Cure for Bedbugs
Robyn may be dancing on her own, but the rest of Sweden? Think again.


Actual title: The Musical Landscape: Music, Place and the Regionalization of Cultural Policy


Turn your dissertation into clickbait!

This reminds me that my wife and I tried to watch Where the Wild Things Are last night and we started bawling when Max pulled at his mom’s stockings under her desk. Then the movie got really bad and we turned it off because the baby was crying, which is as good an excuse as any to turn off a movie. (There’s no wrong reason to turn off a movie. Watching movies all the way through is pathological.)

This reminds me that my wife and I tried to watch Where the Wild Things Are last night and we started bawling when Max pulled at his mom’s stockings under her desk. Then the movie got really bad and we turned it off because the baby was crying, which is as good an excuse as any to turn off a movie. (There’s no wrong reason to turn off a movie. Watching movies all the way through is pathological.)


I’ve joined in with the mockery (defensive and otherwise) of the “music critics should know music theory dammit” pieces doing ‘the rounds’. My non-trolling POV is the boring one that it rarely hurts, usually helps, but isn’t a precondition.

BUT it seems to me there’s a bigger idea behind the…

From Frank Kogan’s "The Bird Is the Word":

Meltzer noticed that environmental art and happenings did with great effort what rock’n’roll simply did, which was to include the context—and therefore the audience—in the artwork. Context includes “money, competition, survival, acceptance by adolescents, reaction by standard adults,” not to mention screaming teenies, fan magazines, girls holding signs (“We Love You Paul”), radio countdowns, marketing strategies, etc., and when you add to this people’s lives(I dare you not to listen to music in the context of your life), it also includes joking and gossiping and flirting and fighting and whatever (e.g., there’s this pet bird that likes to hear this Johnny Rivers song, and the girl who owns the bird has nice tits). And it also includes the listener who writes about music,e.g., Meltzer or me or you, who—duh!—has the same right as any fan or musician to use music in any way that he or she wants, to create context in any way he or she can; which in Meltzer’s case, after rock seemed to him to have calmed down and normalized itself in the late ’60s, meant mangling, altering, reinventing, and being the context. On the page, in his writing. And if the rock’n’roll mind had gone dead in the music—pertinence now seemed to stay where it was told—pertinence could still be anywhere he wanted on his page

I find myself thinking about the ending of the piece a lot:

Meltzer’s review of an album by Ned: “Asphalt can be used to cover cobblestones. It can be taken home (if no one is lookin’). Asphalt should not be confused with, with, with, with … asbestos. Confuse them at your own risk. Insects will sometimes live in cement but never asphalt. Asphalt soup tastes like tar. Asphalt soap does not clean especially well. Asphalt dopes are QUITE dopey. They know nothing of asphalt (having never seen it); some live in Alaska.” And now, here, the subject matter is simply gone, erased; it’s not even a point to be walked away from. The screen, camera, page is blank, and Meltzer is just writing. How does it feel to be on your own?

If we give up the possibility of erasing the subject matter, or of walking away from it, or god forbid looking (at what at first blush might seem to be) indirectly (for god’s sake we use a shoebox for eclipses and you want me to stare directly at THAT?), we’ve given up the whole point, right?

My autobiographical post, “In the Year 2000,” is under the cut. I’ll keep the prologue snappy.

Ah 2000, the final year of the 90s, give or take. There are holdovers here — another Everclear and Blink-182, a belated Smash Mouth (“Then the Morning Comes”), a pretty good Janet Jackson single — and glimmers of things to come: Radio Disney is represented here with “Aaron’s Party,” TRL genre whiplash with Mystikal and Nine Days within spitting distance of one another.

How does one choose between “(You Drive Me) Crazy” and “Lucky”? It was Sophie’s Choice in the CM household — mom chose “Crazy” but dad chose “Lucky,” which doesn’t sound as much like a single dragged in from the 90s, but also isn’t the kind of forward-thinking single Britney’d start lobbing into the world across subsequent comps. It’s the Year 2000 boiled down to its essence, and it still didn’t start the playlist — that honor went to “Blue (Da Ba Dee),” which just didn’t sound right anywhere else.

FUCK That Song: Not a ton of ire-inspiring tracks to choose from here, as I found a place for Smash Mouth and Train. It was a generous year. That said, “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down — by no means a bad song — is probably the winner here, as its progeny make about 1/3 of every compilation from here on out unlistenable.

Why’d They Pick That One?: I was all set to name Sisqo’s “Thong Song” follow-up, “Incomplete,” sure it was a late-bandwagon decision, and was shocked to see that it actually did better on the charts, going to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. So Ben Harper’s dumb but congenial enough “Steal My Kisses,” I guess.

Tough Calls: Hanson’s “This Time Around” was the only one I lost much sleep over. There were fewer tracks than normal to choose from in 2000.

Under the cut, a post from 2009, “In The Year 2000”:

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I won’t write much about my incredibly sketchy knowledge of the NOW series (let alone its longer international history). For a while now it’s been a collab between Universal, Sony, and EMI, with Jeff Moskow, then from Universal, masterminding the playlist for most of its run. So the discs are rife with bizarre omissions (probably a result of impossible or exorbitant licensing — this was a particular problem in the early days of NOW), inexplicable repeat offenders (soft payola in the form of intra-label collusion or just shitty taste?), and just-plain-crap (plenty of bad calls by the public or the folks putting these together, plus, later, a bunch of awful “prediction” tracks that serve as label showcases of sorts).

Luckily, since there are multiple compilations per year, you can boil most of them down a bit and find a solid album underneath, which is what I’ve done with every NOW year since 1998. (There was a single disc in ‘98 and two in ‘99, after which the series picked up to between three and four compilations per year, so I’ve combined 98/99 into one playlist.) Each of these would fit on a single burned CD, as was the style at the time.

Despite some lip service to sequencing in this interview, Moskow and crew tend to offer haphazardly arranged hits, semi-hits, and wishful-thinking-hits, so I’ve paid some attention to sequencing, roughly in two halves of 10 each year. I generally try to start with “the most 200X” track (not necessarily the best — I was shocked to discover it’s tough to start a mix with “Toxic”!) and go from there.

In some ways the 90s compilation was the toughest to cut down and sequence, even though there are only about fifty tracks (every year of the 00’s has closer to 75). Despite “not dating well” ostensibly being the point, there are some sounds — mid-period Janet Jackson, the swing revival, post_Zoo_(etc.) U2 —that I couldn’t make fit. But generally most of this stuff holds up pretty well, having entered a safe nostalgia zone where I can comfortably laugh at teenage Dave for, e.g., not liking New Radicals. (What is wrong with you, teenage Dave.)

What Didn’t Make the Cut: I swear I remember liking K-Ci and Jojo but they bored me this time around. Tonic’s “If You Could Only See” is ensconced in the velvet of nostalgia, sure, but I can still tell a bum tune when I hear one; 98 Degrees always sucked; I blame post-DeRogate R. Kelly revisionism on my itchy guillotine finger with his stuff here and elsewhere; Smash Mouth appears once, but not here; and congratulations to one making of the cut (Lenny Kravitz) who will never make the cut again despite something like TEN inclusions going all the way through the 00’s.

FUCK that song: Flip a coin for Cherry Poppin’ Daddies or “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).” (Flip.) Sunscreen.

Why Did They Pick That One?: Blackstreet, “Take Me There” — a bonus track from their post-“No Diggity” album featured on the Rugrats Movie OST. This is one of the few playlists I’ll put together where most decisions were based on genuine hit status, including three or so that went to #1 after it came out (two of which aren’t on here, so feel free shoot the messenger and/or to opt for the raw playlist and make yr own). “Take Me There” was a rare late-bandwagon pick.

Tough Calls: A bunch — K-Ci and JoJo, “All My Life,” Sheryl Crow, “My Favorite Mistake,” Limp Bizkit, “Nookie” (would be harder to resist “Break Stuff”)

Personal stuff: TBA. I wrote a big “History of Jop” series of posts with the Poptimists LiveJournal community went year by year through the Pazz and Jop singles results, hopping on around 1988 or so when I have my first memories of music. But for the most part autobiography starts next year with the first of five or six posts I wrote c. 2009 on my old Blogspot-hosted Bedbugs blog.

NOW That’s What I Call Music Writing!

My newborn is taking up a huge chunk of my time, obvs, but to keep sane when I can’t nap I’ve been obsessively putting together a bunch of “listenable” NOW playlists on Spotify. I’m going to share these one year at a time (exception being a combo year for 98/99) that pares the three-four comps per year down to a single 20-song playlist.

A few rules I set for myself and other inside-baseball stuff under the cut:

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Crisis averted

Cascada’s “Everytime We Touch” is on Spotify after all, thank god. Weirdly, every song on The Sweet Escape except “The Sweet Escape” is available there. Up to 2009 in Listenable Spotify Playlists of NOW compilations. I have Things to Say about Keith Urban, Relient K, and some assholes named Chevelle. (None of them appear on any of my playlists. Seriously, Chevelle, what kind of payola is this.)

"How is X’s track not Y?" is a recurring criticism of the NOW series, along with "Why did anyone think it was acceptable to include this song?"

Fun fact: Nickelback is not the most consistently terrible band featured on the NOW! series, as they have at least two listenable, dare I say not-bad, songs. (“Rock Star” will legit make my best of for its year, I think.) The honor probably goes to Lifehouse.

Other fun fact(s): Everyone posting about the Washington Post article is looking at the numbered spreadsheet (including headings) and not taking into account two dupes on their list, hence getting the number of total tracks here wrong. More egregiously (from WaPo), Nickelback seems to be counted alongside Chad Kroeger features, whereas Beyonce and Destiny’s Child are not comparably merged, which would put Beyonce/DC second to Britney.

Whew, wondered if I was just being stupid about N_space_Sync. Aaliyah and Christina are on there but they don’t have their NOW tracks.

Whew, wondered if I was just being stupid about N_space_Sync. Aaliyah and Christina are on there but they don’t have their NOW tracks.

Here is a playlist with 961 songs available on Spotify out of the roughly 980 songs featured on NOW! That’s What I Call Music! compilations.

Spotify doesn’t seem to have any *NSYNC [ETA: added!], Christina Milian, or Aaliyah [ETA: That is, they don’t have the Aaliyah and Milian on the NOW comps] (criminal), and there are lesser crimes of no Sonique, Cascada, or Ashley Parker Angel, and there seem to be none of the following: Toy Connor (who?), Ashlyne Huff (who?), Tiffany Dunn (who?), Frickin’ A (who?) Neon Hitch’s “Poisoned with Love,” Jacob Latimore’s “This or That,” a song by Ian Anderson’s daughter Jade, and the indispensably embarrassing time capsule “Me Myself and I” by Jive Jones, which is the most 2001 song that has ever 2001’d.

I’m putting together “listenable playlists” for each year (one 90’s playlist) and will try to write some commentary about each one. I will also try to identify the best and worst stretches in NOW! history. But more likely you’ll just have to trawl through this for yourself.