Who anointed the MeToo campaign as the morality police, judge, jury & executioner? Whether you like Marilyn Manson or not isn’t the issue. The guy worked hard to make millions of fans, and his relationships with those people has been poisoned by cynical politics & a dirty-tricks campaign. I know fans of Marilyn Manson (men & women) who say his music helped them get through a tough period in their lives, etc. Who is MeToo to judge all this with absolute authority?
In the case of Marilyn Mansion & Ashley Morgan Smithline, it’s Evan Rachel Wood who is the abuser. Evan Rachel Wood is a perjurer who (among other criminal activities) submitted a fraudulent letter from the FBI as evidence under oath in court. Commenters online are now calling Evan Rachel Wood “Amber Heard 2.0”, which is accurate. Evan Rachel Wood has the full backing of the CIA Democrats as Marilyn Manson has been the victim of a coordinated MeToo-style hit job because he’s an easy target.
The MeToo campaign and its fanatic adherents have no compassion & understanding for a man’s career ruined with lies. Just as they have no compassion for women who are teaching in classrooms with COVID, or female healthcare workers, retail employees, etc.
The MeToo campaign supports the criminal US/NATO-led proxy war in the Ukraine against Russia, nevermind all the women & children who have become casualties. The MeToo campaign still supports sanctions on Syria, even after a series of devastating earthquakes hit the region. Women & children buried under rubble doesn’t register on the MeToo campaign’s radar.
MeToo doesn’t care one whit about women autoworkers who have been unfairly fired for reporting sexual harassment & wage theft to the UAW bureaucracy. When a woman working on the line in an Ohio auto plant had a miscarriage last year, because she was doing work she shouldn’t have been doing, the UAW helped deny her insurance claim. And so on, etc…
MeToo doesn’t care about working class women, it is only concerned with gaining privileges for a thin layer of women in the upper-middle class. That’s the focus of all the identity politics campaigns (Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+, etc) which come directly from the CIA Democrats. This cynical attempt to divide workers & the poor only strengthens the hand of the far right.
Ashley Morgan Smithline has declared that Evan Rachel Wood manipulated & abused her. So why wouldn’t you believe her? MeToo (who claims women should ALWAYS be believed) is silent on this question.
The MeToo campaign, like capitalism, is exploitative & abusive to its core. The only way to end this nefarious, dirty-tricks MeToo campaign is by organized mass resistance to the capitalist system itself.
Music is such an important form of communication, perhaps the most influential as its primality touches & stirs our deepest emotions. The question of questions becomes: Who controls the music? Consider all music of the past in its historical materialist context, with a philosophical understanding of dialectics in revolution. These days, if the music doesn’t also stimulate the intellect, it’s crap.
Country music artist Miranda Lambert did it again with Palomino, which has plenty of crossover appeal. It’s my choice for the best mainstream album of 2022, in any genre. Conspicuously absent from most ‘2022 best-of’ lists, I’ve noticed.
Brian Eno & PJ Harvey are continually intriguing artists I follow. They endure & gracefully evolve by becoming multi-media artists. Thus they don’t fit so nicely on the limited ‘best-of’ lists published by most critics.
Beyonce, Megan Thee Stallion, Harry Styles, Wet Leg, BlackPink, etc, are production-heavy industry creations. These performers dominate most of the corporate media’s best-of-2022 music lists. These fans & boosters should credit the producers more, and realize what that means– particularly its limitations.
Mediocre & dull music is now precisely MIDI-ed, EQ-ed & compressed, which allows for better dynamics– yielding a cleaner & louder sound. Bass is boomier than ever, and distortion is crunchier in all ranges. Beats are mostly electronic, or at least enhanced by digital effects. That’s the sound of today, from pop & rap to punk & heavy metal. Much of this ‘excitement’ is achieved by computerized digital processing. It’s the same process in film, television & crypto.
Hillary Clinton w/ Pussy Riot_2014
The nefarious #MeToo campaign bears much of the current responsibility for this lack of excitement & innovation in popular culture. Many talented performers (in all fields) have been cancelled by a Democratic Party-led identity politics campaign in its feminist (Me Too), racialist (Black Lives Matter), and LGBTQ-activist incarnations. All are corporate funded, anti-science & pro-war. The “punk” spearhead for this CIA campaign has been Pussy Riot (pic above), who have been hyped in the Western media as a “protest art collective,” while being officially designated as foreign agents by the Russian government.
The list of performers who have been cancelled in music, as well as film, television & theater is staggering in terms of top talent, and irreplaceable in terms of art. You simply can’t replace a Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, or Bill Murray in film. In music, you can’t replace a Michael Jackson, Ryan Adams, or Roger Waters. If they can be attacked and taken down by cynical politics, resting on a mountain of lies & baseless allegations, then who is safe from this?
It’s nearly impossible to be an artist under these conditions. The industry hype machine allows nothing subversive (left-wing) to enter into popular consciousness. In fact, they censor it harshly. We are nearing the end of the ‘American Idol era’ in popular music, when a handful of industry big-shots & gatekeepers were allowed to control everything the public saw & heard– on the radio, television & online.
In 2022, most music fans are bored with Justin Bieber, Brittany Spears, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Adele, etc. No one expects any of them to age well. There’s not enough talent there. None of them come close to matching Prince, Madonna, Gloria Estefan, Chuck D, or Tupac in their primes. Anyone inspired by that is driven underground these days. I believe the best music of 2022, in every any genre, was underground. This means most people, myself included, never heard it.
Once upon a time a real novelist wrote 1984, giving humanity an Orwellian view of post-WW2 politics. By the time 1984 arrived in our Gregorian calendar, the Democratic Party had completely collapsed, with Mondale/Ferraro winning only 13 electoral votes (Minnesota & DC); to 525 for Republican incumbents Reagan/Bush. No one ever mentioned Walter Mondale or Geraldine Ferraro again.
In 1980, Democratic incumbent President Jimmy Carter was routed by Ronald Reagan & George H.W. Bush, sweeping anti-working class conservatism into the 1980’s. Ronald Reagan began as a Hollywood B-movie actor (mostly westerns), who is clichéd & tiresome in every performance– and there were far too many. No one watches his movies anymore, and very few ever did in the first place.
Anti-communism was Democratic President Harry Truman’s post-war doctrine, a pivot from FDR’s alliance with the Soviet Union. Containment became rollback, and Ronald Reagan & John Wayne were the Hollywood faces of this ideology. Actors suspected of socialism were blacklisted by Hollywood & the music industry in NY, LA & Nashville. If you wanted back in, you had to go to both their mansions and kiss their rings while pleading for mercy. It wasn’t pretty for those who did. Many talented blacklisted actors left Hollywood, or committed suicide. It was an ideological war back then, and it remains that way today. Inane performers write silly songs longing for these good old days to return…
In the 1980’s, Paul Voelker and the Federal Reserve were in step with Reagan/Bush, jacking up interest rates to 20% and bankrupting huge swathes of American industry. They were “fighting inflation” they claimed. Farmers lost their farms, auto plants shut down in Detroit/Flint, steel manufacturing left Pittsburgh & the Ohio valley, etc. This was a capitalist era of de-industrialization by exploiting modern globalization to pit one nations’ work force against another in a race to the bottom in terms of wages & working conditions.
By the 1980’s, China’s super-cheap & ultra-exploited work force in capitalist-allowed zones produced record profits for auto manufacturers, electronics, the fashion industry, etc. For example, a small shoe company Nike, became an industry giant and made a fortune off the toils of Chinese workers when Air Jordan took off.
Capitalist rule was consolidated during & after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Chinese workers were (still are) organized under a brutal Maoist bureaucracy (mirroring Stalinism) which super-exploits the vast majority who must work. The corporate mantra is: US workers need to catch up to the Chinese to be more ‘competitive’. Jeff Bezos & Elon Musk have been working on this, and are hailed as entrepreneurs & visionaries in the fake press.
Reagan/Bush triumphing in November 1980, mirrored Margret Thatcher becoming the UK Prime Minister in May 1979. In this era of modern globalization, where technology had advanced to the point where computers were beginning to become mainstream, global production & distribution made a qualitative leap. By the mid-1980’s, computers were being introduced in schools, universities, public libraries, etc. This replaced typewriters, card catalogs, cash registers, paper appointment books, etc.
The modem was being introduced, meaning a user had to attach a touch-tone phone’s receiver & microphone ends to suction cups in order to send & receive data. It was slow & unreliable. A few years later, Microsoft’s Windows95, AOL, and the Mac came into existence. The information superhighway & Napster succumbed to iTunes, MySpace & Fakebook. It all started with Pong, Star Wars & Space Invaders.
China’s ruling bureaucracy reunited with capitalism when Richard Nixon formally recognized them as a nation at the UN. Before this, the official US policy on China since 1949 had been that China didn’t exist. This denial of the elephant in the room was part of the ruling establishment’s virulent anti-communist campaign.
In popular music, the Weavers were blacklisted because Pete Seeger was a socialist. Red Scare anti-communist campaigns, red-baiting of anti-war protesters, blacklisting artists, HUAC, etc, were tenets of good government in Washington, New York, Hollywood & Langley back in the day. Nothing’s really changed with those institutions, who maintain their 20th-century backwardness into the 21st century. Today, American politics is a two-sided bitcoin with Democrats/Republicans. When they flip it in cyberspace, it’s heads they win, tails you lose.
Richard Nixon’s China recognition strategy outflanked the liberal hippies, and got him easily re-elected in 1972. It should be noted that this is when the DSA came into modern existence, organizing around Michael Harrington, a supporter of US imperialism. Despite all the so-called ‘left-wing’ hype, populist Democrat George McGovern never had a chance– Electoral College results: Nixon 520, McGovern 17 (Massachusetts & DC). For the record, Rolling Stone magazine was all-in on the McGovern 1972 campaign. In fact, it established the publication as a major cultural & political influencer, a status it maintains up to the present.
In 1972, Hunter Thompson wrote whacked-out essays for Rolling Stone that were presented as “Gonzo counter-culture” in the mainstream. DSA supporters would pontificate on them from the fake left. Jan Wenner, Dave Marsh, Robert Fricke, etc, never had talent, but they became rock stars in their own minds. In reality they were/are misinformation influencers. Rolling Stone magazine is still a major industry player, even though no one reads it anymore. They control the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, by deciding who gets in, and when. Once your act has that union card, it’s cha-ching when you tour. Every music act covets that.
Rolling Stone magazine’s coverage of the George McGovern presidential campaign influenced a generation of writers, actors, musicians, etc, in the same way William Burroughs, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, etc, influenced the beatnik/psychedelic generation before them. Rolling Stone was the first monthly publication dedicated to recognizing artistry in popular rock music & such, and in that sense it was progressive. It had sexy images, and it’s critical reviews were (are?) considered classic rock gospel. To dispute them critically & publicly is considered heresy within the industry.
Music & television became forever degraded when American Idol (2002-2016) became the industry Death Star. This is American entertainment after the stolen election of 2000, and post-9/11– the era of ‘war on terror’ propaganda. The Masked Singer is perhaps the nadir culmination of all this. Oh look– it’s Sarah Palin… it’s Rudy Giuliani… it’s Adolph Hitler! Who knew they could be so foppish & lovable in costume?
If Simon Cowell disapproves, you’re out forever. That is the modern incarnation of a music industry gatekeeper. Industry power players must look good on TV. This is where the mafia goombas who control the music business need pretty faces & squeaky-clean front men. It’s kinda been like ever since MTV came along.
To illustrate how censorship works in the online age, “Atheist Psalm” is now labeled ‘explicit’ by all the streaming services even though there are no swears in it. It used to be one swear got you banned, then they relaxed that so the Steve Miller Band’s “Jet Airliner” can be played on classic rock radio without having to be patched with funky kicks. Now you’re allowed a swear or two, if it isn’t too explicit [?!]. Multiple swears are explicit. Got that? It’s “Pay To Play” it’s always been that way, so “Obvious.” Indie artists can’t compete in the capitalist market with the industry’s “Millennial Whoop” machine.
Getting back to our political fairy tale, those in Generation X have been bombarded all their lives with state propaganda which declares the Democratic Party is progressive in its liberalism and pro-worker in its unionism. In turn, there is nothing to the political left of the Greens & DSA. Of course, the trade unions from the AFL-CIO, to the UAW, Teamsters, AFT, etc, are entirely staffed with corporate-oriented bureaucrats, backed by organized crime, and infiltrated by agents of the state, who sell out the rank-and-file. This enforced arrangement ensures those who faithfully pay their dues every paycheck always get fucked.
In this information age, where the internet can change everything in a hurry, the ruling classes of all nations, and the US most acutely, are preparing for all-out war on their working populations. Police and paramilitary groups such as the MAGA’s who stormed the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 are Nazi shock troops charged with terrorizing workers and keeping them in line. The Coronavirus War has raised fascism as the bourgeois political order of the day to be carried out. The rest is just hot air and only adds to global warming, misinformation & the criminal conspiracy against the international working class & youth.
Perhaps the biggest myth is to promote the Democrats in November as the only practical political solution to oppose fascism. The Democrats have been funding & supporting MAGA Republicans in their primaries, calculating they’ll be easier to defeat in November. This strategy of betraying the will (& donations) of ordinary Democrat voters, to give a microphone & platform to right-wing filth, is contemptible. That is their response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade. No consideration is given to promoting left-wing policies within the Democratic Party. That is a fiction Joe Biden is having a difficult time maintaining.
For instance, a wildcat railroad workers strike could really mess up the Democrats in the midterms. Democrats funding pro-Trump candidates in Republican primaries is a warning to workers– don’t trust the Democrats! Workers must be vigilant and organize rank-and-file committees to take control of their workplaces. Once the Democrats lose the illusion of union control, all they have for a political base are a bunch of useless upper-middle class philistines & bureaucrats. A wildcat railroad strike could kill the Democrats and they know it. That would end their fairy tale.
Once upon a time there was a handsome young prince who was destined to become president. His father was a rum runner during Prohibition– made a fortune. This was parlayed into American royalty, and Papa Joe (September 6, 1888 – November 18, 1969) had many children, including our presidential prince. This young prince had the requisite credentials– he was a war hero from a rich family & dashing. Every young princess swooned and he never lost an election.
One day he entered an infested jungle and contracted a venereal disease from which he was never cured. But this presidential prince still married well and had many extra-marital affairs. The number of girls/women he infected was prolific, for sure.
This presidential prince fucked like he politicked: kinda all over the place with unhealthy consequences. Yet he’s considered a liberal pioneer. The prince president assigned his hot-headed brother to be his Attorney General, and together they promised to take on the mafia. This rubbed the Black Hand the wrong way, since they had partnered with Papa Joe during Prohibition. The epigones of Al Capone had also won JFK the presidential election in 1960 by pulling the machinery in Chicago his way, and thus stealing the presidency from Richard Nixon. “Never again,” said Tricky Dick.
These intrepid princes were both virulent anti-communists, but J. Edgar Hoover still didn’t trust them, so JFK & RFK were fighting a multi-front war against powerful figures in the ruling establishment during their administration. To the US military/intelligence apparatus, being anything less than 100% pro-war on Vietnam is another red line not to be crossed. This must be clearly understood, because it can NEVER be stated to the public.
The myth of Camelot begins in earnest with the cover-up of the Bay of Pigs Invasion (Apr 17, 1961 – Apr 20, 1961), JFK’s first real foray into international politics as president. This was a CIA-backed fiasco invasion attempt that went wrong from the start, and ended ignominiously for all its participants.
On the ground it was CIA handlers leading a few hundred fanatics in an ill-planned invasion of Cuba with intent to kill Castro and take power. Boots on the ground were militant right-wing Cuban exiles, anti-communist mercenaries, etc, a veritable cornucopia of reactionary adventurers. As with every right ring coup attempt, from the Bay of Pigs Invasion to Donald Trump’s coup attempt on 1/6/21, there is much dirt that remains secret & hidden from the public. It’s classified: murky murky.
When things went from bad-to-worse, the prince president & his hot-headed Attorney General brother abandoned the Bay of Pigs adventure. After the capture of the entire invading hoard, they pointed their fingers as US intelligence. This notorious embarrassment & betrayal infuriated the CIA, which is something a president should never do. Neither of these pampered & temperamental princes respected the Black Hand, which is a fatal error.
The second test of JFK’s political mettle was the Cuban Missile Crisis (Oct 16, 1962 – Oct 28, 1962). The crisis began when US intelligence learned (too late) that the Soviet Union had installed missile launch pads in Cuba. It was considered a political & military disaster.
The entire US political establishment had turned anti-Cuba since Fidel Castro came to power during the Cuban Revolution of 1959, in which US-puppet Fulgencio Batista was ousted. Since then the goal of US imperialism has been regime change in Cuba.
Missile capabilities in Cuba would be comparable the the US arming the Ukraine against Russia. Such a close threat could never be allowed by either side. In 1962, the prince president & his hot-headed brother needed to show strength, and these philistines responded in full force, since they knew nothing else and their authority (manhood) was being questioned.
They loudly demanded the Soviet Union remove all missile capabilities in Cuba, and US warships were dispatched to intercept any Soviet ships & planes trying to reach Cuba. The president threatened nuclear war, and human civilization was brought to the brink for the first time in its existence. The political term ‘nuclear brinkmanship’ had been coined. Today, as routine, we get nuclear war public serviced announcements from identity politics obsessed Democrats, and this is called “progressive.”
Fortunately in October 1962, cooler heads prevailed and a tenuous peace was negotiated. The Russians abandoned their missile pads in Cuba, while the US abandoned more-capable missile sites in Eastern Europe. The Cuban take-down was allowed to be known publicly, but the European take-down by the US wasn’t, so by manipulation of information flow, the myth of Camelot was born. The prince president was declared a hero and his subjects cheered triumphantly.
Of course myths never last, and Camelot was shattered by the bullets of assassins in November 1963, and again in June 1968. Chappaquiddick (July 1969) was their Waterloo. The Warren Commission and other myths were produced to cover-up these fatalities, criminal conduct & violent attacks on American democracy. Since Camelot, it’s become harder & harder for people to live happily ever after.
Bird feeders are monopolized by dominant birds. You minimize this by keeping your feeder full. Refill your feeder in the evening when the sun is going down and there’s still daylight, but the birds are all nested. You know this because you don’t see any birds, or hear any chirping.
When you place a bird feeder near a nest(s), those birds will consider that feeder theirs. But if there is always more-than-enough, they will share with other species & neighbors. Of course, bigger birds will find any feeder & help themselves.
People debate the question of a glass being half-full or half-empty, but birds don’t. Birds always consider the feeder “half empty” when it gets down to the midpoint. That’s when the dominators get MUCH more protective of their food stash.
Plastic bird feeders, like the one shown above, trap moisture which causes the seed to dissolve & clump at the bottom. If you are mobile & busy, a $40 hangable screen feeder is ideal just about anywhere.
I prefer the model with a tension pin to hold the cap tight. If you hang it on a good hook, you will get little-to-no spillage even in high winds. Furthermore, rodents can’t lift the lid off a screen feeder when it is tension-pinned. A squirrel is a rat with a bushy tail. With that said, I’m with Milton Waddams in Office Space (1999), I like the squirrels.
Anyways, if you hang & maintain a screen feeder in a good spot it will attract sparrows, cardinals, and any other seed-eating species for miles around. A “good spot ” is somewhere you can comfortably view it from inside, and easily access it to refill. If you dump the seed, the squirrels will get it all. Bird feeding is easier than pet ownership, while keeping you connected with animals & nature.
I recommend a ‘songbird blend’ as feed, available at Walmart, etc. This gets you more variety, which is the name-of-the-game in bird watching. You’ll even get an occasional hummingbird who is curious & hopeful, attracted by all the bird activity. Bigger birds come by and pick out the stuff they don’t want, to get to the stuff they DO want, which leads to a frenzy of sparrows on the ground where all the discarded seed falls. I like the birds.
Music is personal and everyone does it for their own reasons. Everyone who has tried knows that. This essay is to concisely explain my reasons, which are mostly misunderstood. I started like everyone else because I love music and wanted to do my own thing. At first the goal was to be a rock star. I eventually learned that wasn’t possible, so I outgrew the idea and became something more. I became an artist with socialist consciousness.
In the history of popular music, this has only been tried a few times, and it has always been met with virulent hostility & blacklisting from the entertainment industry & ruling establishment. The surrealists led by French writer André Breton were the earliest 20th century example of art & socialist politics meeting (through Trotsky), and their movement was deeply influential, though it was finally overwhelmed by fascism across Europe in the 1930’s. The surrealist movement deserves careful study today in terms of content, revolutionary potential, and its inherent limitations.
Mexican painter Diego Rivera, whose frescoes & murals dazzled the art world in the 1930’s, flirted with Trotsky, but eventually retreated to his mansion as World War II broke out in Europe.
Post-war art has been kept under the thumb of anti-communism, ever since President Truman laid out US Cold War policy, which has continued up to this day. Cold War policy can be summed up as: Russia is the evil enemy, and Marxism is never to be tolerated. If you were an advocate for civil rights (women, blacks, immigrants) & anti-war in this era, then you were branded as a godless communist that must be expunged from the Earth [!].
Popular folk music group, the Weavers, whose best known song was “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” were blacklisted because leading member Pete Seeger was a socialist. The Weavers had a “clean” playlist for live performance, but it didn’t matter to the anti-communists in 1950. The original Weavers disbanded in their prime by the summer of 1952, due to no gigs. They revived themselves a few years later with their famous Carnegie Hall performance, recorded Christmas Eve 1954, but not released by Vanguard Records until April, 1957.
* As a footnote. these irrational hysterics & witch hunts were brought back to life by today’s anti-communists with the Black Lives Matter & MeToo campaigns in the 2010’s. Their goal (as always) is to artificially divide the working masses through identity politics. No serious discussion of class inequality & imperialism is allowed with anti-communists. That’s when they get hostile & violent.
Bob Dylan’s working class appeal in his early to mid-1960’s era made people take sides on issues like racism, class society, the Vietnam War, etc. Fans & the establishment turned on him when he electrified (which magnified his message), to the point where he finally had to retreat & hide away.
On July 29th, 1966, a month after his final classic-period masterpiece Blonde On Blonde was released, Bob Dylan crashed his motorcycle near Woodstock, New York. He used this (relatively minor) accident as a pretext to remove himself from the political discussion in the mainstream. He did this to save his life. At this point, Vietnam was becoming out in-the-open & overwhelmingly polarizing. Bob Dylan risked being killed like Malcolm X, as he was the white equivalent at the time with his songs. MLK, and Democrat for President, Bobby Kennedy were gunned down in 1968, just to give you an idea of the times.
I don’t blame Bob Dylan for doing what he did to save his life, and neither should you. There was no organized political party on the left that he could have joined to protect himself and his political convictions. In revolutionary terms, Bob Dylan was too far ahead of his time. He had to retreat back into capitalism to carry on.
In the jazz realm, Sun Ra (pic above) stands as the shining star of revolution, with a catalog & body-of-work too vast to discuss here. His avant garde piano/electric keyboard/synthesizer style, backed by his Arkestra, seems to have come from another planet, which he claimed it did. Everything he did, from Saturn Records, to how he recorded & marketed himself, while holding his Arkestra together for 40+ years until his death (and then beyond), deserves careful study.
Sun Ra approached music as a conscious objector to WWII. He lived with, then ran afoul of the Black Panthers, a point ‘Afro-futurist’ racialists avoid. Sun Ra created his myth, to protect himself, and it worked. He died naturally in 1993, and never had to change his message.
If you are not a myth, whose reality are you? If you are not a myth, whose reality are you? If you are not a reality, whose myth are you?
— Sun Ra
Let the verse cited above roll around in your head for awhile, while contemplating deeply. I love Sun Ra, but I don’t want to be a myth, I’m a reality, so the question eventually became for me, as Ric Size: How do I become a revolutionary artist without having to retreat politically or descend into mysticism?
First, you must educate yourself in all spheres. You can’t be fooled by the bullshit, old & new, and you can’t rely any anyone else to tell you the truth. You must discover it for yourself & always keep it close. You must know yourself completely.
But beyond that you need help. No one is an island, and eventually everyone dies. You need to affiliate yourself with an organization that represents your political values and will survive into posterity. By the time I became serious about being an artist in the late 2000’s, such a political entity had come into existence– the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS).
The WSWS has had an Arts section from the start, at the insistence of Arts editor David Walsh. As I understand the discussions which took place back in 1998, (and I wasn’t present), it was David Walsh who insisted on the inclusion of an ‘Arts’ section as essential, and he had to convince David North & Nick Beams (among others)– and finally did. It was a far-sighted inclusion which deserves socialist merit, because it is art that sparks revolutions by defining it to the masses through songs, film, literature, paintings, etc. You can’t separate art & revolution.
Let me finish on musical artists with socialist consciousness by pointing out that there is revolution in the reggae music of Bob Marley & the Wailers, Scratch Perry, etc. Same with P-funk, punk & post-punk. Same with Fela Kuti’s Afro-beat. Same with Eno, Fripp, Byrne…
I affiliate myself with the ICFI, the Trotskyist party of international socialism. By doing this, I never have to walk anything back. My art isn’t perfect, and there is no such thing anyways. All it’s meant to do is inspire & educate. As a revolutionary artist, you light a candle so others can follow. Whatever comes after is left up to others, as it should be.
All an artist can do is continue to work. The critics & naysayers will always be there. You can’t have fans, without having haters. The idea is to love your fans and always be true to them, while appropriately dealing with the haters. It’s serious work, so make sure you find good help & trusting allies.
I’ve written a lot about baseball analytics on this site and for good reason. There is a truth in the numbers, that is often hidden through only observing. MLB is such a long season, and the subtle differences between good teams & the best team, are often too slight to see with the naked eye. If you can see them, it helps to have numbers to back up what you are scouting.
It’s like this with art & politics. Art is creative freeflow, where politics can be studied scientifically using orthodox Marxism, known as Trotskyism. To make sure your art stays true to the truth, you need Trotskyism (the WSWS) as a political guide. Once you are fundamentally sound (politically speaking), a dialectical change will occur, and then you will be able to write anthems that appeal to kids & the masses with a revolutionary spirit.
The US Supreme Court’s reactionary overturning of Roe v Wade has nothing to do with democracy. Wealthy women will still get abortions. This is an elitist attack on the rights of working people. On the ground, these elitist policies are carried out by anti-abortion fanatics who throw the Bible in everyone’s face, but don’t (refuse to) understand the fundamental democratic concept known as separation of church and state. These right-wing bigots never read Thomas Jefferson seriously, so they only quote him badly.
These right-wing terrorists call themselves “pro-life” by condoning harassment & murder of doctors (& staff) who perform public-service abortions at community health clinics. They proclaim to care so much about a fetus, but clearly DON’T care about anyone (except themselves) after they are born. Their hateful message gets amplified endlessly in the fake media from all sides. When it all falls apart, and no one believes them anymore, the far-right proclaims they are being “terrorized” by working people who are getting in-their-faces about all their malfeasance & criminality. This is only lies/flak, and a precursor to more violence the right-wing is secretly planning.
A woman has the right to control her body. That’s a Constitutional right. Anything else is bigotry & fascism disguised as “morality.” This watershed far-right ruling has been anticipated for months, after it was leaked to the public and met with mass disdain. It inevitably happened today because their is no backbone for this fight within the Democratic Party leadership. The US Supreme Court has been packed with Bush (HW & W) and Trump appointees. They get to stay for life, and in this political climate are virtually unimpeachable.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Witness everything we have learned (so far) from the 1/6 House Select Committee hearings concerning Ginny Thomas, and then her husband Clarence for not recusing himself in cases where his wife is implicated. These are reactionaries & phonies who only care about their ends, and will use any means to get themselves there. I say We the People need to overturn the US Supreme Court.
This marks a qualitative shift in the US two-party system. Grassroots liberals have been abandoned by Democratic Party leadership. Neither Bernie Sanders, nor AOC, did anything to stop the US Supreme Court from enacting its reactionary agenda. What will happen to this critical constituency in the eyes of the ruling class? This splits the Democratic party, just like Trump split the Republicans on 1/6/21. New political entities are being established. It’s now ‘Trump supporters vs. all his political opponents’ in official politics. Basically, Joe Biden has merged the Democratic Party into what’s left of the traditionally conservative Republican constituency. “Team normal vs team crazy” is how they spin it in the fake media. Joe Biden’s mantra is, “We must have unity with the fascists.”
Preface:Music & art are aptitudes of mine, and you REALLY can’t fool me when it comes to punk rock. I know it because I’ve loved it since I was a kid.
A few weeks back it was announced with sensational fake media coverage that two members of the so-called “art collective” Pussy Riot, Masha Alyokhina & Lucy Shtein escaped from Russia.
Pussy Riot refers to themselves as an “art collective,” but gets promoted like a band. They are neither. Pussy Riot are foreign agents, as declared by Vladimir Putin’s Justice Ministry. Since December 30, 2021, when Nadya Tolokonnikova & Nika Nikulshina were added to the Russian government list of “foreign agents,” they have been required to start every tweet with this disclaimer:
THIS MESSAGE (MATERIAL) CREATED AND DISTRIBUTED BY A FOREIGN MASS MEDIA PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT
“These people systematically distribute materials to an indefinite circle of persons, while receiving foreign funds,” the Russian Justice Ministry said in a statement. For the record, this author declared this conclusion a year-and-a-half earlier in this report.
These foreign agents (AKA Pussy Riot) have mostly fled Russia since Putin’s reactionary invasion of the Ukraine began in late February 2022. The NYT breathtakingly describes their escape to Lithuania as a heroic dash to freedom. “A lot of magic happened last week… It sounds like a spy novel.” Maria Alyokhina said, perhaps revealing more than she meant.
Another agent of Western imperialism, Maria V. Alyokhina, said, “I still don’t understand completely what I’ve done,” in the New York Times propaganda piece, again revealing more than intended, because you don’t just escape from Putin’s Russia without knowing what you are doing!
These agents were under Russian police surveillance and forced to wear ankle bracelet ID trackers, etc. You need serious help from Western intelligence to escape that. Since Pussy Riot are simply patsies for US imperialism, they don’t fully understand the “magic” that made it possible. It’s somehow connected to a Turkmenistan embezzler, Swiss bank accounts, and $20M in cash that disappeared after he turned up dead in a hotel room. Murky, murky
Getting back to what we know, it is a historical fact that US President Joe Biden provoked Vladimir Putin’s desperate invasion. Biden and his colleagues have authorized $40B (& counting) in US taxpayer money for weapons & ammo to arm the Azov Battalion, Right Sector, etc, who are all fascist SS progeny. Their historical leader is Ukrainian ultra-nationalist Stepan Bandera, who collaborated with Adolf Hitler in his war to exterminate Marxism & Jews in WWII. That is history. The rest is de-evolution.
Pussy Riot screams “Glory To Ukraine,” during all their “performances” across Europe now. This is the battle cry of the ultra-nationalists, CIA mercenary scum of the Maidan Putsch & Odessa Massacre of 2014. It is a historical fact that “Glory To Ukraine” is a Nazi anthem.
Since fleeing to the West with a lot help from their friends in Langley & Washington, Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova & Maria Alyokhina now concentrate much of their activity on their anti-Russian (CIA) propaganda outlet, Mediazona. If you were a foreign agent posing as an art collective or punk band, you would do exactly this right now.
In late April 2022, the Dartmouth Political Union hosted a virtual event with Nadya Tolokonnikova, who had been booked months in advance, well before the Putin invasion. Of course, she was not asked if she is an agent of the US, but when asked how she comes up with ideas for “art protest” Tolokonnikova said “that it is not so much about the quality of the performance as it is the quality of the protest.”
As a revolutionary artist I can tell you that it is ALL ABOUT the quality of the performance, with politics being an essential part of it, but genuine art also has humor, humanity, love, science, culture, etc. That’s the difference of thought between a real artist and agents of imperialism.
For over two decades a right-wing packed US Supreme Court has undemocratically decided the politics of our nation, and thus the world. In December 2000, the Bush v Gore decision to intervene and halt the counting of tens-of-thousands of uncounted ballots in heavily Democratic-voting Miami-area districts, and therefore hand the election to Bush/Cheney, when Al Gore would have won (as every TV news network had projected) if all the votes had been counted.
I lived in Central Florida before, during, and long after this, so I know the story. Americans mostly “know” the official narrative of Election 2000, because nothing like it had happened before (at least since 1876), and the truth was too shocking to admit. Historically speaking, the stolen Election of 2000 was a harbinger for 9/11.
The lesson from Election 2000 is that the ruling class always defers to the right. It meant that, according to the Supreme Court, since the Electoral College decides the Election, your vote doesn’t count. It means reactionary Republicans always win in the end, even when they’re dead wrong & everyone knows it. That’s why Donald Trump isn’t in prison for his January 6, 2021 coup attempt, but instead waits in exile at his luxurious Mar-a Lago compound in South Florida.
1. Primary Colors - Ric Size
Ron DeSantis is running for re-election as Florida Governor, which is seen by Donald Trump as a springboard for DeSantis making a play for the 2024 Republican party nomination. There is a significant constituency of die-hard Republicans who: 1) hate Donald Trump; and 2) don’t believe Trump can beat Joe Biden. That’s a serious split, and it can’t be papered over because Trump has overwhelming grassroots support among the fascists.
There is a faction of the Republican party that wants Ron DeSantis to lose this podunk 2022 governor’s race, and it’s called Donald Trump. It will never happen as long as the Republicans control the state machinery, which they have since 1998. It’s going to take something significantly more than a Democratic party manufactured “rising star” or Trump’s meddling, to take the political machinery out of the hands of good ‘ol boy Republicans in Florida.
Trump & Ron DeSantis used to be political allies & fake friends, but when the Republican party was finally forced to concede that Trump had lost the 2020 election (sometime that weekend) by over 7 million votes nationally and decisively in the Electoral College, Trump responded by splitting the Republicans.
Trump has still never conceded that he lost the 2020 election. In fact, it’s the central tenet of his current campaign. Hence we get conspiracy theories from everyone right-wing hack getting amplified in the fake media, ad nauseam.
Like Adolph Hitler, whom he admires & studies, Trump demands unwavering obedience from his supporters. Only his inner circle of family & trusted advisors have direct access to his insanity. These people lie, by reflex.
Führers are weak-minded & unstable demagogues. They crave idolatry & praise from the masses, whom they simultaneously despise. They fear truth, art & beauty, because it exposes their evil ugliness, which is why they seek to exterminate artists & leftists. Both these historical madman, Hitler & Trump, thrived at unstable periods of global capitalist development. Fascism is a world-wide ruling class ideology held as a final resort in its perpetual war against the working masses.
This Roe v Wade media leak has caught EVERYONE off-guard. For instance, what the HELL is the MeToo campaign supposed to do with this? What about the Democrats in the White House? Nancy Pelosi, etc…?
The person who leaked this memo is to be exiled from the legal community for telling the people of America the truth. It’s the Julian Assange principle for elitists.
Since the stolen election of 2000, the SCOTUS has been packed with reactionaries by Republican Presidents and its complaint Congresses. These right-wing “Justices” have a strong majority (6-3, at least) and have insulated themselves from the VAST majority of society to the point where this overturning of Roe v Wade was supposed to be a fait accompli.
Well over 60% of Americans support a woman’s right to a safe abortion if she chooses. These numbers have held steady for a long time, and will only increase as people become more enlightened. Overturning a women’s right to a safe abortion, if she chooses, is the latest ruling class attack on democratic rights.
Both Democrats & Republicans are responsible for cuts in education which have debased the best efforts of teachers & concerned parents interested in having kids learn in a safe & constructive environment. Since the Columbine High School mass shooting & attempted bombing on April 20, 1999, things have only gotten worse for our schools. Today it’s COVID-19 in the classroom, which kids, teachers & parents are supposed to “live with.” Politicians on both sides of the aisle, along with the union leaders acting as workforce police, have failed to protect our kids and therefore must be removed from power and replaced with workers committees.
Science says these teachers & kids will only continue to get sick & die until we taken a Zero-COVID strategy globally. We can end this pandemic forever in 2-3 months. That’s the science. The problem is capitalism, as Wall Street & the banks universally agree there can be no more lockdowns, or any other public health measures or mandates that save lives & prevent the spread of disease, because that impedes their profits. Basically, the billionaires can no longer be allowed to call the shots. Politically it’s either revolution, or WW3 ending with nukes, as the US-NATO provoked crisis in the Ukraine is revealing to the world.
We the People have an arch-reactionary US President who is brain-dead & hell-bent on War, which coincides with the interests of all those who hold close to the levels of power. It is We the People who must directly confront these puppets of power AND the puppet-masters who pull their strings. It is this parasitic social layer that must be smashed to bits in war. Nothing can remain for billionaires except prison chains and the public expropriation of their ill-gotten wealth.
Historical courts are already cataloging their crimes, and this research will only accelerate as more facts see the light of public scrutiny. That is when there will be a reckoning and true justice will prevail.
All solutions must be global in perspective. That means we do what is best for the planet and everything on it. We value life in all forms. We understand the necessity to use science as the guiding force in all medical, health & technological areas. Politically, socialists must be guided by an atheist position on religion. Philosophically, Marxism means dialectical materialism, which particularly studies changes in matter and its revolutionary implications.
Trotskyists tell the world’s workers & youth these truths, which is why we are so virulently attacked in the mainstream media of every country. Corporate broadcasts have now universally earned their moniker as fake news. Television, even sports, is now unwatchable. As is Hollywood, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Disney…
Every once in awhile something like House of Cards, or the Beatles’ documentary Get Back comes along so you find a way to see it. But most working people have tuned-out when it comes to TV anymore. Ratings are down across the board, which confirms this diagnosis: there isn’t nearly enough interesting content in the mainstream.
There are material reasons for this. The MeToo campaign has taken out quite a bit of talent, especially straight men in film, TV & music. Anyone who attempts to defend an artist against the MeToo campaign will find themselves accused, tried by the media, and blacklisted. That’s the CIA Democrats in action. Do you see why I don’t like the entertainment industry?
Television Awards shows (it’s been the season) are political theater in gender politics, contrived & unreal, where no deviation is allowed. Most people skip past this anymore, and if there’s some STUPID shit like Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars, we watch the YouTube clip a few times, maybe get some background, and then make up our own mind.
As a side note, the women’s fashion at these awards shows can largely be described as outrageously bad. There are a few who know how to look good, and that’s what people talk about the next day at work, not who won a trophy that everyone knows is fake.
All this “pop culture” is accessible with a mobile device which everyone over age-12 owns anymore. The problem for the ruling class is that young adults & kids don’t believe the fake media anymore. These kids & workers are starting to realize they are actually smarter than their authority figures. That portends a mass shift in social consciousness to the left in the near future.
I’m an underground musical artist on hiatus. No more songs to give and certainly no money or gigs. So when something like COVID-19 comes along, and it just isn’t going your way, you give it up before it consumes you to death. It’s called listening to that inner voice that’s telling you, “Listen to your mother.” So now I’m just a music fan again, which means I can catch up on what’s been going on for the last 25 years or so in popular music.
When you become an artist you commit yourself to the process and believe 100% in who you are and what you are doing. You must have this approach because no one else will believe in you. You rely on yourself because only you know what is in your head & heart. This is why I haven’t paid much attention to what’s been happening in the popular music realm these past two decades plus.
What I did musically (& with this blog) can be defined as underground. This is the realm of revolution. I always look at making a record as trying to set a standard that’s hard to beat. When you seriously listen to AC/DC’s Powerage (1978), or any of their other great records, you finish shaking your head & saying to yourself, “That’s hard to beat.”
That’s what inspired me over the years. I was always trying to make that song, EP, or LP/CD that was hard to beat. You have to know it’s going to be great before you record a note. Every great record you’ve ever heard in every genre had that. They all knew they were about to do something great, and then they did it. It’s a great feeling when it’s done. You know it’s going to be a classic because it’s hard to beat.
It’s harder than ever today to make a great record. It starts with great songs which have become scarce. A dirty truth of the music industry is that their popular music stars rely heavily on professional songwriters. These manufactured stars just don’t have much to say, and I get bored with that. I know I’m not the only one.
Songwriting is also a dividing line for those such as myself with punk ethics. Underground music in 100% organic, meaning it is not using professional songwriters, but instead creating its own material. Most of it isn’t very interesting, but there are genuine artists in every genre at all times, you just need to know how to find them. They’re all more interesting than Diane Warren & Max Martin.
For decades, you had to be a fan to know who the major artists were, especially in more esoteric genres such as electronic, dance, etc… Today, AllMusic & YouTube provide any eager listener with everything they need to decide who they really like. The basic rule for going into unfamiliar genres is to do early research and figure out who the major artists are– past & present. How long has the genre been around? Who started the genre, and who is the best artist today? Work your way forwards & backwards from there and you won’t get too lost. Lost means you don’t know and buy too much junk.
Let’s take country music as an example, as I’m not the biggest country music fan in the world. I lived in central Florida for over 25 years, and I’ve been around a lot of country music fans so I understand how they feel about it, but generally their contemporary stars don’t move me. I love Bob Wills, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Willie, Waylon & Jessi. But contemporary country largely doesn’t catch my ear. George Strait, Reba McEntire & Garth Brooks were the best & biggest country music artists through the early-1990’s, which is where I left it, so I’m looking for the best since then up to the present.
As you may have guessed, I’m more interested in songwriters & story tellers, especially in the country music genre. Contemporary country largely has the same problem that pop & rap absolutely have; there’s so few vital voices/performers who are their own songwriter anymore. The last time there was an “excess of originality” in songwriting was when indie grunge & hip-hop turned major label artists from John Mellencamp to Winger into has-beens overnight, when Nirvana hit with Nevermind in September 1991.
The mafia which runs the corrupt music industry machinery weathered this crisis and adapted by buying-up all the indie labels & college radio stations. U2, REM, Metallica, Soundgarden, etc, were then canonized into classic rock. 1980’s indie label bands such as the Minutemen, Husker Du, the Pixies, Fugazi, Sonic Youth, etc, never reached mainstream radio. They had too much VU & Andy Warhol in them. The mafia that owns & runs the music industry hates its artists because they can’t control them. They hate artists for devaluing all of their mediocrities & posers which they throw stupid money at to promote. If the kids only knew…
Artists take everything seriously which means they must develop a razor-sharp sense of humor with ironic sensibilities in order to get along. You can’t be serious & on-point forever, especially without money, as it will burn you out and/or kill you. You have to be able to let it go & adapt.
I celebrated Record Store day during the few weeks leading up to it, as well as the day itself. It was April 23 this year, the day after Earth Day. The truth is every day is Earth Day and I wrote that long before it became a meme.
Vinyl costs a lot for a good reason. Its expensive & dirty to produce. New CD’s now list for roughly half the cost of vinyl on new releases. It is my professional record collecting opinion that records have gotten too expensive in every sense, therefore I go for what I only absolutely need on vinyl, otherwise I go for CD. I’ve always been like that in building my music collection: whenever the market is zigging, I zag.
That’s how you find the best deals and stay on budget. Records now cost ~$25 apiece. If you want 1000 records in your new collection that’s $25,000 cost. The used record bins have all been scoured at this point, and there are very few bargains remaining, with too much to hunt through to get to them. That’s my feeling on record buying at this point.
I’m not so much about the format anymore as I am about having the music itself. CD’s & records let you play what you want, without an app tracking you & sending you messages. Put mp3’s on an external Ipod and connect it into an auxiliary input on your stereo. That’s how you have a rocking music collection that doesn’t need to be online.
Until my recent record store binging, I hadn’t considered 21st-century artists very seriously for the reasons stated above. When I began my artist journey it was Alanis Morrisette, Brittany Spears & American Idol coming online. That didn’t impress me much. But Shania Twain did, so I bought all her classic stuff that she made with her then-husband, the famous rock producer who did so many records I love. Shania Twain is perfect pop, with irresistible hooks & a beautiful voice. She translates best to CD in terms of top sound quality and typical album length which exceeds the LP format.
Compact discs are perfect masters which means they can be ripped onto a computer & pirated, which is what happens everywhere. CD’s have wav files of the songs with all the metadata. When Napster came along, kids who had ripped their CD’s shared them online as compressed audio files known as mp3’s. YouTube is mp4, an audio & video file. Compression means some loss of fidelity. The gain is smaller files which are easier to share. I review all this basic stuff because this is how you look for & buy music today. You research & listen online. After you figure out what you really like, go to the record/CD store and buy what you love.
Vinyl is the original format of rock & roll. It was 45’s when Elvis Presley hit in 1955. Black artists such as Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard & Bo Diddley became huge stars. Jim Crow racism had kept black artists down, but when rock & rock was unleashed it was irresistible to the kids. After Elvis hit, rock & roll became bigger than Jesus, and young Presley was vilified for it along with all the rest.
Scandals & tragedy took most of them down, except for Fats Domino. It wasn’t until Elvis first became a GI and then returned as a teen idol, hopelessly behind-the-times that he became mainstream with adults. He still produced hits, but when the Beatles arrived in 1964, Elvis & the rest went into the oldies bin. AM radio formats this “golden hits era” as oldies, as compared to the FM dial’s classic rock. It’s the difference between mono & stereo.
Rock in 1955 was 45’s in a jukebox format. Kids would meet wherever there was a jukebox and room to dance. 45’s are different than albums which are 33.3 RPM. 45’s are singles, so you’re always looking for that GREAT song that grabbed you from the first time you heard it. If the artist who made that song never made another one, then get that single on 45 or mp3. Most flip-sides of 45’s aren’t good songs, but occasionally there will be a gem.
When vinyl (33’s & 45’s) was deleted by 1990, the singles format disappeared, as CD’s don’t work as singles or as EP’s. This was a creative problem for nearly a decade until mp3 sharing came about, because there are many, many more artists who can make a great song or two, versus those who can make a great album. Those who can make multiple great albums are the major artists.
The advantage of CD’s (over records) is their ability to hold up to 80 minutes of length. A vinyl record sounds best if the album can be split into two 22+ minute sides. Anything at or over 23 minutes/side degrades the sound quality significantly, meaning you must either make it a double album or else go to CD.
My advice for young artists is to make great CD’s. The CD revolution was not only a quantum leap in audio fidelity, but also creativity. If you’ve got 75 minutes of great music you can put it online & onto CD. Then people like me will want to hear it. Once you impress enough people and become a huge success, then you can sell that album as a double LP on vinyl.
Making records involves the use of toxic petrochemicals which degrade our Earth’s ecosystem. Therefore my rules on vinyl are these. Reissue only great & very good records. No more Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Supertramp, Yes, ELO, etc, re-issues. These such albums sat unclaimed in used bins I looked through for years, so why is the industry still pumping out fresh copies of this mediocre, industry-produced fodder? It’s the great rock records of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, Mott the Hoople, along with the groove of P-funk & David Bowie that represent the best of 1970’s rock. Punk, reggae, funk & disco are what people covet most from the 1970’s.
Releases from 1990 onward are universally considered CD’s. Genres like pop, rap, country & rock are all recorded digitally with in-studio multi-tracking. Songs are constructed over hours, days, weeks & months on computers with the musicians, engineers & producers. This allows the sound geeks to get the best (loudest) sounds.
This has led to the “loudness wars” an industry term extensively discussed by serious sound professionals in online forums. Basically everyone in pop, rock & rap wants the loudest records, so we’ve reached the point where there is so much compression on all the tracks (guitars, bass, vocals, drum kit, etc) that the music lacks heart & soul. It’s sounds too slick & digitized because it is.
No popular artist in any of these genres does live-performance studio recordings on their albums. It’s kinda been that way since the Beatles did Sgt. Pepper’s in 1967. You can always make it cleaner & louder if you multi-track, because it allows sound separations and treatments (reverb, compression, etc) of each individual track.
So which format (record/CD/mp3) is best? Here’s my rule, if it has great songs and performances it will sound great on any format. Pre-1990, everything was released as a vinyl record. Pre-Beatles was 45’s, except for Bob Dylan who was always an album artist. Note that these are guides and that when you are record shopping you have to adapt to what is actually there. Don’t go insisting on a certain format when it’s unavailable or too pricey everywhere. The best deals today are on used CD’s. Major artists past & present in every genre populate the “used CD’s” bins, so find them.
Good stuff can be hard to find, and when it’s a good deal you should jump on it. If it moves you and has great songs from start to finish it will sound great in ANY format. The exception is cassette tapes, which degrade over time no matter what you do. Cassette tapes always have hiss, and are susceptible to getting eaten by vehicle tape decks & boom boxes.
It was always considered smarter to buy vinyl, and then record it onto a blank 45/90 cassette tape, than to buy pre-recorded cassettes. That way you got two albums per tape and if it got eaten or lost, just record another. Turntables were considered a nuisance by most as the 1980’s progressed, as CD players changed the music market.
VCR’s had revolutionized television watching habits and opened up new avenues in home recording. MTV hit in 1981 and popular music was never the same. From MTV on, you had to look good in front of the camera, otherwise you had no chance with the kids. Before MTV, oldies bands & performers could hide & hang-on as “rockers”. MTV immediately assigned REO Speedwagon, CSN, Rod Stewart, Bob Seger, etc, to “classic rock” & “adult contemporary” status.
Of all of the classic rockers, it was Tom Petty who best survived the 80’s into the 1990’s when grunge & hip-hop exploded. By then Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Michael Jackson, etc, no longer had the kids attention, and were then considered legacy artists along with Billy Joel, Elton John, Eric Clapton, etc.
Grunge proved that kids liked bands influenced by the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart & the Stooges better than those championed by the classic rock dogmatists. The music industry canonized classic rock in the 1970’s under the institution of Rolling Stone magazine in which a few ex-musician hangers-on anointed themselves as the preeminent critics on rock, country & pop music.
Since the grunge wave of the early 1990’s, Rolling Stone has lost much of its credibility as the unassailable critics of music & pop culture. The more one learns of this institution, the more it can be seen for what it is: a tool of the music industry which employs its legion of hack writers, fake journalists & unserious critics to prop up the latest project the music industry deems important. These industry creations will always get a positive review in Rolling Stone; and depending on their industry clout, they may also get anything from a quick (positive) write-up, to a cover with full interview. That’s mainstream popular music in all genres. It’s totally a business, and that’s why it sucks so hard.
Divas are the explosive phenomenon in popular music in the last 25 years. The last divas I loved were Gloria Estefan & Madonna back in the day. Before them, Deborah Harry (Blondie) & Pat Benatar were my original favorites. MTV & the internet made divas more possible. The original modern diva in pop culture was Marilyn Monroe. In rock music it was Nico with the Velvet Underground & Warhol. Nico was the original bad girl, and a fascinating study in the ephemeral character of divas. They all want to be considered as artists.
The previously mentioned Shania Twain was first American pop music diva of the 21st century. Just to define the term, divas have to be beautiful, stylized & talented. Divas are coveted by all straight men, so they set the standard for women. Country music never really had a diva before Shania Twain. The original female country star was Patsy Cline. For a long time Dolly Parton was the closest thing to a country music diva in a genre dominated by wholesome-image female artists.
Country music since the 1970’s (at least) can be classified into two distinct styles: Nashville sound & outlaw. It must be understood that all country records are recorded in Nashville, TN, but there is a difference in style. Outlaw is rootsier and appeals to purists, while Nashville sound is slicker and more pop oriented. Contemporary country has been profoundly changed by pop, rock & rap. I listen to country songs that have a singer with a twangy voice, but if it’s a fast song, it’s rock music. Maybe they throw-in a harmonica & steel pedal guitar track to countrify it, but it’s basically rock. All the country ballads are basically pop & rap production.
In contemporary country music, the biggest pop diva has been Carrie Underwood since she won Season 3 of American Idol. Her first CD Some Hearts (2005) had the entire music industry behind it, so it was going to be a success no matter what, kinda like Titanic (1997). My listening of her first few albums is that they are highly polished, with some good singles, but also with too much well-constructed filler. Carrie Underwood has an amazing voice, but I never much cared for Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, etc, and that’s her style. It’s too much syrupy pop for my taste, which leans towards rock. My best chance of finding something I like in country music was in the outlaw style that takes Waylon & Willie as its roots.
The biggest star in country music for the past 15+ years has been Miranda Lambert. Like Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert also came from reality TV, and released her debut album Kerosene in 2005. Reading both these album credits today provides definitive clues in advance as to who would be the enduring artist in country music.
Carrie Underwood’s Some Hearts has only one song that she wrote, “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore,” while Miranda Lambert wrote (or co-wrote) every song on Kerosene except one. Both their follow-ups are they same way, and so on…
Miranda Lambert does use professional songwriters, but I get a sense that she really gets to pick the songs she likes. She also collaborates with these songwriters much more, in order to get them right for the album. Carrie Underwood had the material handed to her, and if Max Martin insisted that his song be on her CD, it got done. Carrie Underwood does the best she can, but too much of her material isn’t very inspired.
The songs that Miranda Lambert writes have more depth, heart & soul. These are songs of a restless artist who has the songwriter gift. I have nothing but respect & admiration for that because I know how hard it is. Carrie Underwood is more of a true diva, where Miranda Lambert is more of a Woodie Guthrie folk singer. They’re both country singers and both divas. Miranda Lambert is the true artist.