Wednesday, December 10, 2008

People Who Must Die: An Ongoing Series: Part One: Sasha Frere-Jones


Most people would immediately assume that Frere-Jones' main offense is his stubborn refusal to include the proper diacritical mark in his name. That's FRÈRE-Jones, you monster! But that isn't it, really. Or at least, it's only a small part of it. Nor is it his somewhat ill-advised vendetta against Stephin Merrit. Hell, that could happen to anyone, assuming anyone had a massive chip on anyone's shoulder.

In fact, I am forced to heap a certain amount of praise on the man: he can write. He really, really can write. It's not easy to write effectively about how music sounds, as I've discovered in any number of abortive amazon reviews, but Frere-Jones has the gift.

The problem is his tastes. Or, to be more accurate, his relentlessly limited tastes. The New Yorker is the best English-language magazine on Earth--so why does it employ, as its primary critic of pop music, someone so...insular, let's say?

He is on the record as being opposed to snobbish music critics who sneer at mainstream, Timbaland-type pop music as déclassé. Fine. There's something to that. One shouldn't dismiss any kind of music without giving it a fair shake, and even if it turns out not to be All That, there is value in understanding the soundtrack for the cultural zeitgeist (did I just write that?).

But FJ takes it entirely too far. How is it that a magazine that consistently provides fascinating articles on topics about which I knew nothing before but now want to know everything--how is it that I have NEVER, EVER discovered new music from such a magazine? It's absolutely fucking relentless: the man will write review after fucking review of Avril Lavigne, Pink, Justin Timberlake, and other individuals whom EVERYBODY ALREADY KNOWS ABOUT because they're TOTALLY CULTURALLY UBIQUITOUS. This is okay on occasion, but really, Sasha? Really? That's all you got for us? Should we not be able to expect more? Sometimes in the Goings on About Town section, he'll write a little sidebar that suggests more catholic tastes, but as for the main show...well, nine times out of ten it's gonna be manufactured, ultra-commercial pop/r&b, and that's all there is to it. And if me characterizing it in that way sound dismissive, so fucking what? I'm just some dude with a blog, albeit a blog that gets a stunning twenty-nine hits a day. It's not like this kind of music needs a high-profile champion. It would be nice to see a music column that could match the width and breadth of the rest of the magazine.

And that, in a nutshell, is why Sasha Frere-Jones Must Die.


Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Oh, just go wild and post those damn reviews. I tend to reuse the same effing adjectives when describing music also, but I keep cranking them out anyway.


12:41 AM  

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