Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Slate: Pitchforck's People's List indicates indie rock is white, tedious, and male

How's that for a deliberately tendentious blog post title?

Here's the list:

And here's the amusing rant:

Even if we accept the inevitable narrowness of such an undertaking—even if we concede that, in a poll of indie-rock devotees, 24 albums by black people out of 200 is a pretty solid showing—even on its own parallel-universe Pitchforkian terms, the results are an embarrassment.

I’m referring to the list’s gender breakdown. If I’m not mistaken, there are just 23 records by women artists in the top 200, and only two in the top 50. And that’s a generous count, making room for co-ed acts like The xx, Beach House, and Portishead. Again, we can look to the self-selecting voting base. According to Pitchfork’s own stats, 88% of the poll respondents were men. “The Dudes’ List” might have been a more accurate title.

Still—what the hell is wrong with these dudes? Did it escape their attention that for much of the past decade and a half, female artists have had a stranglehold on the popular music zeitgeist? Have they never heard of Missy Elliott? Can they really prefer The National to M.I.A.’s Kala, to Bjork’s Homogenic, to Joanna Newsom’s Ys? Where are politics in all of this? If you surveyed the roughly 24,600 men who submitted “People’s List” ballots, I wager you’d find nearly 100 percent espousing progressive views on gender issues. This would not be the case if you took a similar survey of pop, R&B, or country music fans—yet a “People’s List” of top recordings in those genres from 1996-2011 with a similar gender breakdown is unimaginable. The fact is, when it comes to the question of women and, um, art, the Top 40’s great unwashed—and even red state Tea Party partisans—are far more progressive and inclusive than the mountain-man-bearded, Fair Trade espresso-swilling, self-styled lefties of indiedom. Portlandia, we have a problem.

Well in these parts I swoon to Hilary Hahn's Charles Ives recordings and I think Bjork's Vespertine is one of the best albums made in the last eleven years. I hardly ever get rock or pop albums of any kind but I did get Third by Portishead. Radiohead ... dude ... I don't really get what people think is so great about a Pinkfloyd knock-off that managed to pick up bits of Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman.  If you actually like Radiohead then, okay, knock yourself out.

And to this day, even as a Weezer fan, I have no idea why people think Pinkerton is the best stuff they did.

Of course I don't for a moment consider a rant on Slate about pop music to be a serious thing, just as I have stopped thinking of Slate as being all that careful about background research after seeing how they linked to something I blogged without having read (evidently) a single word of it.

But I'll keep reading Slate if only for Anne Applebaum.  

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