Selective Memory

My problem with Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance was not that it was shocking, but that its calculated cry for attention was so boring – as Captain Renault deadpanned in Casablanca, “I’m shocked, shocked . . .”

At least Hipstercrite shifts the debate, claiming the problem was not with the performance, but with the music performed:

While everyone is ranting and raving about Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke’s best impression of LeeLoo and Beetlejuice doing softcore porn, we should really be asking ourselves as a society how we’ve let such incredibly bad music seep into our homes.” (emphasis hers)

And she does get off a good line:

Remember when musicians weren’t solely children of famous people?

Unfortunately, the biggest hit of 1977 was not the admittedly great “Got to Give It Up,” her standard of good music, but “You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone, the child of a famous person.  Apparently not much has changed.

Hipstercrite‘s is largely a “rockist” argument against the lack of authenticity in phony pop music that is not played on “real instruments”:

Remember when songs were played by a band with several talented musicians?”

Basically, she is rehearsing Bob Seger’s complaint that “today’s music ain’t got the same soul.”  However, this same defense of the rock establishment’s against usurpers was once employed by those who defended the gates against “that old time rock and roll.”  No less than Frank Sinatra dismissed rock as:

. . . the most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression it has been my displeasure to hear–naturally I refer to the bulk of rock ‘n’ roll. . . .  It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people.  It smells phony and false.  It is sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons and by means of its almost imbecilic reiterations and sly, lewd–in fact plain dirty–lyrics, and as I said before, it manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth. . . .  This rancid smelling aphrodisiac I deplore.”  (“The Diplomacy of Music,  Western World, 7, November, 1957, pp. 29-30.)

In a 1958 speech to a DJ Convention in Kansas City, Mitch Miller agreed:

I know that most of you agree with me that much of the juvenile stuff pumped over the air waves these days hardly qualifies as music.  But your standard answer is: ‘We’re not here to educate.  We’re here to give them what they want.'” (“To the Disc Jockeys–with Love Music Journal, June-July, 1958, pp. 18-19, 39.)

Fifty-five years later, Hipstercrite is still blaming bad pop music on the money changers in the temple:

If my kids ask me why I’m so sensitive about this issue, I will tell them it’s because shitty music comes from people who have money and who constantly stroke each other’s big fat egos. I will tell them that, sadly, the art industries are run by people with neither style nor class, who care more for shock value that ultimately makes them more money.”

But where does that money come from?  Kids.  Greedy execs may limit the choices, but it is kids who ultimately choose which of the many applicants will one day become big enough pop stars to appear on the VMAs, which Miller also complained about:

You carefully built yourselves into the monarchs of radio and then you went and abdicated–abdicated your programming to the corner record shop; to the eight to fourteen-year-olds; to the pre-shave crowd that makes up twelve percent of the country’s population and zero percent of its buying power, once you eliminate pony tail ribbons, popsicles, and peanut brittle [and music?]. . . . “

Of course, many of us conveniently forget the more embarrassing bubble gum music we ourselves listened to when we were kids, only to smile nostalgically if we happen to hear one of those disposable pop tunes on oldies (excuse me, classic rock) radio.  However, we cling to the best, most meaningful songs of our generation and start to mistake them for the norm instead of recognizing just how exceptional those peaks were.  We remember “Got to Give It Up” even as we delete “Disco Duck” from our memory.

ps — This just in: Steve Chmelar, the creator of the first foam finger, complained that Miley “took an honorable icon that is seen in sporting venues everywhere and degraded it.”

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