Where do we go now, where do we go?
1. Rumors are circulating that Skye Sweetnam has been dropped from her label after the Capitol/Virgin merger. The silver lining is that these rumors aren't confirmed by Skye herself, whereas several of the artists who were rumored to have been dropped have already announced that they've been dropped. More silver lining: Capitol has spent a ton of money already on producing this thing (which now, if I understand correctly, understands in two versions: a James R/Skye demo version and the glossed-up mega-star producer version) including bringing in Dr. Luke and Max for the first single. (Then again, Dr. L/Max didn't do a whole lot for Megan McCauley.)
Anyway, no need to be pessimistic just yet, even though I can't imagine this situation working out very well for now. Skye, if you're ever out of work and find yourself struggling with Type 1 diabetes, I might have a proposition for you...
2. Since I am sick and not going anywhere (cough cough) I declare this to be CATCH UP WEEKEND. I will listen to music. And possibly review it in blurby fashion.
Dig (roughly in order of digness):
Lil' Mama - Lip Gloss, Linda Sundblad - Lose You, The DBz - Stewy, MIA - Bird Flu, Sophie Ellis Baxter - Catch You, Ciara - Like a Boy, Grinderman - No Pussy Blues, Ashley Tisdale - Not Like That, R. Kelly - Flirt, Natasha - So Sick, Hilary Duff - With Love, Trick Daddy - Tuck Ya Ice, Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend. Heatseeker: Ciara. On the fence: Tashbed - BABIES. Not sure if I should count due to strong '06 associations: Taylor Swift - Teardrops on My Guitar, MCR - I AM NOT AFRAID TO KEEP ON LIVIN': THE SONG (both in the mid-range of this list and probably not top tenners).
3. Since I don't link to either of these places nearly enough, great essays by Ross on soul and Eppy on "recombinant pop" -- which I think I have some issues with.
Basically, I like the ideas that are being explored here without really understanding how the ideas constitute a new generic catch-all. I've also been reading a buncha Eco lately, and his insights into intertextuality, occasionally relating it directly to recent digital/internet technologies, make me suspicious of any theory that claims the internet or digital technology has somehow fundamentally altered how we produce or listen to music historically or "recombinantly." I think a descriptor like "recombinant pop" functions a bit like "postmodernism," in that there's enough ambiguity in it to become retroactive, so that it refuses to be associated with a historical moment and undercuts to a large extent the importance of the tools with which or historical/social/etc. context in which it's created. Or to just quote Eco directly, from his post-script to The Name of the Rose from 1984:
Unfortunately, "postmodern" is a term bon a tout faire. I have the impression that it is applied today to anything the user of the term happens to like. Further, there seems to be an attempt to make it increasingly retroactive: first it was apparently applied to certain writers or artists active in the last twenty years, then gradually it reached the beginning of the century, then still further back. And this reverse procedure continues; soon the postmodern category will include Homer.
Actually, I believe that postmodernism is not a trend to be chronologically defined, but, rather, an ideal category -- or, better still, a Kunstwollen, a way of operating. We could say that every period has its own postmodernism, just as every period would have its own mannerism (and, in fact, I wonder if postmodernism is not the modern name for mannerism as a metahistorical category).
He goes on in future essays to discuss the significance of hypertext as a tool, but also relates the tool to concepts that are as old as literature. The fact that people couldn't create music as they do now doesn't necessarily mean that the interaction of referents or influences was somehow essentially different -- and Eppy touches on this discussing James Brown's music. The difference, he says, is that "where before these referential touches were largely filigrees, now they're the crossbeams." I'm not convinced this is true; in fact, I might even argue the opposite. When I hear Girl Talk or Kanye or even Destroyer, I don't (always) hear the "crossbeams" of referents, but what basically amounts to a self-conscious layer of irony. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, depending on what the cumulative effect of the music is: Kanye's use of soul samples certainly doesn't make his music more "soulful," but the music also has something to offer that doesn't need "soulful" as a component of its value. But that does relegate the "soul" part to decoration (but then in pop music, decoration is content).
I think that "recombinant pop" might be a useful catch-all in the same way that postmodernism can be useful, but only by basically undercutting any significance of the word as it relates it to the rest of what Eppy is discussing, e.g. new recording technologies and ways of listening. Which is to say, it's nice to be able to find a way to put Girl Talk and Kanye and Destroyer in one category, but it's not necessarily any more useful than Chuck Eddy's car/train/spaceship genres or Meltzer's heaven-rock or twin-pop or ambiguous-Rapture-pop. In fact, it might be less useful, because it encompasses so much music that we might as well just call it all "pop" or "rock."
(And this relates to another idea: "If a rock band plays a song that consists of four harmonicas playing an hour-long staggered drone, that's not rock music, even if they wrote the piece by getting together in a practice space with drums/guitars/bass and jamming until they came up with something cool." But if Lou Reed records TWO
The stuff that interests me is "recombinant" as a mode of production or a mode of listening -- or, maybe more to the point, a way of thinking. I think one of the main points here might be in using this term to paint common tropes of trad rock crit as non-issues by creating a new context in which they become mercifully irrelevant. Words like "originality" and "authenticity" may have a place in this new conversational context/mode of thought, but if you try to fit them into non-recombinant modes (e.g. believing that a new rock band "transcends" its influences to do something utterly unique and original, unlike so many copycats out there, and should be praised for offering something new and exciting) it just doesn't make sense. Well, sure I can think something is original and exciting, even if it's almost entirely constructed from other songs ("Harder Better Faster Stronger," "My Humpbeat" [is the Girl Talk song actually called this? It should be]). Who's gonna say differently?
In that sense, poptimism and "recombinant pop" are linked, and one of the footnotes addresses this specifically in response to the dismissals of poptimism by guys like Mark K-punk and Simon Reynolds, who both grossly misrepresent what most popimists actually believe. If poptimism is the mode of thought, recombinant pop would simply be the descriptor of something that fits into the mode...except there's already a descriptor for something falling within the mode -- pop! And here "pop" is an incipient Superword, because for the most part the people "fighting over it" are fighting agreeably, strengthening the ideal as a potential future apotheosis before the ideal can be lamented as having been lost somewhere in a historical moment, like "punk." The most satisfying thing about poptimism is that the community is open enough to shift to fit the ideal, to try to keep imagining its potential and push the ideal further, and generic constraints don't particularly enter into it -- meaning, it's not so much about pop as genre as it is about pop as life. It's an evolutionary discussion embraced by people who are willing to evolve, even if it means accepting artists who deny evolution entirely (Aly and AJ).
OK, That's enough on this for now. I'd also like to respond to Ross but maybe I'll take my thoughts over there. (You should, too.)