Thursday, January 19, 2006

Rolling Stone needs to simmer

So I feel the need to open a can of worms today. And that can is called, What the hell is up with Rolling Stone magazine these days?

This week, there's this article on their Web site about
Axl Rose, and the new Guns N' Roses record, the oft-delayed "Chinese Democracy," which Axl swears in the interview will be released this year. That's right, Axl. And I think I just saw my spaceship land, and there are lollipops coming out!

But regardless, in this interview, they refer to "Chinese Democracy" as "arguably the most anticipated album in rock & roll history." Hmmmmm. Wait, what? They also refer to him as "the most mythical rock star on the planet." So, did Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan die? You know, the two
rock stars that Rolling Stone sweats all the time and which dominate these two Top 500 lists? I love Axl and Guns N' Roses and think "Appetite for Destruction" is one of the best albums of the 1980s, but "Chinese Democracy" the most anticipated rock album ever, from the most mythical rock star on the planet? What planet is this, exactly?

Good Charlotte is The Greatest Band In History

But that's just a larger symptom of the Rolling Stone disease. A disease involving too much celebrity fawning, too many grandiose statements, and too little long-term memory. One minute,
Britney Spears is the Queen of Pop, with Rolling Stone declaring "if loving her is wrong, we don't want to be right." The next, they're mocking her. Well, which one is it? Soon after, Usher is The King of Pop. There is no Queen of Pop - what are YOU talking about? And now this week, Axl Rose is The Most Mythical Rock Star On The Planet. What was Axl's last good album, and when was it released? And where were all these people on the Rolling Stone Top 500 lists, if they like them so much?

'NSync is, quite frankly, The Greatest Band in History

Don't even get me STARTED on the CD and movie reviews, especially the movie reviews. EVERYTHING gets three stars. I could blow my nose in a dirty sweat sock, and they'd give it three stars. If I was famous, of course.

The White Stripes is The Greatest Band in History (notice the subtitle saying "Good Movies Are Back." So why was everything getting three stars before?)

So the point is, when did Rolling Stone's attention span become that of a water flea, and when did PR staffs take over the magazine? Does a publicist call Rolling Stone and say "I want you to put Ashleigh Simpson on the cover and call her The Greatest Singer of All Time," and they just do it? Everyone is the greatest this or the most consequential that, with no context or continuity whatsoever. We said Ashleigh Simpson was the greatest singer ever? No way, fool. Look at this month's cover, where we clearly say that Carrie Underwood is The Greatest Singer Ever!

I'm not saying that it's bad to cover a diversity of music, or have different opinions. Quite the opposite. I'm just saying, have some coherence. Don't love Britney Spears one minute and hate her the next. Or, maybe you want to write an article that actually tells BOTH sides of the story, without fawning or labeling someone the best this or the most consequential iconic indispensible that. Rack appeal be damned - write good articles, and people will buy it! Didn't they used to? Now, it's like they don't expect you to remember they paid the same hyperbolic compliments to N' Sync as they did to Neil Young as they did to Axl Rose. It reminds me of a 1980s sitcom where there's no coherent week-to-week storyline. Something happens, they resolve it, they make their points, they throw it in the garbage, they move on to next week.

Well, screw that. Either Rolling Stone has given up trying to make a decent and historically respectable magazine, or they have multiple personalities. Either way, that once-trendsetting magazine has gone downhill, and just makes grandiose statments to move units, and/or panders to attractive celebrities who will appear on the cover. They're not the only ones to do this, of course. But they might be the saddest ones. Kind of a shame. I'll be in my spaceship.


ombudsman said...

You could extend this complaint to the entire music industry, i think. Maybe it just represents an ever more fickle, over-saturated public? Don't get me started!

MSH said...

You're absolutely right. That, plus they need hot celebrities to give them interviews and pose for their covers. If you don't fawn all over them and say (or don't say) what their publicists want you to, they won't talk to you or pose for you, and you lose market share to FHM.

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