Music (long form discussion thread)

is it wikipedia vandalism

This is probably well-trodden ground, but I do not read much music crit/discussion; I find things I like and listen. (That’s somewhat reductive, I’m not trying to imply that I’m uninterested but rather that mostly I don’t seek music reviews and discussions out)

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@“Tradegood”#p101285 If Three Houses is Madonna, then Engage is Lady Gaga.

Reading this caused a bit of an epiphany: Lady Gaga really is a modern (even though she’s “old news” by now) Madonna. A talented performer rather than just a pretty face in front of someone else’s work. Seemingly disinterested in the “right way” to be a cog in the Industry Machine. Misunderstood by many for several reasons; “just a brainless pop star”, “just looking for shock value”.

Her work, much like Madonna’s, rides the line of exploiting obvious pop appeal for radio play and syndication while not just being mindless formulaic pop. She’s done “media stunts” that have all sorts of people confused and upset. I remember the media furore around _Like A Prayer_ and its video clip; it feels like Lady Gaga had had similar noise following her.

Also, I can respect that she is genuinely good at what she does. There’s an album she did with Tony Bennett that is a showcase of her ability to _perform_ rather than just be _produced_.

There are few modern pop performers that I can see have real _talent_, as opposed to being a marketable look or personality for the moment. We need more Madonnas and more Lady Gagas.

@“rejj”#p101550 yeah the Tony Bennett album is very good. I don‘t really know why I felt the need to listen to it when it came out, since I don’t really have any interest in Lady Gaga or Tony Bennett, but I heard a song from it on the radio and ended up listening to the whole thing out of curiosity.

As a teenagerish person, the track from the Katamari OST that I liked most Lonely Rolling Star, which I felt was worlds beyond anything else in the game. Now I‘m convinced I only liked it because it matched my imaginations of what Japanese pop music sounded like, which was something I was curious about and wanted to know about, but didn’t really have the means to plunge into at that point. After listening to the soundtrack again (I mentioned the game in another post on this forum, and therefore had no choice but to listen to the OST), Lonely Rolling Star is probably the weakest track on there. It's kind of weird that that game was my first real introduction to a lot of ideas that are staples of other forms of electronic music (e.g. the drum loops in Katamari on the Rocks).

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As a teenagerish person,

Yes, well

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For the past year or so I‘ve been conducting a sort of cultural investigation into the music I listened to during the 2000s, when I was between the ages of 4 and 14. Specifically I’ve been digging into the common lyrical themes of songs by groups like Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Avril Lavigne, Evanescence, Breaking Benjamin, Green Day, and so on. I was a baby at the time; basically I'm looking for more perspective on this post-grunge moment when everyone was singing in a mainstream context about their inescapable (yet notably, commodifiably, vague) inner pain.

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She wants to go home

But nobody‘s home

That’s where she lies

Broken inside

With no place to go

No place to go

To dry her eyes

Broken inside

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When I was 7 or 8 I found the first album by Avril Lavigne, Let Go. I listened to it frequently back then, although being a seven- or eight-year-old paid attention to only like 40% of the lyrics, and wasn't in much of a position to relate to them anyway. In any case I became very familiar with the album (except tracks 6, 7, 12, and 13) during an important period of my growing up.

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I listened to it a few times in the car last year and had a surprisingly worthwhile experience with it. Instant transportation back to the feeling of being in middle school (despite the fact I had largely stopped listening by then). Is there a German loanword for a time when you and your preteen friends get a sense of pleasure out of talking about (or listening to others talk about) how emotionally difficult your boring suburban midwestern lives are? Of course there‘s a whole musical genre dedicated to exploring this feeling, but we didn’t listen to that stuff, we were just kids who only knew how to scratch the surface of popular culture, music, the Internet, and so on. I wouldn‘t have known what Rainer Maria was talking about. The music coming from Lavigne, Linkin Park etc. was corny and unpoetic and consequently pretty toothless, but it’s what I and my social circle knew. It was useful, if limited, as an emotional outlet.

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Listening to it recently—not only with my own sense of hindsight, but after teaching at a K-8 school for two years, interacting with preteens every day—I feel that at least this first of Lavigne‘s albums captures something essential about being a young teenager. And go figure, she was a teen when she made it! Of course it wasn’t just her who made it, she had producers and mentors and publicity managers who defined the sound of “Avril Lavigne.” In most ways the music is polished/sanded down far beyond what a lone teenager would be capable of. But the lyrics betray the age of their writer: they‘re simple, clumsy, hasty. This singer is impatient and distressed as often as she’s amused by the ways those close to her break promises or tell her who and how she‘s supposed to be. People are going to disappoint you, she announces—something that’s obvious to anyone even slightly older. During almost every 4th, 5th, and 6th grade recess at my school job there was always one or another kid who‘d had their feelings hurt, not by bullies, but by their friends; kids discovering how to be friends with more than just their “best friend,” and what it means to leave alone and be left alone. There’s a bit of an age gap between them and Avril Lavigne of course, but there‘s common ground there too. Billie Eilish is who those kids were obsessed with but her music is too well produced, too well calculated to get at the awkward and paradoxically more poignant material on this Avril album. Eilish (and Olivia Rodrigo, for that matter) comes from show business, Lavigne didn’t; 20 years of market research has given modern angsty pop singers an advantage in optics, too.

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Most of the songs on here are about Avril's relationships with other people in a romantic context, but the ones about her more individual experience are what I found most interesting.

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(emphasis mine)

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“Mobile”

>Went back home again

This sucks gotta pack up and leave again

Say goodbye to all my friends

Can‘t say when I’ll be there again

It‘s time now to turn around

Turn my back on

Everything

(Turn my back on)

Everything



>Everything’s changing

When I turn around

All out of my control

I'm a mobile

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“Anything But Ordinary”

>Sometimes I get so weird

I even freak myself out

I laugh myself to sleep

It's my lullaby

Sometimes I drive so fast

Just to feel the danger

I want to scream

It makes me feel alive

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“My World”

>Can‘t help it if I space in a daze

My eyes tune out the other way

I may switch off and go in a daydream

In this head my thoughts are deep

Sometimes I can’t even speak

Would someone be and not pretend I'm off again in my world

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This transition from the egocentrism of childhood to awareness of a wider world and its emotional highs and lows is I guess what I find most interesting. For me, the experience of adolescence was defined by an intensity of inner feeling and surrounding interpersonal drama juxtaposed with a complete inability to articulate and understand those feelings, which comes through in this album's lyrics. You can likely get the same thing reading into any album written in this scene, for this audience, under these circumstances, but this is the one I listened to.

@“captain”#p114302 I appreciate the deep analysis of dumb pop culture from your/our youth! I am the same age as you, but until I was in college I didn‘t actually have any friends other than my 6-year-older brother and his weird buddy who stayed at our house every night, so I’ve never been able to form proper nostalgia for things from my own generation – I only have secondhand nostalgia from people older than me.

I'll also say that in the past few years I've played quite a few Roblox games obviously made by teenagers. (The first time I played Roblox I was already 22, so I never got to experience it as a teenager myself.) I feel like more kids need to be given a bunch of money and adult staff to fulfill their creative visions. All of the dreams that people on gaming twitter (or the insert credit poscast) idly muse over are fulfilled (in sometimes very crude forms) by teenager-made Roblox games. For instance, there's a thousand takes on "the hangout game" or "the one block RPG".

Last week I finally discovered this band Touming Magazine which I feel dumb for not already knowing about. Here is their song Sex Hell:

https://youtu.be/QDckLyotjeQ

And here is a excerpt from a review of it on Douban:

[URL=https://i.imgur.com/4Pki80q.jpg][IMG]https://i.imgur.com/4Pki80q.jpg[/IMG][/URL]

All the guy is singing about is how much he wants to have sex, but I don't know -- sex becomes this abstract object disassociated from reality. Maybe he's wanted to have sex so long he's forgotten what it is. The lyrics aren't nearly as nuanced as anything by Zazen Boys, but the whole phenomenon of inanities becoming profoundities when sang against the background of loud guitars made me think of [this essay](https://balckwell.substack.com/p/rock-mans-sexual-cycle-or-leave-me) by @"wickedcestus"#185.

Speaking more about the band itself, it seems to be an instance of a certain dynamic I've seen with Chinese-language music (I don't actually have anything beyond anecdote to back this up): a Taiwanese band that is unappreciated in their homeland becomes very popular and influential among certain sorts of weirdos and hoodlums on the mainland, spawns a whole subculture with a bunch of underground bands that iterate on that sound but never get record deals or make much money then fade away after a few years.

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@“saddleblasters”#p114387 I’ve never been able to form proper nostalgia for things from my own generation

What's funny is despite my having friends who listened to the groups I mentioned, none of us ever really talked about them—our experiences with music were almost completely separate from one another (which makes it all the more unfortunate that I was/we were only listening to the same things as everyone else).