Monday, October 29, 2007

Sasha Frere-Jones Advocates (Musical) Rape

You can't make this stuff up. From his blog:

I am also aware of, and comfortable with, the non-musical meanings of the word “miscegenation.” There are long American traditions of both advocating miscegenation (Ralph Waldo Emerson’s concept of the “smelting pot” is one of the better known tropes) and trying to prevent it, either by outlawing mixed-race marriage or banning representations of miscegenation in film. Also, I wanted the word to emphasize the rough nature of pop, a genre rooted in theft, jury-rigged machines, and barely legal alliances. The birth of rock and roll itself was not a happy event for everyone involved. Miscegenation involves sex (which, as I point out at the end of my piece, is the original meaning of “rock and roll”) but it doesn’t always involve consent. Miscegenation felt like the right word, warts and all.
I wrote before how I thought Sasha Frere-Jones's piece played off of racialized and heteronormative tropes about sex, but this is ridiculous.

I can't even sort this out. Is it a primitive black male sexuality that Frere-Jones wants to celebrate with a rape fantasy, or a kind of white slavemaster's prerogative over black music/women? Then again, there aren't any women in SFJ's account of rock and roll, up to and including its indie rock and hip-hop present -- so the whole thing could be a kind of butch, homosexual rape that somehow doesn't make either participant gay (since SFJ definitely wants to avoid that). So is Mick Jagger sodomizing Little Richard, or is it the other way around? One way or the other, as Snoop Doggy Dogg says on SFJ's favorite album of the 1990s, The Chronic, "I'm hollering 1-8-7 with my dick in your mouth, bitch!"

I'm suddenly reminded of a moment in SFJ's podcast when he complains that James Mercer from The Shins whines too much about lost love. SFJ's advice boils down to, "Grow some stones, stop singing like Morrissey, and show that girl what a man you are, R. Kelly style."

I really think that The New Yorker needs a new pop music critic. One who actually listens to pop music, and writes to the standards set by Alex Ross, Joan Acocella, David Denby, Louis Menand, Calvin Trillin, James Surowiecki, Seymour Hersh, George Packer, Malcolm Gladwell, David Remnick, and Peter Schjeldahl. Think about what those writers write, and then think about Sasha Frere-Jones. I know we don't have a country full of Lester Bangses right now, but I bet that if you made an offer to Greil Marcus, he'd say yes. It's enough to make you sad.


LPS said...

1) the use of "miscegenation" made me feel uncomfortable from the start of this whole thing. sfj just looks dumb for thinking that it signifies "sex" with no other connotations.

2) that shins quote is disgusting.

Tim said...

It's unfair to call the Shins "quote" a quote. Here's what SFJ said (transcription mine):

SFJ: The heart of the piece is about what happens when we lose miscegenation, when we lose the combination of forces. What's going to happen when we've just got people rapping over a ringtone? Well, that's going to be just as boring as some indie moaner, who's off in their... you know, wondering why they can't get out of bed, or why their girlfriend left them. They're equally bad or good. I would say equally bad. Which is why we want that whole teamwork thing, going down.

Interviewer: We want them to have a musical baby.

SFJ: They need to have a musical baby. They need to work together. That's why I'm thinking, if you get Soldier Boy to work with the Fiery Furnaces, or maybe cheer that dude from the Shins up a little bit, you know. Would Joe Strummer have been that bummed out for a whole record? Come on. Rock, rock.

LPS said...

i see, i wasn't reading carefully enough. from your transcription, i'm not sure it boils down quite the same way.

stand by point #1 though, even moreso really.