"But there was nothing about the little, low-rambling, more or less identical homes of Northumberland Estates to interest or to haunt, no chance of loot that would be any more than the ordinary, waking-world kind the cops hauled you in for taking; no
small immunities, no possibilities for hidden life or otherworldly presence; no trees, secret routes, shortcuts, culverts, thickets that could be made hollow in the middle – everything in the place was right out in the open, everything could be seen at a glance; and behind it, under it, around the corners of its houses and down the safe, gentle curves of its streets, you came back, you kept coming back, to nothing; nothing but the cheerless earth."
Thomas Pynchon, "The Secret Integration"
This is Ian Mathers' Tumblr. I live in Canada. I've written about music and other things for Stylus, Dusted, PopMatters, Resident Advisor, the Village Voice, and a few other places. Hi.
stop saying “his or her”
piss off prescriptivists
acknowledge nonbinary identities
make your sentences less clunky
advocate for common usage which is what leads to grammatical acceptance
These are all excellent reasons. Also, “their”/”they” has been used as singular when contextually appropriate in English, both informal and formal, for fucking centuries, so do it because it’s perfectly correct in the first place, whether people still hung up on bullshit don’t want to accept it or not. Strunk & White can fuck right off.
That last reblog is very important. Read that. Follow the people in it, if you don’t already.
I write about pop music a lot - mostly older pop music, these days, which makes it easier to take a historical view on who-did-what. I am also a man, and I am a lot older now than most of the performers I write about were when they made their stuff. Though still younger than some of the other men writing about it.
Here’s what I think - mostly for the benefit of those other men. Perhaps not even for their benefit. Maybe everybody agrees with this stuff. It seems fairly obvious.
Pop music is a business that employs a lot of young women, though most of the high-up decision makers are still men. For the last fifteen to twenty years, I would say it’s become more reliant on those women. And it’s always relied, too, on the young women who buy records, buy downloads, listen to YouTube. If you write about pop, your writing - our writing - depends on the work and the consumer choices of women.
There are two things I think about every business that is male-dominated and employs young women. (Which is most businesses). The first is that the contributions of those women are far less likely to be acknowledged than the contributions of their male colleagues. The second is that the business is unlikely to be set up to protect those women from harassment or abuse, and - unless forced - will most likely side with a harasser.
Those aren’t just music biz problems, but they certainly apply within the music biz. But what does that mean, for me as a man lucky enough to write about pop music and be read sometimes? Young women who work in pop music do not always have full control over their creative output. But assuming they don’t have any control just reinforces the probable marginalisation of their contributions. Better to believe stars do have agency, and start thinking from there: if there is good evidence they did nothing and had no say, you can bet someone’s put it out there. Worst of all, maybe, would be to only grant them agency when they fuck up. Calling pop stars out for bullshit is fine, is necessary, but there’s something unpleasant when that’s the only time someone admits they have any autonomy.
And the other thing it means is that if someone does have the courage to come out and report abuse, I don’t spend my words and my space caviling and undermining and doubting.
TLDR: Men - if you write about pop in the 21st century, you are writing about work women are doing. Listen to them. Credit them. (I said it was fairly obvious!)
Kesha’s lawsuit against Dr. Luke has been foreshadowed by past events, but it’s nonetheless heartbreaking. I’m support Kesha 100%; it seems remarkable we don’t automatically draw connections between pop stars suffering “mental breakdowns” and the potential abusive men in their lives that are heralded as the creative masterminds behind their work. I hope Kesha escapes this contract; her musical career seems like a minor point in the grand scheme of issues here, but Dr. Luke has been largely credited as the architect of her sound and if she makes a change in artistic direction, it will be met with an enormous amount of industry bullshit about agency and authenticity.
This has become a recurring theme in pop music: the shadowy male producers who are the so-called brilliant masterminds behind these public young women. Kesha had Dr. Luke. Lady Gaga had RedOne. Ariana Grande had Harmony Samuels. I can’t remember the last time we talked about an up-and-coming female pop star without talking extensively about her core production team, and that often makes sense when looking down the credits. This is what the industry does. It pairs young women off with the real geniuses and puts them to work.
This makes the Tinashe album that came out last week pretty incredible. There’s no shadowy male producer behind Aquarius, and any attempt to try to define that album as such is bullshit. Aquarius sounds like an extension of Tinashe’s mixtapes which she recorded and produced in her home studio. Even with this so-called assembled team of superstar hitmakers, all the tracks on Aquarius are unmistakably Tinashe. The Stargate songs sound like Tinashe. The Mike WiLL song sounds like Tinashe. The Detail song sounds like Tinashe. Even the guitar solo on “Bet” is Tinashe, whose idea it was because she thinks they are “cool.” The only song that actually sounds like its producer is “2 On,” but even that sounds like unmistakably like Tinashe with the flirting and the winking and the charming that only the girl next door could bring to a DJ Mustard beat.
My favorite thing written about the new Tinashe album was by Meaghan, who points out, “Aquarius is an anomaly in an age of major label standardization: a debut done unmistakably on Tinashe’s own terms.” This is the only correct framing. Any attempt to credit it to a team of dudes is a massive disservice, but I’m not surprised: old school music criticism is not particularly interested in the artistic vision and genius of black women. Just ask Beyoncé.