Did you guys see the Grammys the other night? Christ, there are more subcategories than Larry Flynt's home video library. I think somebody actually won for "Best Silence." Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but the music industry is in more trouble than a late-shift radar operator in Baghdad.
Hey, lets put our cards on the obsolete turntable. The Music Industry has nothing to do with music. What you hear on the radio today is one-half marketing, one-half public relations and two-thirds timing. And if that math makes sense to you, you probably work in the Royalties Department at any one of the major labels.
Now, I watched the Grammy Awards on Wednesday, and all I kept thinking was, "Hey, where's a rolling blackout when you really need one?" I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that, while our founding fathers guaranteed us all the right to freedom of speech, they never said anything about singing, OK? A lot of this stuff is just shit, and unwrapping the CD is often more complex than the thought that went into the music.
I love music. It gives you something to listen to while you're watching videos. And make no mistake, the music industry has turned itself into a visual medium and, that being the case, I feel I'm within my rights to respectfully request that the members of Steely Dan never be allowed to appear on a prime-time telecast ever again. For Christ's sake, for a second there, I thought I was watching "The X-Files." Is it just me, or do the two guys in Steely Dan look like Ben & Jerry coming out of rehab? The only reason Steely Dans latest album is selling so well is that 50-year-olds don't know how to download it for free.
You know why Eminem showed up at the Grammy's? Because it sells. Eminem isn't about freedom of speech as much as he is about the freedom to make a buck. He isn't peddling his songs underground to get his point across; he needs controversy to keep him famous because of his unfortunate dearth of talent. He stops selling records, and no one gives a fuck about his freedom of speech anymore. You think Gino Vanelli stopped making records because he gave up the right to his freedom of speech?
You know what? I like Eminem. Not because he's funny, or because I like his music. I just like what he has to say about women and gays ... Wait, I don't mean that. That's just an ironic character I'm playing, casting light on our society's new wave of political correctness.
Before you focus too much of your time and energy on loathing Eminem for his music, let me spin this little scenario for you. Marilyn Manson spent Wednesday night watching the Grammys on a 13-inch black-and-white television set with a coat hanger for an antenna, at a Grange Hall in Bismark, North Dakota, after unveiling his apocalyptic vision for the future to fifty or so pasty-faced Goth losers who left during the encore so they could get home and watch "Temptation Island." And trust me, Manson was so depressed that he is no longer in the crosshairs of the hate-rock controversy, he could barely wriggle out of his fake vagina suit.
People like Eminem get all the attention, but the music industry is still very much alive, pulsating with vibrant, unique, and indeed weltanschauung-shaping musicians. Beck's "Midnite Vultures" offers a fiery, eclectic mingling of genres that we've not witnessed since "Exile On Mainstreet." Radiohead's "Kid A" has picked up Pink Floyd's torch to help illuminate the cringing fears of a lurching generation unable to shake their parents post-Kerouacian haze.
'N Sync's silvery, almost symphonic harmonies pick up where early Hanson left off, suggesting optimistic redemption with dulcet choruses that say you may not love me now, but I can try, try, try.
Pop music has a rich legacy of ripping people off. First, the white musicians stole from the blacks. Then, the producers stole from the performers. Then, the performers and the producers formed an alliance to steal from us by charging 19 dollars for a CD with only one halfway decent song on it. So I for one salute Napster, because it's high time the public finally had an opportunity to horn in on a piece of the action. Considering how badly you get fucked every time you go into a record store, I have to assume Richard Branson was trying to be ironic when he named the place Virgin.
Now, industry people will tell you that Napster is unfair, and denies musicians of their rightful, hard-earned cash. But musicians are going to waste their hard-earned cash anyway, OK? They're musicians. Napster will only be a serious problem for the industry when it starts cutting into a musicians anonymous backstage blowjob residuals.
Hey, the bottom line on Napster is, it means no more paying for overpriced CD's and putting money into the pockets of the bloated, corrupt media conglomerates. All you need is a computer with a high-speed modem, extra memory, a CD-ROM attachment, an extra phone line, Internet access, a CD burner, blank CD's, a how-to manual, and NO FUCKING LIFE.
You know what-- the music industry has always been about the coin. If they'd been invented at the time, Mozart would've sold t-shirts in the back of the hall. And Ticketmaestro would've skimmed their 20% off the top.
While the sounds of U2 might be music to our ears, all the music industry hears is the soothing chime of the cash register. But the one thing you have to say about the music business is, for the artists, if the product is great, it'll also be timeless. All you have to do is look at the Billboard charts to see that The Beatles are just as popular today as they were when Yoko broke them up. Not that I dwell on that. And Yoko, by the way, if you're out there listening tonight, why dont you level your karma and start dating one of the Baha Men, OK?
Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.