I was going to tweet about this, and then I was like, Molly, you have a whole blog at your disposal, why not write a little longer than the Twitter character limit?
So I was quoted in today's edition of Dirt, a fine web publication I have contributed to in the past. The article is about "the state of music criticism" and a bunch of smart people shared their thoughts. I was pleased to, in my contribution, quote The KLF's The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), which is a piece of writing that has more or less changed my life after I read and discussed it for my podcast And Introducing. I'm trying to spread The Manual gospel through all possible channels.
When I received the email that was a Request For Comment for Dirt, my heart was aglow. I could say that I blog, podcast, and generally put thoughts and vibes on the internet just for the hell of it, but I would be lying. I have an ego! I care about what I think and make, and boy, do I need to share it with people. Back in New York a few years ago, I saw a Hilma af Klint exhibition at the Guggenheim. Hilma af Klint made abstract and mystical paintings at the turn of the 20th century, but she rarely showed them, and in fact decreed that her work not be shown until twenty years after her death. That is all well and good for Hilma af Klint, but she definitely wasn't a poster.
When I am seen by others — if someone says they liked a blog post I wrote, or if they include me as a 'thought leader' in their publication (lmao I'm sorry, I love thought leadership, sue me) — it validates me, it makes me feel good, and it makes me want to keep going.
In my lifetime, the internet expanded my universe vastly and rapidly. It truly was the "world wide web." In my real life as a disaffected tween, I had no one with whom to discuss the finer points of Blink 182's Take Off Your Pants And Jacket. Online, I could go on the AOL Punk Rock chat room and ask everyone if they thought Blink was punk. When I was twelve, I was in a creative writing class in school and our teacher showed us how to submit to literary magazines by printing out a piece and putting it in a self-addressed stamped envelope. Less than a decade later, I was sending short stories through Submittable (back when it was Submishmash...the internet used to be a little cuter than it is now ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) and publishing my own shit on Tumblr.
The internet is large and wide. A lot of people are doing a lot of creative work and being brave and putting it out there on the internet. A lot of that creative work is music. I love music — in fact, I Enjoy It. One of my goals with I Enjoy Music is to listen to music that might get overlooked by larger publications and write about it. Not in a "here's a playlist of bands that get less than 20 monthly listens on Spotify, awww aren't they so sweeet" kind of way, I promise. I just think it is neat when people make music in these unprecedented times, and I think 'being seen' by a blog post is (hopefully) a valuable thing for an artist.
The other thing I think about with my theory of 'being seen' on the internet — which is that it's good, in moderation — is that I think a lot of people, not just people who make music or have a blog or whatever, want to be seen. And that results in a lot of weird and sometimes bad behavior. Some of that behavior involves trying to hack the algorithm, making off-putting, low quality content just because you know it's going to get you eyeballs. (This New Yorker profile of people who make filter reaction videos on Reels still haunts me, because it's horrifying to imagine people posting 30 videos a day to a leering, booing crowd because it might somehow help their non-Reel careers.) Some of that behavior involves being rude to other people on the internet. There are some genuine inveterate trolls out there, but I'd say 90% of the time someone is a dick to me online, if I'm nice to them back, they chill out — because all they really wanted was to be seen, even if it was to be seen as an asshole. I think we all want to be seen, on our own terms, on this vast internet.
In one of my favorite books of all time, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (apparently now a red flag book amongst BookTokers, which, sure, fine, if they want to think that), the protagonist feeds his semi-girlfriend's father, who is laid up in the hospital, a cucumber. "It's good when food tastes good," the protagonist says. "It's kind of like proof you're alive." I'm always thinking about how to prove you're alive. The proof doesn't always have to come from other people, but I think sometimes it can.
Justin K Comer, who plays in the experimental music group BCJsPs, alerted me to an "official university thing" he's doing in Indianapolis. The college quoted my blog about his music on the graphic. Isn't that neat? If you write something about someone and publish it on the internet, it's there as a record and reference for others. It gives you something to point at.
That's what I've been thinking about in terms of the "state of music criticism" beyond what I contributed to the Dirt piece. Everything on the web is so goddamn ephemeral. And platforms don't seem to care! In fact, I think they like it that way! Twitter had some kind of glitch that purged all its images from before 2014. Myspace deleted all its music from the first 12 years of its lifespan. Call it Amy Dunne because that shit is gone, girl. TikTok is a vaporous cloud that is ostensibly "for you" but also doesn't really care whether you invest in individual people and their creative projects. A cool song can float by, mislabeled and unattributed, and all TikTok really wants you to do is go oh nice and swipe on without breaking the spell of video, video ad, video, video, ad. Meanwhile I'm just trying to stick a stake of recognition in the ground for people. I give a shit about that, and I don't think the future of music writing and music enjoyment has to be a formless mist of algorithms and vibes.
Look at me, I get 'quoted' twice in a week and I start bloviating sentimentally. But I can't help it. I love music and I love the internet and I love when the internet and music get along! Like the heyday of the iTunes store, and listening to weird shit I found via Tiny Mix Tapes in college, and watching Woodstock 99 videos on YouTube, and the Indieheads Podcast, and Bebe Rexha doing a Roblox concert (jk...kind of). I think we're all realizing we're at a weird inflection point where a lot of stuff is breaking down and we need to build some new stuff to replace it. I'm down to do that. ARRRRRE YOU READYYYYYYYYYY??????????