It may be a bit late in the "Tuning In" series to reveal this, but, like some music critics, I watch Fox's American Idol. I still follow it even though the past few seasons have been lackluster. I caught the end of the first season, which Kelly Clarkson deservedly won (cue "Since U Been Gone" and rock out), but remained a hold-out for a few years until my partner got me following Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice's season four tête-à-tête.
However, I have a love-hate relationship with the program. Many of the contestants bore or irritate me and the winner is often not who I'd choose. It also frustrates me that the competition can seem a bit racist. The wrongful ousting of Tamrya Gray and Jennifer Hudson make this evident, as did Jordin Sparks's season six win, which came after darker-skinned contestants LaKisha Jones and Melinda Doolittle were voted off.
In addition, I think the show needs to end. Simon Cowell is leaving. Episode premises and possibilities for new mentors have been stretched. Idol Gives Back continues to bloat on its own self-importance despite its purported altruistic intentions. I've also seen far too many Ford music videos (though I did perk up when last season's group did a rendition of Lykki Li's "I'm Good, I'm Gone," as my synapses fire when indie and mainstream music culture coalesce).
This season has left me with little to latch onto. In a season that's been defined by artists packaging themselves as hipster- or indie-friendly, the majority of these contestants have demonstrated for me how disappointing it can be when underground music is co-opted by the mainstream. That many of these bland artists were pretty white women with little staying power is even more disheartening. Ellen DeGeneres has offered some perceptive advice. There have been a few noteworthy guest performances, including Lady Gaga's pared-down "Alejandro" and Rihanna's "Rock Star," which made me want to teach her how to actually play the guitar. Beyond that, there's the lone female contestant in the top three who I hope takes over the title on May 26th.
Lately, there's been a lot of talk (recession-driven in large part) about the real value of a college education, both in the media and that I've been privy to in my own circles. The youth unemployment rate hovers at 17% and even as the economy recovers, the specter of long-term effects on those who launch their careers during the downturn looms. With college and university commencements currently taking place all over North America, it seems like a perfect time to ask whether or not we should be encouraging so many HS students to enroll in college vs. pursuing technical or vocational training and whether a college education is really the ticket to future economic stability that it is portrayed to be.
I can empathize with students who hold graduate degrees and, due to a lack of options in their field, are returning to community college for more practical programs as a last-ditch effort to break into the workforce in a meaningful way or those from the class of 2010 who have done what they believed to be everything right (good grades, internship experience, volunteering, networking, assumption of big-time student loans) and whose introductions to the working world (which ain't exactly embracing them with open arms) will serve as a cold wake-up call.
A few days ago, the Hollywood Scoop reported the same crew behind HBO's boys & toys hit Entourage were cooking up another show for the network. This one would be a spin-off of Entourage, but this time based around women in Los Angeles. The only report is that it would be like Entourage meets Sex and the City - which is a bit confusing because it's all the same show. However, I'm looking at this development a bit more skeptically than usual.
Trouble is, HBO already aired a different show that the Entourage crew executive produced. It was called How To Make It In America, and if we've learned anything from the treatment of female character Rachel Chapman (played by Lake Bell), we know that a well-written woman is hard to find.
Most of us are taught that 'good' music is polished, without background noise or distortion. Popular culture embraces this kind of music. We're shown that if we want to succeed as musicians, we must aspire to make flawless music with the best equipment out there (meaning the most expensive, of course). Lo-fi music is awesome because it rejects this idea. It breaks convention. It's distorted and fuzzy, contains background noise and limited frequency response. Lo-fi doesn't give a shit about the rules.
We've all heard one of Audre Lorde's most famous lines: "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." Let's take a minute to apply this to the music industry. If the house we're talking about is the music industry, well, it's important to mention that it's long been dominated by privileged white males. The music industry was not built with most people in mind. So it's no wonder that riot grrrl and queercore began to reject the 'master's tools' (the expensive equipment, polished sound, the idea that conforming to an industry created without you in mind is something you should be doing). Lo-fi rejects the 'master's tools' and creates its own sound.
This mix is comprised of music made primarily by women. I don't mean to ignore the guys in the bands by calling this a "lo-fi ladies" mix; rather, I want to highlight lo-fi female-fronted music. Additionally, I can't say why these bands decided to make lo-fi music and I won't pretend to know each band's politics. While some of them definitely made the music as a statement against mainstream music/the man, others were probably just into the sound. Either way, this mix makes me feel like all I need to start a band is a $1 microphone and a couple of friends.
I blame Douglas Coupland. Before he coined the term Gen X and set it loose into the cultural lexicon, we didn't care about analyzing and compiling character profiles of generations.
I was reminded of how damn I annoying I find these caricatures while reading A. O. Scott's NYT piece on Gen X's mid-life crisis, or more actually A. O. Scott's piece about 40 year-old men feeling dissatisfied with their lives (gasp! really!) that he attempts to cast as a generational phenomenon by name-checking Ben Stiller's latest movie, John Cusack's Hot Tub Time Machine and a novel no one has read. I'd like to believe he was spoofing the ennui-associated traits that Gen X gets tagged with, but, unfortunately, I think Scott has actually swallowed the stereotypes attached to his peers (especially male peers) hook, line and sinker and has chosen to regurgitate them on the pages of the New York Times.