Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Few final thoughts on the hot topic du jour:

I dunno, folks are saying now, take it as a very entertaining record, take it purely on its musical merits (what’s known in argument-judo as the pre-emptive, or in this case post-emptive, deflation: “don’t get so serious, so worked up, relax and enjoy”), I dunno, though, seems to me that a miasma of significance has draped itself around this record, partly emanating from the artist, partly from the handlers and the journalists, and accordingly that doesn’t just entitle but kinda behoves us to inspect the M.I.Asma to see if its various strands cohere into anything, er, coherent. And I’m genuinely confused here, it doesn’t quite add up for me, I mean, MIA-believers, you tell me:

----What is the significance of naming your record in homage to a struggle that 99 percent of your listenership don’t know anything about, a very specific and local struggle that doesn’t appear to have much in the way of resonances outside its own borders, certainly nothing very clearcut and rubberstamp-able. I know as little as anyone about the Tamil war for independence, if I did tons of reading and research, I might very well conclude it’s a righteous one, i still don't know where it fits with baile funk etc. talking of which...

--- what is the significance of playing music from the hillside slums of Brazilian conurban sprawls to audiences thousands of miles away geographically and just as remote in terms of their living conditions etc?

As for the fake/real thing… I can’t believe so many people still think the following is a devastating argument-judo move:

--“aha! You have just committed the cardinal error of demanding authenticity from your entertainment! thereby exposing yourself as prehistoric throwback and [ach, spit] rockist to the core!”

this seems a bit tired to me, these sort of arguments have been going on for at least 20 years, if not earlier (Notes On Camp… well really they go back to Oscar Wilde at least, saying that sincerity was the death of art).

it’s also funny in a way, because in quote unquote real life, people tend generally to operate in ways that would appear to valorize “authenticity”, they get angry when people lie to them, they recoil from phonies and bullshitters and poseurs, find people who front both amusing and sad; if they buy a bag of chocolate covered raisins and get home and find it’s chocolate covered peanuts they get irritated [true story that]. Outside the realm of entertainment, we tend to value honesty, sincerity, straightforwardness, consistency…. Perhaps if “rock-etc” [used here as shorthand for everything that might be under discussion, e.g. hip hop, rave, grime etc] was “just entertainment” ie. showbiz, then masquerade/artifice/pretence would perhaps just be taken for granted in the way that people into Vegas type stuff aren’t looking for the authentic or a real person underneath the performance. But in “rock-etc” we still adhere to a vague hankering for some kind of correlation between persona and person. Why is this impulse so persistent? And are we wrong to feel that way? [The closest Anti-Authenticists get to a moral judgemental tone is when dismissing Authenticists]. And what would be lost if we ceased hankering for it?

They complain finally that I’m responding to the hype, not to MIA. But the anti-Realists ought to be down with the idea, surely, that hype is an intrinsic part of the pop process, that there is no clear borderline between the pop art object itself and the discourse/image/marketing that enwebs it (that metaphor itself inadequate because enweb suggest something exterior to the art object that is then applied to it, whereas it’s more the case that discourse/etc interpenetrates the very fibres of the art object and emanates at least in part from it; art = "active criticism", rhetoric given aesthetic form; that fame, as someone, er, famous whose name I forget (Nietzche?) said, is the sum of misunderstandings that surround a person (and we might add disagreements, interpretations, etc). To make some distinction between this “peripheral” stuff and the supposed “real” thing that should be the only legitimate object of discussion ("why don't you just review the record/gig" being the ultimate crap-cutting, frame-narrowing dis-intensifier, the kind of thing that makes Mark K-punk's blood boil), well such a distinction would seem to be a bit… Authenticist, actually!

I think this guy’s Frivolist take on the record/phenom might be the sane one, clearing the miasma away and enjoying it as pop, i.e. not-rock.

... some day I’ll unfurl my MIA-as-Haysi-Fantazee analogy…

No comments: