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Put the Lohan CD Down and Back Away. Just Back Away. August 16, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Music, Pop Culture Rants.

If you aren’t yet convinced the apocalypse is already raining down around us like, well, rain, here are a few words that may just start you a-praying, a-wishing and a-hoping—–


Now that alone should send all good people hightailing to their church, synagogue, mosque, wellness center or local bar (One man’s religion is another man’s excuse for drinkiepoos.) But wait, it may not be that bad. Critics, actual people who review things for a living, have said it actually sounds decent. Sort of like “early Madonna.” Okay, wait, that may be the sign. Start running. And make sure you say hello to the demon dogs and blood filled seas.

Now all of this is not going to downgrade into a long diatribe on just how bad Paris Hilton may be or even hinting at other sure signs of the apocalypse (I’ve heard enough Rocky 6 jokes from friends and colleagues). Think of that Madonna statement though. How is it possible that a girl with no formal musical training, little previous recording experience, and nothing more than a famous last name actually reach even enough prowess to be named in the same sentence as ‘the Queen of Pop?” And what’s more being mentioned in a sentence that doesn’t involve the words “nude,” “Spectacle,” or “sex tape?”

Quite simply, this may have more than just apocalyptic ramifications. We have been in what I lovingly dub the “Age of the Producer” for a good ten years or so. Sometime, long ago, when music was actually composed by real live people who knew what they were doing, the producer was more of a British schoolteacher: stern taskmasters who honed the egos of the men and women they were working with. You knew their names only if they were successful. They were the hidden men behind the curtain, turning albums into masterpieces, just from pushing those cool sliding buttons up and down while sitting behind a bulletproof glass wall that looked like they were auditioning for roles as interrogating cops. But they let the music do their talking.

Then came the “SuperProducer.” Often they were ex-artists, who after years of watching others craft their music wanted a chance to play with the slidy buttons themselves. They were like rehab for stagnant artists, taking long-standing acts and fooling around with their vibe, their style or even their look. They released these new and improved acts and stood close by them, taking credits like proud parents. The album was an afterthought. Sure, it may sound horrible, but it’s selling like waffles (Little known fact: Waffles outsell hotcakes in this country three to one, so I’m starting this new phrase. Please resume reading.) And why is it selling? Because the lead guitarist has been playing with Asian influences and the drummer now sports a goatee that would get him laughed out of a beatnik coffeehouse.

Nowhere did the “SuperProducer” do more damage than in the world of hip-hop. We know their names, not just because they get shouted out in songs or get their props during an uncomfortable TRL interview, but because they are often making more news than the artists they produce. The Neptunes. Timbaland. The unfortunately named Jimmy Jam and his hetero life mate Terry Lewis. And the king of them all, Dr. Dre. While each of them is famous for their recognizable beats and career remodeling programs, they have taken the spotlight away from the words and the artist and put it on the beats and cool samples that you spend twenty minutes trying to place. Hip-hop’s very nature comes from the hardcore views expressed in the words and to negate that is robbing the art of what made it popular in the first place. It’s like suddenly thrusting a two bit supporting actor on TV into their own three episode story arc. It didn’t work for Tori Spelling and it will not work in hip-hop.

Which brings us back to Paris. Scott Storch, one of hip-hop’s up and coming “SuperProducers” is in charge of her latest album. He has taken somebody who has no business in a studio and has managed to actually craft something of substance. While this should be on par with most saintly miracles and several Copperfield illusions, it is scary. Because music, the last bastion of art where you actually had to be either talented or just plain weird, is now open to anybody. Sure, there has been a long history of people from other artistic disciplines recording music tracks, but few ever garnered a shred of any good press. I mean, the only place in the world where David Hasselhoff and the words “Genius” ever appear is in his own Knight Rider effected giant cranium. And most of Germany.

Storch has placed us into some unchartered territory. To so overproduce something that it actually becomes good has opened up the floodgates. Not just to the celebutantes and the rail thin waifs of tomorrow, but to everybody. Producers will take note of this and will stop patting themselves on the back for reinventing an act, but for creating one where nothing existed before. Producers have been pulling this one off for years, but again, talent will win out and a flash in the pan disappears quickly when they sing only slightly better than the arias you and I drop in our shower every morning. When the act actually sounds good, the medium suffers from a sever lack of seriousness. Look what questions of legitimacy did for pro wrestling (That statement not valid in most of the South and anybody who is still struggling with their sexuality.)

The Age of the Producer is here and judging by advanced album sales and the upcoming slate of albums about to overtake us, it isn’t going anywhere. Let’s hope the sensitive ears of America come to their senses. Give the music back to the artists words and instruments. Stop trying to create just to show us how great you are. We know you are. Here’s a cookie. Now let somebody else play with the buttons.

Because, if anything should scare you, it’s the fact that William Shatner is bored. And that can only mean one thing.

Do I really need to use the word apocalypse for you again?



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