Friday, December 16, 2011

Cultural Hegemony and Rock'n'Roll

Apparently, Hampton Stevens forgot to take his crazy pills on Monday. He published this rant about the bifurcation caused by "red-state" and "blue-state" culture (because apparently somebody still uses those identifiers) as manifested by...

...the Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame Selection Committee?

His main complaint is that supposed "blue state" favorites like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys, and Laura Nyro (who?) will be inducted, when "red state" favorites like Rush, KISS, and Kansas are snubbed! KISS is third for all-time platinum records sold, so they totally deserve a spot.

As with most of their more inexplicable selections, the hall rationalized the Nyro choice by describing her as a huge influence on other artists. That would make great sense if the museum were called the Rock and Roll Hall of Most Influential People. Since, however, it’s a hall of fame, it seems like being at least marginally famous would be one prerequisite for getting in.

Jesus, people! Fame is in the name of the place so only famous people should be in it. Because it doesn't need to honor people who are like, talented and stuff.

Semantic arguments are always the most fruitful arguments.

The guy sounds like an angry 13-year-old, but maybe his rage at the supposed cultural elitism in the  rock'n'roll (because nobody really cares about the Hall of Fame, anyway) might not be totally misplaced. As he is quick to admit himself, rock'n'roll is all about cultural appropriation.

So let's talk about "red state" rock for a little bit, because there's no question that the music featured here has a special twang to it. Quick -- what are the first three folk/rock/Americana singers you can think of?

Was Bob Dylan one of them? He's a member of the Tribe and he's from Minnesota. Neil Young is from Canada. So are/were most of the members of The Band. Not much "red state" cred there.

As for the contemporary scene, the most popular Americana groups/artists I can think of are Dawes, The Low Anthem, and The Decemberists. None of them are from below the Mason-Dixon line.

And, then again, neither am I.

Other than Tom Petty (and let me know if I'm leaving anyone out) and Kings of Leon, I can't think of a southern rock artist that gets consistent play on mainstream radio.

Is there something more palatable about bands from urban areas imitating a country song, when artists like Two Cow Garage and Tim Barry can't get a break? (Though I'm pretty sure Tim Barry doesn't particularly want one.) Why is Americana only acceptable on urban terms? Does the alienation and loneliness so commonly expressed in the genre sound different when it's vocalized by people trapped in the anonyme of the city, rather than the desperation of the rural town?

Or, in the spirit of rock'n'roll, do critics only latch onto it when a more polished form bubbles up from "low-brow" (ie, Southern) musicians to the city slickers who adapt it to their own sensibilities?

Lemme know what you think in the comments section!

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