Once again, we present Rock-Critically Correct, a feature in which the most recent issues of Rolling Stone, Blender, Vibe, and Spin are given a once-over by a writer who’s contributed to many of those magazines, as well as a few others! In this installment, he looks at the new issue of Blender:
This past Monday, Idolator posted the cover image of the June 2008 Blender, which Your Correspondent assesses this week. What follows is the first comment, from Dead Air ummm Dead Air, that followed the post…
“There’s not one word or image on that cover that would entice me to buy that.”
The post asked Blender‘s new editor, “why?” Although YC is certain Idolator’s writers know the answer, he’ll suggest that the reason Joe Levy rolled out the red carpet for Tila Tequila is the same as why YC suspects that the page views for this post are going to be greater than if, say, the accompanying image was that of the gentleman who fronts Fucked Up. The latter is fat, while the former fits all manner of requirements for the masturbatory fodder of many young men.
The promise of images and words regarding music figures of estimable worth are hardly a guarantor of newsstand sales, and the type of reader that Blender would have been able to depend on a few years ago now fills comment boxes with invective along the lines of “OMFG, I can’t believe that they’re putting this creature on the cover” and “whatever happened to talent?” So why, precisely, should the big music mags do what pleases Idolator- and Pitchfork-niks? Why shouldn’t Blender, like MTV, appeal to people who like to watch strippers, cocktail waitresses, and goofball dudes debase themselves?
Were YC in Joe Levy’s shoes, he’d probably put Tila Tequila on Blender‘s cover. This is simply because doing so helps subsidize some content that would interest Idolator- and Pitchfork-niks–this was the way that Blender operated when YC worked there, and given the first two issues of Levy’s tenure as the mag’s editor, he doesn’t see any evidence that the “respect for artists” that Levy once promised to foster in Blender‘s pages is resulting in an infusion of Rolling Stone fustiness. The Hippocratic Oath’s first rule is “Do No Harm,” and Levy hasn’t harmed Blender… yet.
Indeed, Ms. Tequila–or rather, Ms Nguyen, as scribe Chris Norris refers to her– has but the most slender rivulet of a burgeoning music career upon which Blender hangs “Everybody Loves Tila”: a Lil’ Jon and will.i.am-assisted ep entitled Sex. Otherwise, Norris attempts to unravel this Singapore-born Sphinx, but she remains as inscrutable and unforthcoming as any woman who must promote another season of a program in which her affections are the prize. She tells Norris that she thinks that “every girl is born bisexual,” which both she and Blender‘s editors (who dutifully place her quote in display type in the issue’s table of contents) know is a good thing to say when appealing to readers once referred to by a Blender critic as “walking boners.”
Norris calls upon Dr. Drew for an explanation of the kind of participant common to Shot of Love, Rock of Love, and Flavor of Love. He says they tend to be “narcissist/borderline sociopath(s),” and that “producers actually do psychological testing to find people who (bespeak) this kind of makeup…they put them in an isolation tank away from their usual anchors, in this very intense environment with someone they’re attracted to and encourage them to have intense feeling for them.” YC has watched very little of this kind of programming, but he wouldn’t be surprised if the producers have also inculcated or reintroduced some of these unfortunate people to the joys and pains of methamphetamine.
This issue sees the debut of Rob Sheffield’s first “Station to Station” column. Sheffield’s prominence at Rolling Stone was mostly due to Levy’s beneficence, so YC fully expected “Nonstop Erotic Cabaret,” a paean to Madonna, to ricochet from non sequitur to incongruous song lyric to 21 Jump Street reference even more recklessly than his RS columns. But it’s nice to see that he keeps his eye on the ball for the most part: Sheffield loves Madonna (and her new album Hard Candy) and says why in less caffeinated prose than he used at his old gig. He does often betray the sense that he listens to music and watches television by himself in such worryingly massive doses that his ability to contend with ideas other than his own is either compromised or nonexistent (a hallmark he shares fellow Blender contributing editor/Levy crony/”my opinions are so precious that I needn’t ever commit to real reporting”-adherent Robert Christgau), but he seems much, much closer to the ground here than usual.
A few paragraphs ago, YC mentioned that Blender uses cover images of the likes of Tila Tequila to finance content that might enlighten blog readers, should they be able to tear themselves away from their Yeasayer-centric playlists. This issue’s contender as such is “The Eyeliner Wars” by senior editor Josh Eells, a guy who consistently gets out there and ruins his shoe leather real good. He goes to Mexico City to report on the mass hysteria and frequent beatings that Mexican emo fans often endure. (Note to Dead Air Umm Dead Air: YC believes that Chuck Klosterman wrote about Mexican-American devotees of Morrissey a few years ago, so Blender‘s article herein cannot be tarred with the brush you suggest.)
Eells reports that sensitive boys wearing eyeliner and identifying with darkly dramatic rock music flourish in a culture that favors drama (telenovelas, masked wrestlers); but that same culture contains deeply ingrained, intertwined-with-Catholicism notions of machismo, which results in “cholos” and punks often assaulting these “faggots.” Something similar happened, by the way, in England last year: a young goth girl from Lancashire named Sophie Lancaster was beaten to death by a bunch of “chavs,” the cholos of their country. Since YC does not frequent emo-culture hotbeds on his computer and was thus unaware of these events, he thinks Eells has done a commendable job.
Now a few quick notes…
• YC should mention his amusement at seeing that the some of the stock questions asked to nine music figures in this year’s “Summer Music Blowout” are the same he posed to a bunch of musicians in the same roundup in 2002 and 2003: in fact, he thinks he came up with some of them.
• YC was also amused by the front-of-book featurette “Armadrinkin’ It,” in which three oenophiles from Def Leppard opine upon the merits of various wines proffered by six musicians. Guitarist Vivian Campbell asks whether Vince Neil’s Vince Petite Sirah 2006 is called “duuuuuude”; singer Joe Elliott asks of the proprietor of Little Jonathan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, “Who’s Lil Jon? He named for the Robin Hood guy?”; and bassist Rick “Sav” Savage, based on the accompanying shot of the three, looks like he goes to the same hairdresser and plastic surgeon as your great aunt.
• Finally,YC thinks that, in pop music journalism, it is unwise to publish more than one major feature on the same artist inside of six months, since it bespeaks a certain “appearance of impropriety,” i.e. it makes a mag look like it’s in the tank for said artist. Lil Wayne is one entertaining mufugger in this issue’s “Dear Superstar” feature, in which he answers–ahem–”reader questions.” But since he was already profiled in a feature in Blender‘s March issue by the same writer behind the piece in this new issue, senior editor Jonah Weiner, the mag should probably cool it with Lil Wayne, review his record whenever it comes out, and leave it at that.