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Aesthetic Stalinism, Pitchfork Edition


The post below about Rob’s immortalization was somewhat embarrassing for me, as I actually own the album in that “compact disc” format your grandparents may have told you about, but missed the appearance of our blog in the first perusal of the liner notes. I had been waiting for a few more listens to let it sink in before making a point about a classic “cult of authenticity” fallacy, but since it’s timely I figured I’d go ahead.

I can’t say yet if the evaluation of the Pitchfork review is wrong. Well, even a couple listens confirm that the rating number is absurd — even subpar M.I.A. is better than much of the crap that gets respectable numbers and mentions (anyone listen to Ryan Adams’s pretentious-even-by-his-standards 29 lately?) from the Pitchforkers. But the bottom line that this good album is more uneven and less songful than its very good and exceptional predecessors is plausible based on initial listens, and has been essentially conceded even by its defenders. What bugs me about the review is the extent to which the Pitchfork reaction was overdetermined.  You could see the review that spent two paragraphs taking the Hirschberg hatchet job and the allegedly troubling questions it raised about her authenticity seriously before it even got to the music coming a mile away, and sure enough. And it’s not just that the Hirschberg thing was puddle-deep and inept (the telltale Truffle Fry was in fact ordered by the journalist, the horrors), but even to the extent it’s true it’s irrelevant. I had no doubt anyway that the now-wealthy artist who married into the Bronfman family isn’t a “revolutionary” — who did think this, I can’t tell you, but I hope I can play high-stakes poker with them some time. But these types of contradictions are utterly banal among artists, especially popular ones. What matters is the work, and even to the extent that /\/\ /\ Y /\ is flawed it’s because of excessive ambition, not millionaire complacence. And if you think that artistic pesonas should have one-to-one correspondence with an artist’s personal life, you really shouldn’t be assessing art for money.

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