Nitsuh Abebe on you-know-what.
…conflation of popularity with normativity has always been the PR spin of oppositional industries (let’s say “indie rock” just in order to have a peg to hang the concept on) and not a reflection of anything real in the culture. … the historical model we’re used to thinking in terms of — new music bubbles up from the oppressed underground, strikes a blow against the stuffy conventions of the regnant norms, is eventually co-opted by the larger culture, whereupon the underground fervor retreats and finds expression elsewhere, the model of ragtime, jazz, blues, rock & roll, hip-hop — is less than useful as a way of looking at the cultural present. … What’s important is to make sure we know what we’re talking about when we talk about popularity and narratives of revolution (with one eye on the Twitter feed from Egypt) — does popularity kill revolutionary fervor, or does it only make it stronger?
Just a note: hopefully it’s clear that I think this is a sign of good, vital pop — one way of telling when a pop star is really on to something! Most anytime a musician can top charts with ideas that feel like they’re in opposition to something, that’s a good indicator that they’re up to something that is, at the very least, of note; they’ve found some sort of interesting tension or intersection between what lots of people believe and what lots of people reject. Same with revolutionaries, yes!
So when I say “legitimately” there, I mean it — I think this is a significant and notable thing about pop stars, when that happens. (And I think it’s been a key element of most of our most memorable/legendary pop stars pretty much all along.)
re the quote: doesn’t that make lady gaga’s music the equivalent of facebook slacktivism? giving people the illusion that they’re actually doing something positive, when in fact they’re doing nothing at all.