Scathing Critique

May 26, 2009

So much popular music—almost all of it—is specifically designed not to say anything, or mean anything; not to carry any heartfelt message through passionate playing and singing, but simply to be liked.

Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with that, for those who do indeed “like” it, but it’s the fraud that offends me. The pretend “rebels” who dance on the strings of sleazy producers; the shallow divas who simply do what they’re told, sing the notes and words put in front of them, and pretend they mean it.

And it’s not just music, and it’s not just the creators: it’s the audience. Readers of formulaic novels don’t care that those books have been shaped, paragraph by paragraph, to appeal to a particular reader, and thus they—the readers—are nothing more or less than the “lowest common denominator.” People who line up for blockbuster movies merely trust that their shallower desires will be properly catered to—mild titillation and a few fights and car chases. TV viewers don’t care that they are being “marketed to”—pandered to, not forgetting that the definition of “pander” is “pimp”—not only in the commercials, but in the cheap, cynical content.

The Roman satirist Juvenal described the social decline of his people with a memorable phrase, “Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt.”

- Neil Peart, Bubba's Book Club, Issue 13

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