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5 Music Journalism Clichés Which Should Go Away Forever

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1. “(INSERT FEMALE ROCK/POP MUSICIAN’S NAME HERE), THE BAD GIRL OF ROCK…”

Description: Virtually every female musician who dyes her hair ‘punk’ colors and/or makes vaguely ‘rebellious’ (or quasi-feminist) pronouncements is saddled with this phrase in music reviews or featured interviews. This travesty of words has been going on since The Slits, and most notoriously has been used throughout Courtney Love’s entire musical career.

Typical example: “(Female singer), the embattled, troubled bad girl of rock, recently called us while taking a break from her highly publicized narcotics bust court case, and launched into an impassioned tirade against shaving body hair. Her next album will be about the politics of body hair, and will be entitled Merkin.”

Note: The Slits were actually pretty cool and didn’t deserve to be saddled with that phrase whatsoever.

2. “A REMARKABLE RETURN TO FORM BY (INSERT DINOSAUR GEEZER ROCK BAND HERE)”

Description: This turn of phrase is used most frequently when discussing any band who has had a career spanning at least 30 years. Usually the band’s career trajectory went sort of like this: the band debuted in 1980–1981 to rapturous acclaim but little record sales, then around 1985 they went all stadium rock. They did some insanely over-hyped records in the late 80s, then they did chest-thumping,  pretentious “’experimental’ stuff in the early 90s. They did this about 25 years after Brian Eno was doing it. After several run-ins with politics, misguided solo careers and engagements to supermodels, they reunited and thus made an ‘new’ old album which attempts to recapture the Good Ole Days of Post-Punk, now that the kids born in 1992 dig that stuff.

Typical example: “(Geezer rock band’s) new album, Embrace The Light, hearkens back to their eponymous 1980 debut, and is a glorious, remarkable return to form.”

3. “(INSERT NOTORIOUSLY DRUG ADDICTED MUSICIAN’S NAME HERE) IS OFF THE DRUGS, AND HIGH ON LIFE”

Description: This phrase is used when a musician who has disappeared for at least five years due to winning the Self-Destructiveness Olympics resurfaces with a new bloodstream, a frightening interest in 12-Step programs, and a new project. The musician probably was in a seminal band who was very influential at one time. Amid extreme drug abuse, the musician went off the map for a few years while he or she spent ample time getting enjoyment from shooting his/her own blood at ceilings from syringes. Eventually the musician got tired of this (or was ambushed by an intervention bus) and quit the drugs completely. Now he/she is back despite having a few muscular tics, and an annoying tendency to quote the text of As Bill Sees It.

Typical example: “(Insert musician’s name here) is off narcotics, and is high on life. He goes to NA meetings at least 20 times per week, and states that the hardest thing he does now is green tea and ginseng.”

4. “LIKE (INSERT SEMINAL POST-PUNK BAND HERE) CROSSED WITH (ANOTHER POST-PUNK BAND) WITH A TWIST OF (YET ANOTHER BAND FROM 1979–1980)”

Description: This phrase became extremely popular when the new wave of post-punk sound-alike bands started proliferating indie music around 2003. These bands can name the following five bands as their influences in press interviews: Joy Division, Public Image Limited (First Issue to Flowers of Romance only), Gang Of Four,  New Order and perhaps maybe Wire. Usually the newer band doesn’t really sound like any of these more legendary bands, except they have album covers which sort of look like things Peter Saville would cook up, and they really dig using jagged-glass guitars with melodic bass lines while singing about death, sex, and socialism.

Typical example: “(This band’s album) sounds exactly like ‘Death Disco’ by Public Image Limited if they were married to Joy Division, with a twist of the poppy, fun sounds of Heaven 17.”

Note: This sentence doesn’t even make sense.

5. “(INSERT INCOMPREHENSIBLE R&B SINGER’S NAME HERE)’S FIGHT AGAINST SEX, DRUGS AND DEATH”

Description: This phrase entered public consciousness when R. Kelly started having his, um, various legal problems in the early 00s, and has been extended to other popular R&B singers. This is what happens when the music press takes a most likely legally insane R&B singer who is allegedly a kiddy-fiddler, and discusses his ‘overwhelming’ personal crises which made songs like Trapped In The Closet Part I so… inspiring. This phrase is usually seen as a byline or even as the title to a feature article.

Typical example: “(R&B singer’s) ultimate fight against literacy, sex, death and drugs.”

Note: I  stole this from the cover of Vibe magazine.

7 Responses to 5 Music Journalism Clichés Which Should Go Away Forever

  1. Princess Stomper January 31, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    LOL!

  2. Jeremy February 1, 2011 at 3:34 am

    Great idea for a list. As a non-professional music critic myself I often cringe at the sheer amount of cliche being bandied about in this (non-)profession. Another overdue list: Music Review Descriptors That Should Be Permanently Retired… widescreen, angular, astonishing, etc.

  3. Everett True February 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    (from Facebook)

    Thomas Murphy, Sara Century, Dominic Valvona and 7 others like this.

    Sara Century
    Favorite piece I’ve read all week!
    01 February at 06:42 · Like

    Bianca Rosemarie de Valentino
    I feel like forwarding this to all music publications in Australia… lol 🙂
    01 February at 08:12 · Like

    Sara Century ‎
    … and all major music publications everywhere…
    01 February at 08:13 · Like · 1 person

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  5. hannah golightly May 31, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Amazing article. Like the Courtney Love pic too.

    I think you forgot one crucial over-used phrase though- I’ll call it the

    ‘YOU ARE FEMALE WITH BLEACHED HAIR THEREFORE YOU SOUND LIKE YOU HAVE BEEN DIRECTLY INFLUENCED BY BLONDIE’

    factor.

    To me that is lazy music journalism, done by someone who doesn’t deserve their job since they a)Fail to consider that a female rock musician may not listen to/like Blondie. b)Fail to consider that a female rock musician may only be influenced by male rock musicians’ music but happens to sing with a woman’s voice, being female and all. c)Fail to know that there are tonnes of female rock musicians such as those in Hole, L7, Babes In Toyland, White Zombie, My Ruin, Warpaint, Cults, the Gossip, Mazzy Star, MIA, the Breeders, Kenickie, Elastica, the Donnas, Giant Drag, Sonic Youth, Madonna, Lady Gaga, the XX, the Joy Formidable, Howling Bells, Laura Marling, Florence and the Machine etc to pick your female comparisons from.

    But according to the majority of rock reporters- blonde? Check. Female. Check. Not screaming? Check. Aha! = Blondie!

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