A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

How does it feel. . .

. . .to be a complete unknown? A perfectly apt question for Independent.co.uk music critic, Andy Gill. Seems Mr. Gill has it in for the US to such a degree that he uses Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Rock 'n Roll Songs chart as an opportunity to point out yet another way in which America is the clumsy oaf of the international community.

"As might be expected of such a hip, liberal magazine (and such a multiracial art form) the chart has no discernible racial bias, with black artists well represented. But the Anglo-American bias is much more pronounced than it would be in a comparable chart compiled by a British magazine.

Jamaican music is shockingly under-represented with seven entries, four of them by Bob Marley. And the absence of Kraftwerk, one of the most important groups of the past 30 years, indicates the American perplexity about dance and electronic music.

As for real African music, Paul Simon's "Graceland" is 485, which speaks volumes about the insularity of even the most enlightened of American taste-makers."

Sorry, Andy. But, need I remind you that America's insularity with regard to electronica has more to do with the fact that -- well, it's largely crap. In fact, the only use I have for it as a form is to fine tune my surround speakers for 5-channel stereo.

You see, the problem with with electronica is that this is a pretty good approximation of it. And to be lectured by a nation whose most recent export to take the United States by storm is Spice Girls is to strain credulity.

A quick check of what's hot on the BBC's Top 40 pop charts is also revealing. It reveals that the UK's current tastes in music are just as America-heavy (and crap laden, might I add) as ours.

Rock 'n roll was born in the US. For all its supposed cultural derivativeness -- whether African, as many believe it to be, or Scottish, as Yale University Professor Willie Ruff proposes -- it is still an American artform, born and nurtured in the southeastern United States, along the Mississippi River Delta.

Not that I dislike British rock 'n roll -- "some of my favorite bands are British". Led Zeppelin is my favorite band of all time. And, for the record, I think the Rolling Stone chart all wet based on Led Zeppelin's position alone. Not only did Led Zeppelin fail to make the top twenty, but at #31 they appear with "Stairway To Heaven" -- which is great, but not their best song. But I digress. . .

For all the highbrow pretensions of British music fans, they're just as susceptible to producing crap as the US is. And, truth be told, Brits have as much of a taste for America's lamest music as Americans do, if your top 40 charts are to be believed.

So Bob Marley is the extent to which the American palate can appreciate Jamaican music. The truth is, most Americans associate Jamaica with Reggae, and in turn with Rastafarianism, and in turn again, marijuana. That puts it out of the American mainstream, for all practical purposes, and relegates the music to a subculture in the United States. And, it's inaccurate to portray this as the result of ethnocentrism, as it's been my experience that in the US, you're far more likely to find a reggae CD in a suburban white kid's collection than in a black person's. Of course, that's anecdotal, and perhaps a bit of a generalization, but I can only judge by experience -- which includes once being asked by a black friend, "Man, why do all you white dudes like reggae so much?" He was the DJ on the hip hop show at my college's radio station.

Thanks, Mr. Gill. But, the US is enduring enough bad music without the help of the Brits, who aren't much different in any case.

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