Concerning the review of Bon Iver, Bon Iver, from a Joanna Newsom blog.
I see that they typically gave Bon Iver’s new album (Bon Iver) a Best New Music stamp. I didn’t think the album deserved it after three listens (and I sort of love Bon Iver) because it’s middle section was very weak, although there are many standout songs (“Calgary,” “Perth,” “Holocene”). I was expecting them to give it an 8.4, 8.5, which is what they usually give BNM’d material. But to my absolute horror, they gave it a 9.5. I just couldn’t believe it. This album received a higher score than anything Joanna Newsom has ever created?
I think about Pitchfork’s reviews like this, sometimes. (Often.) It usually sometimes fits together in my head all right, the relative order of scores. Except when it doesn’t. I think Bitte Orca was the best and most important indie rock album of the decade, and it had been bested by MPP months before its release. I do think My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is probably the greatest album of the last seventy-four or so years, maybe give or taking three years, so it deserved a 100.
Bon Iver’s 95 isn’t that surprising, since it’s a strong album. One I liked immediately. One that I liked about as much as Born This Way, though. Still, I like it. The obviously more meaty topic is the lack of women or women-fronted bands getting album of the year. The original post on All The Birds’s are apt. But not surprising when you think about it. I’m not saying they’re sexist or consciously sexist, but editorially you look at the staff and it’s a guy who founded/CEO’d the site, a guy who’s the president, a guy who’s the ed. in chief, a guy who’s the features ed., the three staff writers who are all guys. There’s one woman editor, and there have been a not insignificant, but relatively insignificant number of women writers there.
I’m going to link to this Eileen Myles essay from the Awl again because I think it’s brilliant. And I hope it’s all right to quote at length from it, because this part of it is, for me, a guy, who tries to read mostly fiction by women but who’s lifetime ratio is more like 25:1 than 1:1, who listens mostly now to rap music and Katy Perry-like pop music, this for me is the crux of the ‘argument,’ as it were, but there’s a lot more to the essay.
I am mildly curious about whether the situation in book reviewing (or even publishing) was actually better for a while during and right after the 70s, the heyday of feminism, but you know I’m not that curious. That thrilling rise then dogged fall would only underline the sad fact that the increased interest in women’s writings for a decade or so was a kind of fleeting impulse, like the interest-in-incest moment, just “a thing,” not a deep cultural shift like the comprehension that slavery or human sacrifice are wrong and we just won’t ever go there again. But to have such a deep sea change in a culture and keep it you have put the reins of its institutions permanently in other hands and let them stay there. “They” would have to have become “you.” And you (whether you were male or female) would have long concluded that women’s writing is either just writing or no different than men’s or equally interesting, or even better. And that perspective would by now be so embedded in our cultural sense of self that the Times or Harpers or The New York Review of Books would no more likely to be short changing women’s books today anymore than they would pull quietly away from reviewing books written in English in order to uphold a belief that the only good work being written today is by African, South American or Icelandic authors. And think nobody would notice. Reasonable people of course would smile and insist that the NYRB be renamed The New York Review of African Books or South American Books or Icelandic. It would have to happen, the NYRB would have to own their bias eventually, what they were doing, the editor would have to issue a statement or else the publication would become a total joke. But to publish a review today that purportedly reviews “all” books yet in fact is dedicated to the project of mainly reviewing men’s without acknowledging that kind of bias sort of begs the question—the operating presumption must be that “we” “all know” that men’s writing is in fact better or more important than women’s—is the real deal and the only thing disputing this is feminism and since that’s “over” (phew) we are back to business as usual.
Right? Isn’t that the goal? To have “‘them’” become “‘you?’” On the one hand, you have people saying (maybe. I think people still say this) that this is all just identity politics and to even talk about it is to you yourself make the assertion that women’s anything can never just be that anything because you’re so worried about it losing the “women’s” label in the first place that you’ve already put it in that category. But on the other hand, that’s ridiculous.
There are institutional biases, and it seems admirable to point them out where they are.
Am I saying Pitchfork are sexist? Not really. In fact, I don’t know anything about the site as an organization, and barely know any of the discrete members of it, all of whom are/seem to be super nice and awesome. They’re all men, but you know… Just, you know, the whole idea of, what’s the word, I guess, “hegemony” being like a systemic thing that shapes your desire (Hey, let’s be Freudians for a second) such that you never knew there was an option to desire something else? It’s like that. I still kind of love HRO, but I think it’s probably keeled a bit too deeply into the #slutwave memery. It’s just gross. Come on, HRO, stop that.
I keep think of that Kanye line, “In this white man’s world we the one’s chosen,” which is housed somewhere pretty close to the “with a couple white girls and some Kelly Rowlands,” so, you know, say what you want about racism-versus-sexism. But either way, the conversation is always being pushed and shaped in a way that someone’s always losing out—people of color, women, the poor—but the only people who aren’t always losing out seem to be affluent or merely blithe white people, the majority of whom are men, and yeah that’s always a conversation I’ll have. Music, to go fake-anthro, is, like, a social phenomenon or something, so you’d think it should be inclusionary. And criticism is like, exclusionary. It’s meant to keep poets out of the city. That’s fucked up. Writing about music is the worst.
Or you could ask yourself, ‘What does Socrates recommend in the Republic that we do with ourselves?’ and then do the opposite. I think that usually works. I don’t know how I got here from there.
I don’t know. P.S.? I thought that Exile in Guyville scored 100, but it got a 96. She—unlike virtually everyone else—failed to get the obligatory 100 re-issue score for stone-cold classics. And one of her records got a 00. So… you know?