Life on the Other Side of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll
I was going to write a rosy post about Adele, but I got distracted. I searched Google for articles on Adele’s 25 and the millions of albums she sold, and instead I read articles about Rihanna and her $25 million deal with Samsung. I discovered that while people are pissed because Adele is selling her album rather than streaming it, no one seems to care that Rihanna, rather than selling her album, is selling the personal information her fans give up in in exchange for her latest masterwork.
I thought that was fucked until I came across Rihanna’s recent single, “Bitch Better Have My Money.” Then it made sense. No one expects Rihanna to be anything other than avaricious; she’s been for sale since she partnered with Totes to promote “Umbrella” in 2007. Conversely, Adele has never been anything other than a singer and a songwriter, and as such is held to a higher standard. Apparently asking people to pay for her album is a demonstration of not only greed but stupidity — music should be free, and only a dipshit would spend money on an album as opposed to, say, RiRi perfume, Rihanna socks, or Rihanna Pumas.
Apples and oranges, you might think, and rightfully so: comparing Adele and Rihanna is preposterous. If I had any kind of grip, I would instead compare Adele to Major Lazer and DJ Snake, as Bob Lefsetz recently did. “If you think sales are where it’s at, you don’t know Major Lazer and DJ Snake’s “Lean On” is the most played track in Spotify history, with 526 million streams in eight months,” he wrote. “Not only is there money in that, there’s cultural impact. “Lean On” gets little press, but actual listeners know it’s genius and can’t get enough. Whereas you (Adele) are appealing to doofuses who don’t listen, just blindly buy because the oldsters tell them to.” (Bob Lefsetz calling anyone an oldster is a fantastic example of pot, kettle on line one. I consider Bob a friend, and I’m worried about him: his article on Adele is a cry for help.)
I listened to “Lean On.” It was #11 on Spotify’s Top 100. I couldn’t find the genius in Major Lazer and DJ Snake, nor could I find the genius in the songs that preceded it, four of which were by Justin Bieber. Most of it was shit. Granted, I’m way out of the demo — I listened to the Spotify Top 20 as I was walking to the drug store to pick up blood pressure meds and a fresh pair of reading glasses — and I still stick to old school beliefs. I continue to call the Del Fuegos the Sell Fuegos because they did a commercial for Miller Lite in 1985. I listen to music because it’s recommended by Ann Powers, Rob Sheffield, Gavin Edwards and even Bob Lefsetz, and I’m not going to seek out a song based on the criteria that a billion bozos viewed it on Vevo. I have a subscription to Spotify and I’ve bought a ton of digital music, but I long for vinyl, liner notes, and record stores. I don’t think Rihanna or Nikki Minaj are feminists or that they’re making a statement — I just think they’re bad for our girls. Most egregiously — at least according to the internet and People Who Tweet — I believe that music has value and that artists should be compensated for it.
The Spotify rankings are the 2015 equivalent of the Billboard Hot 100. The Hot 100 has never been the apex of artistic vision, but 20 years ago, the year-end charts included songs by U2, Dre, Tupac, D’Angelo, Annie Lennox, Biggie and the Pretenders, among others. I continue to get off on music from 1995; it still resonates. The 2015 year-end charts will include more than one Fetty Wap song, a couple from the aforementioned Mr. Bieber, and most likely a track from multiple Grammy-nominee Meghan Trainor. I have a hard time believing that anyone will look back on this year’s charts and think ” ‘Hotline Bling’ opened my eyes to social injustice” or “Travi$ Scott got me through some hard times” or “Future’s ‘Rich $ex’ changed my life.”
I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago. Before Planned Parenthood, Paris, and San Bernardino, and before the polls showed that Donald Trump has overwhelming support. I know that it’s frivolous to be posting about pop music and ridiculous to be getting worked up about it. But if I try hard enough, I can convince myself that Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift and One Direction serve a noble purpose because they provide the diversion that their audience needs, and at least their audience knows enough to know they need diversion. I take that as a sign that all is not lost.
And then there’s Adele. She sold 3.3 million records the first week out, and “Hello” is #1 on both Billboard and Spotify. That gives me hope for civilization on the whole and artists in general, and it helps me understand why Rihanna needs Samsung and that bitch to give her her money. She’s not going to get it from record or ticket sales, and that’s a vindication and a relief.