible for the health of pop music because it is not producing great, revolutionary talents. It is producing very limited, mostly mediocre artists and those artists are dominating the charts. A friend of mine, who is head of one of the most powerful record labels in America, said the music industry comes up with about four “breakthrough” acts a year and, for various reasons, three of those acts are going to be American Idol related because radio plays those acts and media writes about them. If Bruce Springsteen came along today, the executive continued, he doesn’t know what he could do with him because there’s no window of opportunity for that kind of artist. I worry that he could have said the same thing about U2. Until the mass music audience starts demanding substance and passion and commentary again, pop music — in terms of mass social impacts — seems like it is very marginal.

Bonus: Bono's intro to Hillburn's new book:

I’m not sure Robert Hilburn exists. I know he is not human. He might be a ministering angel or some kind of specter... he is certainly an enigma. Bob doesn’t drink or smoke, and his quiet conversation is the antithesis of the noisy messy rock and roll music he loves. He is the silent man on the other side of the “wall of sound”. His is the clarity that the chaos of creativity is always attracted to.

His column in the Los Angeles Times put the fear of God into rebels of the lowest common denominator but, encouraged faith from wild iconoclasts. High priests of schlock and roll withered rather than weathered the quietest storm that ever blew into town. Without ever being pious or elitist, he has the Levitical/Jesuitical energy of a keeper of the flame. So many of the artists he loved and detailed were consumed by the fire. It reinforced in Bob a reverence for the life force in rock - its truth telling vitality rather than its corny mythologies, its death cult shtick or its tragic it all

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