And Finally Artist News Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #204: Lorde v Journalism

By | Published on Friday 2 May 2014


I like Lorde. I think that she released a good album last year, and has interesting things to say about music and the life of a teenager in the 21st century, and stuff. But this week, she said something that made me think, “Oh, that’s stupid”.

“How can this be possible?!” I’m sure you’re now weeping. I know, I find it a strange and confusing situation to be in too. Like most people, especially Lorde, my opinion of everything every single person in the world does usually remains unchanged from the first thought I ever had about them. No, not really. Let’s move on to the context.

Last weekend, Lorde placed a picture of Iggy Azalea’s 2013 Complex magazine cover next to a screengrab of the same magazine’s (negative) review of her new album, ‘The New Classic’, and posted them together on her Tumblr blog with the note: “[It] bugs me how publications like Complex will profile interesting artists in order to sell copies/get clicks and then shit on their records? It happens to me all the time – Pitchfork and that ilk being like ‘Can we interview you?’ after totally taking the piss out of me in a review. Have a stance on an artist and stick to it. Don’t act like you respect them then throw them under the bus”.

Maybe that seems like a fair statement. Iggy Azalea certainly thought so, tweeting later: “I agree, media LOVE to flop about. But when you’re completely spineless I’m sure it’s hard to stick to even your own opinion”.

The implication, of course, is that Complex, Pitchfork et al build artists up with the express plan to knock them down again at a later date. Aside from the fact that ‘This is an artist we believe is of interest to our readers’ and ‘This is an artist whose last album we think is not good’ are not necessarily conflicting statements, just imagine if the long term plan of some publications was to only pretend to be excited about new artists in order to “throw them under the bus” six months down the line. Imagine what a depressing existence that would be.

It’s already depressing enough that probably 70% of the new artists I genuinely do get excited about never really come to anything. And that of the 30% that do, about two thirds end up being a disappointment in the long term. It’s not my fault they’re a disappointment. It’s possibly not even theirs. There are so many reasons why someone might not meet early expectations. Some people only have one good song, or one good album in them. Some people have more, but get sucked into the music industry machine and have their creativity diluted by too many third parties pulling them in different directions.

The problem here, is that Lorde and Iggy Azalea are expecting their careers to be considered retrospectively before they’ve even had them. Until you’re done making albums, you live on an album by album basis. I love Deftones, for example. Fucking love them. But their fifth album, ‘Saturday Night Wrist’, is a pile of shit. Really awful. Overall though – and I can’t state this strongly enough – I fucking love them. Thankfully, the next two albums after that one were pretty great, but I feared at the time that our ongoing relationship was over.

Lorde, meanwhile, is someone I wrote about early on, who I thought was interesting, had a handful of good songs to her name, and the potential to make more. And she did. I think, as I said before, that her debut album is really good. The only reason she wasn’t one of our Artists Of The Year last year was because we felt that she was at the beginning of something, and would probably go on to do something even better.

She might not though. Her next album might be terrible. And if it is, I will say so. Because I’m not going to go around saying stuff is good when I don’t think it is. Maybe in 20 years time we’ll be able to look back on her career too and say, “Hey apart from that one album, she did a whole load of great stuff”. Right now though, she, and Iggy Azalea, are only as good as the last thing they did.

Of course, there is an argument that with so much music out there to say positive things about these days, publications shouldn’t waste their time by going around bad mouthing artists they don’t like – if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all. And that’s all well and good, but how do you work out whether or not you can trust someone who only ever says nice things? It’s suspicious. I need to know both sides of your taste in order to make a reasonable judgment on whether or not to bother listening to you.

Maybe my distaste for Deftones’ fifth album puts the validity of the things I say I like into question. You’re a fucking idiot if you think so though, that album is bumholes. A better example might be if I said I really liked ‘Lulu’ by Lou Reed and Metallica, but you knew I thought everything else both of them had ever recorded was terrible. That might flag up some potential issues.

It’s probably worth also noting that the person who wrote Iggy Azalea’s cover feature for Complex is not the same person who wrote the review of her album. Opinions differ across the team of any one publication. Opinions about the Iggy Azalea album also differ quite strongly in the CMU office. Rather than ensuring that the artists you’ve chosen to profile early on only ever get positive coverage, surely it’s better to have a second opinion and, as a publication, stand by both. The uncertainty of life is what makes it fun.

Complex has already issued a response to Lorde and Azaela’s comments, and Flavorwire put together its own critique too. I think Flavorwire’s is better, but I reserve the right to think that the next Flavorwire article I read isn’t that great.