Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Re: Re: Pazz and Jop
Pazz and Jop 2010 is live. Here is my ballot: The album list is the same as the one I filed for Time Out, but the singles list is new.
Phil Freeman has written an interesting response to/critique of the whole enterprise. I attempted to post a comment, but Blogger rejected it on account of its length. I decided I'd go ahead and post it here. Check out Phil's post via the link above and read my response below.
Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Phil. A few observations:
Re: "Pick a niche and grind it out," I think the point you're trying to make is that nobody can be an expert on everything, no matter how hard they try, so in a sense the niche picks you: Whatever you spend the most time listening to and researching is your beat by default.
I attempted to grapple with some of these issues in a recent blog post, I Am Not a Jazz Journalist. In a way, my core argument was the opposite of yours—i.e., "Let's not build walls around ourselves"—but one of my conclusions was similar: Each person can only really specialize in at most two or three areas.
I guess for me—today, at least!—I'm okay with being thought of as a writer who favors jazz and various types of heavy/weird rock. But I don't see any need to set myself up in opposition to the critical mainstream. I'm not a pop expert, but I find myself keeping up with that world more and more (largely through listening to the radio while driving), and the fact of the matter is—just like when I was a kid listening to Kasey Kasem—I derive huge amounts of pleasure from the Hits, per se. This year, I loved Drake, Nicki Minaj and yes, a good deal of the Kanye album.
What I'm saying is that while each of us does in fact have to pick a niche simply due to time (and as you point out, money) constraints, I don't see why we have to build up walls to keep anything out, or draw attention to those walls if they happen to exist. If I'm predominantly a jazz and rock writer who occasionally ventures into the pop, hip-hop and indie worlds and likes what he hears, so be it. My year-end top ten is nothing more or less than a distillation of what *I* checked in a given year—no apologies, explanations, concessions or disclaimers needed.
If we're committed to this profession, we listen to as much music as we can, simply because we love to do so. I admire your critiques of the music-critic establishment, and I often feel a similar alienation, but I don't want to miss out on a great record simply because everyone else happens to be listening to or talking about it. Megapopularity or buzz is never a guarantee of quality, but it's also never a guarantee of a lack thereof.