Friday, June 06, 2008

Pitchfork vs. Obama

So thanks largely to Q I've become sucked in to reading Pitchfork reviews and sometimes gettuing angry about them. I contemplated posting about yesterday's Radiohead review, which was yet anolther in the LONG line of "rock is dead" stupid reviews (seriously, how long has that been going on? Drop it already), but decided against it. But now, here's something that really got my goat. From today's review of the new Erykah Badu:

"The American media and public have spent a fair bit of the past months being fascinated and appalled by various remarks from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, of Chicago. Those months have also seen a fairly warm critical reception for Erykah Badu's terrific new album-- one whose notions and ideologies sometimes come from the same nexus as Wright's. Badu's theology is different, of course: more personal, more scattered, less Christian, laced with Five-Percenter notions. And Badu salutes Farrakhan explicitly, rather than just nodding politely across the South Side. But there's an odd echo in her wording on that one: "I salute you, Farrakhan/ Because you are me." Less than a month after this record's release, Wright's most notable acquaintance was describing the reverend as someone who "contains within him the contradictions-- the good and the bad-- of the community.... I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community." He is me? Until he hits the press club, anyway."

OK, so what the hell is going on here? It seems that what they are saying is that Badu is embracing the anger and tricky politics of men like Wright and Farrakhan, while Obama disowns them. That last line in particular (Until he hits the press club) really paints Obama as truly disowning these ideas. And yet, Obama's main speech about this issue - the speech that this review quotes directly from - refutes that point. They REPRINT the quote where Obama says that he can NOT disown Wright and disown his ideas, then they condemn Obama for doing just that? I mean, serioulsy, are they stupid? Can they not read? It seems crystal clear that Obama could have completely thrown Wright under the bus and saved himself a lot of headache, but he chose to talk about the feelings in the black community and to won those feelings. He chose to say, essentially, he is me. Just as Badu says. And yet, for some unknown reason, Pitchfork decides to skewer him.

And why? To what aim? Is it jsut that they think it's kewl to insult politicians? This whole thing leaves me baffled and angry.

And this doesn't even get into the final paragraph of their review where they rally against reviewers who say all black music must be about gund, violence, etc. Which is a good idea, but you know... Pot. Kettle. Black.

1 comment:

Quinapalus said...

Personally, I've finally managed to get over reading Pitchfork reviews, except when somebody like you comes along and sucks me back in. All i can really say is that those guys are at their absolute WORST when they try to bring some kind of expansive cultural criticism into their reviews. The Badu review is a textbook case of Pitchfork substituting a lame analysis of culture for anything resembling a review of actual music.

I'd say their #1 problem in this case is that they seem to take Badu seriously as some sort of cultural critic herself, and then try to engage her on the level of what she has to say...which is rarely above the level of shouting out to tyrannical thugs like Farrakhan. "I salute you Farrakhan, because you are me." Really Erikah? REALLY? Which part of Farrakhan is the most you? Is it the part that advocates the subjugation of women? Is it the part that was aggressively calling for Malcolm X to be killed in the weeks leading up to his assassination? Maybe it's the anti-semitic windbag part of Farrakhan that you most identify with?

I'm not trying to rag on Badu--she's a talented and charismatic singer, and if her political ideals weren't a little sloppy then she'd be a major exception among MOST singer songwriters. It's Pitchfork's fault for pretending to have something insightful to say about radical black politics.