How I stopped trying to be a "music critic" & learned to love lame music.

Dear Readers, once upon a time, in a state far away, I was a high school kid full of ambition. I discovered that I loved to write at early age but I didn't really get into journalism until the summer after eighth grade. I was encouraged by my mother to submit an application to the now-defunct Teen Star, the weekly section of The Kansas City Star written for teens, by teens. I didn't really think I had a shot because I knew they would be receiving applications for all over the metropolitan area and surely there would be older, more experienced writers who would be chosen over me. I hadn't even finished high school! I wrote a short piece in which I interviewed my three best friends about our hopes and fears for starting high school as freshmen in the coming fall and mailed it in. To my surprise, I got the call a few weeks later and I was on the advisory board! The first time the group get together, I was given my first assignment: I was to review a Goo Goo Dolls concert* (opening acts: Sugar Ray and Fastball). Obviously, 13-year-old me was stoked.

Over the course of my four years at the Star, I carved out a niche for myself as a music/entertainment writer, penning album and concert reviews and interviewing bands. I aggressively sought out The Next Big thing in music and this was before there were an myriad of music blogs to peruse. I subscribed to several music magazines, consumed an ungodly amount of MTV and VH1; thankfully, this was when they were known for actually playing music (and awesome animation, but I digress) and listened to recommendations of and traded mix CDs with my way hipper friends. I became "that person" (there's one in every group) who always knew what song was on the radio and could rattle off obscure music trivia. I accumulated free records, got talk and hang out with to some of my favorite artists (at the time... how else would I explain an autographed photo of myself with John Mayer?) and attend shows (and in one instance eight haunted houses over the course of two nights) - and people were actually paying me for this (this was back when newspapers were still making money and people actually read them)! I thought 'This is it! I've found my calling! I'm moving to New York and writing for SPIN or Rolling Stone!'

And then, of course, life happened. After high school graduation, ended up at a state school in the Midwest instead of prestigious private school in NYC or LA. I still pursued that journalism degree and was going to take on the world on the world as soon as got my B.A. but then I had to drop out. I had started making trips to SXSW as a tourist every year, thinking maybe some of the magic would rub off on me and I'd be inspired to return to school and live out my Almost Famous fantasy. But slowly my interest in always knowing what the latest indie band on the verge of blowing up waned, moreso after I moved to Austin. I started attending SXSW more for the experience with friends (not to mention the free swag and drinks) than discovering new music. I watched as magazines struggled and folded as music blogs started to take off. MTV and VH1 quietly phased out the music portions of their programming. There were too many genres and subgenres to decipher and too many side projects and solo projects to keep up with. I stopped caring if it was cool to listen to what was on my iPod and just listened to what I liked. It wasn't fun anymore, it just got to be exhausting.

These days, while music festivals are fun and I am still interested in journalism as a career, I think I will leave the rock & roll lifestyle for some young whippersnapper who has more energy and a higher bullshit tolerance than I do (although I will miss advance albums and comped concert tickets, for sure). But all of that said, every now and then I hear new music that reminds me why I once wanted follow that path. So now I'll share with you some music I think is going to my soundtrack to Summer 2010:
I won't bore you with critical analysis, go read Pitchfork for that.

LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening. Good God, this whole record is just so good. So good. As far as I can tell, these guys can do no wrong. Just get it and prepare to dance your ass off.

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record. BSS has been one of my favorite bands for years now (I liken seeing them live to a religious experience) and their music always reminds me of lazy summer days at the beach (or what I think being at the beach would be like, since I've been landlocked for years), perfect songs for your driving playlist.

Sleigh Bells - 2HELLWU CDR. The first time I heard this band I was kind of "ehh" about it but talk about earworms - suddenly you just find yourself randomly singing "At the Beach" (which is the song I wanted to post but couldn't find on YouTube) or "Infinity Guitars." Just give in.

Ratatat - Remixes Mixtape Vols. 1 & 2. Fantastic remixes featuring a ton of hip-hop artists. I saw Ratatat live years and years ago and they were pretty boring (just played their album straight through and didn't engage the audience at all) but they sounded pretty good, so it's all good, I guess.

* 1) The fact that none of these bands is even remotely relevant anymore obviously dates me and 2) this concert will go down in history as the first thing me and my step-dad (he was just my mom's boyfriend at the time, though) did anything together, just the two of us. The things you do for the kids, amirite?

1 comment:

  1. Great great entry. You sound a lot like myself in many ways. I too worked towards a music industry career for years myself, only for it to be put on hold indefinitely and now I'm in that phase where I'm wondering if this is what I want to continue to do. I really like the venue side of things, which I worked with for a few months and I think I'll always enjoy the festival aspect. But as far as keeping up with new music, etc. I myself find that I'm getting exhausted hunting down the "next big thing". Well, now that I'm mentioning this, I'm realizing my interest has mostly grown in the local scene b/c we have a lot of really good indie rock coming out of Louisiana these days who are making a name for themselves nationally.

    Whatever path I'll end up on, I don't know for sure. Though for what it's worth I was told by a very legit psychic recently (I know, I know) that I will indeed do that and for a very long time.

    Sorry to hijack your comments section, this just got my gears moving and caught my interest. Did you begin to experience a waning of interest b/c things didn't work out for you like you hoped and you saw other people get there career-wise when you haven't? That's what happened to me, so I'm curious.