ASSIGNMENT 1 BLOG 5: GRAMMYS AWARD 2017 AND THE REPRESENTATION OF ROCK AND RACE

The completed list for the 59th Grammys Awards 2017 was recently revealed, and what is missing are the rock bands and baby boomer guitar acts (Willman, 2016). It is no surprise to everyone that The Grammys has been detached from rock since mid ‘00s (Brodsky, 2016). The 5 artists who are nominated for the Grammys next year are all R&B and hip hop artists, with Beyonce at the top with 9 nominations, followed by Drake, Rihanna, Kanye West and Chance The Rapper (Willman, 2016). The nominations for the album of the year could have been Radiohead or David Bowie but no rock band has been voted to the top, they do, however, belong in the Rock sub categories, alongside with “alternative” categories.

Another issue raised in the 59th Grammys lists are that the majority of Pop artists nominations are white, excluding a few nominations for Beyonce and Rihanna. The Best Pop Vocal Album includes Adele, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato and Sia, who are white artists. Frank Ocean, a well-known R&B rapper and songwriter, has expressed his opinions about The Grammys not representing black artists, “That institution certainly has nostalgic importance. It just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down” (Adejobi, 2016). He added, only a few black artists have won the Grammys since 1987, the year he was born. We do not want to even bother to mention if any Asian artists have won the Grammys award. Inevitably, the problem about Grammys being racist has arisen for a decade or more, looking back on 2015, according to the Rollingstone magazine, there was no artists of colour nominated for Best New Artists or Record of the Year (Cepeda, 2015).

This raised awareness to the audiences and artists who are participating in the Grammy Awards, which is an American television programme for musicians to be voted, performed and achieved the titles. Does the award represent all aspects of the music industry or just the popularity? Who decide which album is the best album of the year? If we consider the issue of large recording corporate and radio station who are making millions out of their pop artists and catchy tunes rather than the real meaning of music itself. The Grammys is an example of how the hierarchy is established within the music itself, as popular songs are considered “good” because there are more votes putting into it, whereas other genres such as rock are put aside as they are simply not “pop”.

The Grammys Award presents music as a more visual medium, it serves the purpose of entertaining the audiences from all around the world. “Merchandisers came to rely on the Grammy awards as their sales cue, and began to aggressively promote nominees and winners. As a result of the retailers’ selective attention, Grammy award-winners began enjoying greater popular appeal through increased album sales” (Watson and Anand, 2006). Thus, there is a significant impact on whether the artists get their Grammy awards, it is not just a title but also a revenue. The problem of race and rock in the Grammy Academy needs to be addressed more seriously and hopefully in the future there will be more rock artists of colour to be represented in the list.

REFERENCES

Willman, C. (2016) 2017 Grammy Nominations Signal a ‘New Reality’

Available at: http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/grammys/7616981/2017-grammy-nominations-new-reality  [Accessed by 14 December 2016]

Brodsky, R. (2016) The Grammys Still Have a Rock (and Race) Problem

Available at: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/12/the-grammys-still-have-a-rock-and-race-problem.html [Accessed by 14 December 2016]

Adejobi, A. (2016) #GrammysSoWhite: Frank Ocean confirms Grammys 2017 boycott

Available at: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/grammyssowhite-frank-ocean-confirms-grammys-2017-boycott-1591882 [Accessed by 14 December 2016]

Cepeda, R. (2015) Do the Grammys Have a Race Problem?

Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/do-the-grammys-have-a-race-problem-20150205 [Accessed by 14 December 2016]

Watson, M. and Anand, N. (2006) Award ceremony as an arbiter of commerce and canon in the popular music industry, Cambridge University Press, Volume 25, Issue 1

ASSIGNMENT 1 – BLOG 4: DIY PUNK, YOUTH AND THE REGRETTES

According to Griffin (2012), The DIY ethic ‘avoid[s] the capitalist, profit-driven music world by promoting their bands, shows, and records themselves or through small companies’ (Haenfler, 2006, p24). DIY records labels keep the origins of punk, and there is a trend of small record labels in the punk industry (Dunn, 2012). They keep the essential role to help unsigned artists with production, marketing, and distribution costs that might exceed the band’s budget (Dunn, 2012). With the technology given, most bands can produce music themselves these days, in their garage, or even a studio. In this article we examined a teen diy punk band, The Regrettes, and their youthful influences on political and current social issues.

The Regrettes consist of 15-year-old front singer Lydia Night, 17-year-old drummer Maxx Morando, 19-year-old guitarist Genessa Gariano, and 18-year-old Sage Chavis (Rosenzweig, 2016). Despite their youth, the band makes an irrisistible brand of punk with ’50s and ’60s pop leanings, and they shine with a youthful ebullience and strong vulnerability that result in illusionary provocative songs (Robinson, 2016). DIY/punk/politically charged spiritted, The Regrettes filled the room with “pumped full of hectic, chaotic rhythms and guitar riffs”. Their motive is to encourage young people to express themselves, be honest and be proud. The lead singer expressed her concern in LA Time Magazines, “Everybody is just kind of really scared to be honest and to be open and to be different and original, especially with our youth and people my age and people in high school” (Martens, 2016).

DIY punk makes a connection to what may be regarded as commonly as “progressive politics; attention to and concern about social injustice and individual rights characterised much of the music, merchandise and conversations at shows” (Griffin, 2012).  However, the issue here is that some local punk bands, despite their beliefs to never sell out, ended up signing with a major label. According to Gordon (2005), it is one of the dilemmas of punk, he then raised interesting questions about the problems such as “Was it the way to go, or should you stay local, unincorporated and free? Was there any value in that when your influence was minimal and you were preaching – or playing – to the converted? Could not the battle be waged from within the music industry? But then – whence the authentic punk?”.

Lydia, the lead singer, also claimed that the moment she heard that Warner Bros. Studio is interested in the band, her first reaction is a bit concerned that the corporate music industries would be “kinda douchey” (Martens, 2016). However, apparently Warner Bros. “let our ideas come to life, which is very rare for a record label, for them not to try to push something on you”, Lydia claimed after the first meeting with them (Rosenzweig, 2016). Does it mean that not “all” major corporates are trying to make profit and artists ended up losing their authenticity?  Indeed the debate over signing to a major/selling out the underground is a hot button issue, whether it is good or bad is open to debate (Dunn 2012).

REFERENCES

Dunn, K. (2012) Anarcho-punk and resistance in everyday life, Punk & Post-Punk, Volume 1, Number 2, p. 201 – 218

Dunn, K. (2012) “If It Ain’t Cheap, It Ain’t Punk”: Walter Benjamin’s Progressive Cultural Production and DIY Punk Record Labels, Journal of Popular Music Studies, Volume 24, Issue 2, p. 217–237

Gordon, A. R. (2015) The Authentic Punk: An Ethnography of DiY Music Ethics, Longborough University Institutional Repository, A Doctoral Thesis

Griffin, N. (2012) Gendered Performance Performing Gender in the DIY Punk and Hardcore Music Scene, Journal of International Women’s Studies, Volume 13, Issue 2, Article 6, p. 66-81

Martens, T. (2016) The Regrettes may be high-school age, but the band’s worldview is all grown up, LA Times Magazine, Available at: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-ms-regrettes-20160814-snap-story.html [Accessed by 3 December 2016]

Robinson, C. (2016) The Regrettes – Hey Now, Stereo Gum

Available at: http://www.stereogum.com/1891699/the-regrettes-hey-now/mp3s/ [Accessed by 3 December 2016]

Rosenzweig, M. (2016) The Regrettes Is the Teen Band You Need—No Matter Your Age Available at: http://www.vogue.com/13490166/the-regrettes-teen-band-you-need-to-know/ [Accessed by 3 December 2016]

Wonderland Magazine (2016) New Noise: The Regrettes Available at: http://www.wonderlandmagazine.com/2016/11/new-noise-regrettes/ [Accessed by 3 December 2016]

Assignment 1 Blog 3: Slaves’ new album “Take Control” encourages people to change

“We don’t say fuck the government … It’s about encouraging people” (Laurie Vincent, 2015)

Slaves is a punk-duo band from Kent, consisting of Laurie Vincent (guitarist) and Isaac Holman (vocal, drummer), who released their debut album “Are You Satisfied?” in 2015 and after a year, they announced their second album “Take Control” in September 2016. The band confronted a lot of political issues, “throw together punk existentialism, sketches of suburban life and absurd narratives about manta rays and sasquatches in noisy three-minute bursts” (Perry, 2015).

The first album has received a lot of positive reviews, frequently being played on Radio 1, and even reached number 8 on UK Top Chart in the first week after the release. Even the band members were surprised about the success themselves, Holman added “The fact that we’re being played to the masses is just weird. You almost forget that it’s your own band, and just think: ‘Thank fuck Radio 1 are playing something like this, something that isn’t a love song.”

Rude and unconventional, punks tended to view established social conventions as hypocritical obfuscations obscuring the brutality of real life (Dunn, 2008:195). Punk rock and its subcultures seek out uniques and outside the mass culture (Levine & Stumpf, 1983:433). The band attempted the difficult task of adding more content to their “abrasive, reckless sound by addressing the political and societal corruption and imbalance in the world today” (Carr, 2016). The first song “Spit It Out” opened the album with strong images about the young generation being ignorant, selfish and immune to everything that happens around them.

“Maybe you should put yourself

In someone else’s shoes

Try hard not to dwell upon

Decisions that you choose

(Spit It Out, 2016)

“Hypnotised” is followed with the blame on people and their technology (TV, HD, 3G), spending their time eating junk food, watching reality shows etc in a materialistic society. The third track “Consume or be consumed” also delivers the similar message about social consumption, criticises the way we are being controlled by the government to consume what they told us to, or else we would become unconventional and “be consumed” by the laws. The whole album follows the same theme, to encourages people to “take control” of their own lives and decisions, not being influenced  by the mass, which is what punk is all about.

According to Vannini and Williams (2009:71), “punk seeks to change individual mindsets as a precursor to the types of ideas that bring about change”. Punk artists’ desires are to be subversive in the reshaping of culture through art (Simonelli, 1976:125). Slaves has challenged the listeners to get out of their comfort zones, to lead and not to follow. “Take Control colourfully, and often cartoonishly, blazes with a refusal to accept the monotonies of everyday life” (Leivers, 2016). Laurie Vincent, the guitarist, added “And when the band started getting successful it dawned on me that people need to get positive messages and need to be encouraged, because I don’t think our generation does that.” (Mcguire, 2015).

REFERENCES

Carr, P (2016) Slaves: Take Control Available at: http://www.popmatters.com/review/slaves-take-control/ [Accessed 21 November 2016]

Dunn, K (2008) Never mind the bollocks: the punk rock politics of global communication, Review of International Studies, 34, 193-210

Levine, H. and Stumpf, S. (1983) Statements of Fear through Cultural Symbols: Punk Rock as a Reflective Subculture, Youth Society, Vol. 14, No. 4, p. 417 – 435

Mcguire, S (2015) British punk band Slaves want people to stop being ‘wrapped up in themselves’

Available at: http://www.mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/090573370-british-punk-band-slaves-want-people-stop-being-wrapped-themselves [Accessed 21 November 2016]

Perry, K (2015) Slaves: meet the young Kent punks putting the party in the political

Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/may/23/slaves-the-hunter-feed-the-mantaray [Accessed 21 November 2016]

Simonelli, D (1976-1978) Anarchy, Pop and Violence: Punk Rock Subculture and the Rhetoric of Class, Contemporary British History, Vol.16, No.2 (Summer 2002), pp.121–144

Assignment 1 Blog 2 – Punk, Green Day and Identity

“Music, like identity, is both performance and story, describes the social in he individual and the individual in the social, the mind in the body and the body in the mind; identify, like music, is a matter of both ethics and aesthetics” (Frith, 1996).

Green Day’s front man, Billy Joel, has expressed his anger openly in the media several times about Donald Trump, before and after his election. At the MTV European Music Award, Green Day has dedicated the song “American Idiot” to Donald Trump, changing the lyrics from “The subliminal mind fuck America” to “The subliminal mind Trump America” (Britton, 2016). He also reassured his fans that Green Day’s shows are “safe” for everyone, and he quoted “Especially if you’re gay or trans, black, white, brown, or of any nationality. Period. Green Day is a safe place for you to be. I think it’s a problem that we have to face every day, and we have to do whatever we can to fix it.” (Daly, 2016)

Green Day’s statements influenced his fans to embrace their identities and to accept others’, however, it also sparked different debates on a significant amount of media platforms. On their official Facebook page, Billy Joel expressed that he totally supported Hilary, and the result of Trump being president was because “millions of people are sick and tired of the economic, political and media status quo”, that “too many Americans were sold out by their corporate bosses” (Bill Joel’s Instagram). According to Lang (2015:178), “punk rock possessed an impulse to construct an identity that would be an alternative to the institutionalised…, the identity would be associated with all the features gathered together under the sign of subculture”. And as Green Day stated their beliefs, especially against someone who wants to “make American white again”, that no matter who you identify with, music is where you can belong.

Some negative comments includes “Don’t get political, just play music”, as if according to them, the meaning of music has changed, that artists cannot express themselves when it is not in a song.Some other fans (who claimed to have bought several albums), faulted Billie Joel for having his own opinions on the band’s page, that it affected his likings for the bands because of the political status. Some even asked how much money do they get for saying this, that Billy Joel has changed his opinions about Trump voters from “sexist, racist and homophobic” to “corporate status quo” and that he needs to make a public apology”. Most of the comments have received a large numbers of replies, as other fans just want Green Day to be able to express freely, that people who hate their music because of their political views can stop listening to them instead to saying “uncool” things on their website.

According to Herrmann (2012: 168), ”punk is always personal, political, and communal”. Some fans showed their support and that they love the band in the comment section, claiming “more bands need to be political, I’d rather the music have a real message …”. Some claimed that what Green Day wants is for people to speak up, as he mentioned how Billie always said after their show that “Remember, we have the power, not them”. In conclusion, despite all the debates online, the fact that Billy Joel has openly expressed his views on current events, which might or might not help music listeners feel “safe”, has somewhat influenced his fans (and others) to accept who they are and that punk is not just a genre, it is also an identity (Hermann, 2012:168).

REFERENCES

Britton, L.M. (2016) Watch Green Day dedicate ‘American Idiot’ to Donald Trump at MTV EMAs 2016

Available at: http://www.nme.com/news/music/green-day-mtv-ema-trump-american-idiot-video-1832609 [Accessed 14th November 2016]

Daly, R. (2016) Billie Joe Armstrong: ‘We accept anyone who feels marginalised at any Green Day event’

Available at: http://www.nme.com/news/music/billie-joe-armstrong-accept-marginalised-green-day-event-1851189 [Accessed 14th November 2016]

Frith, S. (1996) Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music, Harvard University Press

Herrmann A.F. (2012), “Never Mind the Scholar, Here’s the Old Punk: Identity, Community, and the Aging Music Fan”, Norman K. Denzin, in (ed.) Studies in Symbolic Interaction (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Volume 39), Emerald Group

Publishing Limited, pp. 153 – 170

Lang, D. (2015) One Chord Wonders: Power and Meaning in Punk Rock, PM Press,

Assignment 1 Blog 1: Does Popular Music Repeat Itself? Chainsmoker’s Closer and Fetty Wap’s 679

According to billboard.com, Closer by Chainsmoker has topped the billboard for 12 weeks, making its way to most popular song in 2016 (Trust, 2016). Trust added “Closer” remains the top-selling, most-streamed and most-heard radio song in the U.S. It has been played on the radio repeatedly for the past three months, and people are still obsessed over it. The reason why it has been so popular is, according to Lucas Sachs, content and social media manager at dance music publication at youredm.com, “It was just a perfect storm of capitalising on trends and doing stuff a little bit differently than other people have” (usatoday.com). However, there were a significant viral debate online whether Chainsmoker’s Closer sounds similar to rapper Fetty Wap’s song called 679, which is produced in 2015.

“The beginning of the chorus is replaceable by the beginning of innumerable other choruses” (Adorno, 1941: 303). If you listen closely to the lyrics of Closer and 679, they basically sound exactly the same. genius.com actually made a video comparing the two songs, saying the only difference is that Closer is in A-flat major and 679 is in D major, with the same notes. They then played the two songs together and it sounded like a remix of some sort. There is a link below to prove how extremely similar those two songs are. The problem is some people refuse to acknowledge the differences, saying that it is totally different. Lucas Sachs claimed that “It’s a really catchy melody, it’s not too complex, but at the same time, it’s something new that people really haven’t heard before”.

Simon Frith (1996:9) on Performing Rites: On the Popular Music expressed that most people when identified as fans, claimed to listen to music in a different way than “ordinary” or “passive”. However, Frith (1996:6) also pointed out that pop listeners constantly changed their minds on what is good and what is bad according to how successful the record is, or what other listeners it involved, in a way, they determined a good song based on the social value of it, not the actual song. In this case, Fetty Wap fans have expressed themselves on multiple media platforms, that Closer is a “ripoff” because it sounded exactly the same as another successful pop songs. On reddit.com, people accepted that pop music is “bound to sound the same”, because it is what makes it catchy. Similar comments on the original article on genius.com that they were not surprised on how repeated pop songs are, that this was not the first case, plus provided several other examples of artists “copying” each other.

On the whole, I think it is debatable how “active” or “passive” when it comes to listening to music. It is true that some famous songs are extremely similar with the same tunes, yet people still recognised the similarities, some even creatively made a mash up between songs. Fiske (1987:20) does not believe that “the people are cultural dopes, they are not a passive, helpless mass …”. The issue is raised that whether popular music repeats itself over time is because the relationship between production and consumption of popular music is very complicated, that most authors have undervalued the importance of the consumption in the creation of musical meaning (Longhurst, 2007: 256). 

REFERENCES:

Adorno, T. (1941) On Popular Music, Studies in Philosophy and Social Science, New York: Institute of Social Research, IX, 17-48

Fiske, J. (1987) Television Culture, Methuen.

Frith, S. (1996) Performance Rites: On the Value of Popular Music, Harvard University Press

Longhurst, B. (2007) Popular Music and Society, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Devoe, N. (2016) The Internet Thinks the Chainsmokers Stole Their Hit “Closer” from Fetty Wap http://www.seventeen.com/celebrity/music/news/a42998/the-internet-thinks-the-chainsmokers-stole-their-hit-closer-from-fetty-wap/ [Accessed 9 Nov. 2016]

Nostro, L. (2016) Did the Chainsmokers copy a Fetty Wap’s song on their #1 hit “Closer”.

Available at: http://genius.com/a/did-the-chainsmokers-copy-a-fetty-wap-song-on-their-1-hit-closer [Accessed 9 Nov. 2016]

Ryan, P. (2016) Why The Chainsmokers’ ‘Closer’ is the biggest song of 2016.

Available at: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2016/11/02/chainsmokers-halsey-closer/93111416/ [Accessed 9 Nov. 2016]

Trust, G. (2016) The Chainsmokers’ ‘Closer’ Tops Hot 100 for 12th Week, Rae Sremmurd & Drake Hit Top 10. Available at: http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/7565848/chainsmokers-halsey-closer-hot-100-drake-rae-sremmurd [Accessed 9 Nov. 2016]

Did The Chainsmokers plagarize Fetty Wap’s “679” melody? Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/hiphopheads/comments/4vwa1j/did_the_chainsmokers_plagarize_fetty_waps_679/ 

[Accessed 9 Nov. 2016]