Every week Document has an agenda: digging up dispatches from the creases of global culture. With this information, go forth.
Why has rap become so bloated?
With the age of streaming, and near infinite amount of music available at a moment’s notice, you’d think the idea of a double album (or in the case of Rae Sremmurd, a triple album) would have faded away. There is only so much music one can consume. So why, then, the prolific bloat on the year’s most-hyped rap albums? On the surface, every aspect of the modern landscape of the music industry would push against this resurgence, with social media moving onto newer and better within only a few days, with singles being picked up and pushed as viral trends, and with the curated playlist leading all. However, with us being serviced our new finds and suggestions through an algorithmic nature, there then leads, naturally, a way to game that system. A brute forcing of the algorithms at work with an overloading of songs, whether they are quality or not serves no purpose, all that matters is quantity, quantity, quantity.
“Ultimately, the double album serves more than one purpose in the age of streaming. It will be both the steroid shot used to bump those Spotify numbers and a landscape of potential gems awaiting listeners who can spare the time.”
Charli XCX is living a double life.
If you asked five fans of pop artist Charli XCX what her sound is, chances are you would get five wildly different answers. Would it be from one of her biggest breakouts in Iggy Azalea’s 2014 hit song Fancy? Maybe, it would be her feature on the widely maligned Rita Ora song Girls. Or, perhaps her more experimental side featured in her EP Vroom Vroom in which she teamed up with her frequent collaborator, producer, and fellow innovator Sophie. Charlie straddles the mainstream definition of “pop” and the more innovative, ethereal definition pioneered by the likes of Rina Sawayama and Kali Uchis. Relegated to a mere opener for Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour, she bookends her stops on the tour with her own headliner shows, playing to packed crowds in dingier, more energetic and youthful venues seemingly at odds with the mega-stadium venues frequented by Swift (and with entirely different set lists). This sort of gaming the system helped her build the bedrock of her career, big features for more traditional artists, that provide the boosts she needs to parcel out her funkier, more spastic and off-the-wall songs to her core fans, the ones that sweat it out amidst their fellows in an East London Warehouse.
“It’s inspiring that Charli is looking for radical alternatives, and perhaps even more so that she hasn’t become elitist enough to completely cut herself off from the world of, shall we say, Pop 1. She’s needed there too, as a galvanizing and disruptive force.”
Time to get with the program.
U2’s past humanitarian and even, political, work shouldn’t be downplayed. From seeking to help end poverty, to the treatment of AIDS around the world, and their condemning of acts of political violence, such as in their song Sunday Bloody Sunday. But while that’s all well and good, their lack of a hard-nosed stance in recent years has begun to show its age. All aboard the “both sides” train. While they condemn the Nazi march in Charlottesville, their solution to such a problem is “left and right talking to each other.” This is a tired stance that has been proven in this day and age to be little more than theatrics, with little payed attention to the root of problems. There have been decades of “talking it out,” and has the right taken any better stances on women’s reproductive rights, LGBT rights, the rights of migrants and the poor? Why should those being victimized be forced to be civil and “in control” of themselves to talk it out with those that are denying their humanity? It’s the same old argument that’s made it’s waves throughout white America, and yet, there have been other such musicians who have risen above this. So, as a band that has never shied away from political divisiveness, why the cop-out now?
“Very few artists have the financial security and the type of global platform U2 possess that would allow them to make the same type of loud and unequivocal statement.”
When the mob turns on you.
There’s an idea that often floats around the Twitter-sphere, that somehow this is the only period of intense “fandom,” and that “stan-culture” is a new phenomenon. While it is an ultimately flat out wrong idea—Frank Sinatra’s “Bobby Soxers,” Elvis Presley leading to the destabilization of suburbia, Beatle-mania and more,—never before have fans had as much power. A mob that’s always one step away from foaming at the mouth and hurling themselves recklessly at those that offer even the mildest critique, swarming their social platforms, costing jobs, and even driving people off of the internet. And just like a mob, there is no direction or leadership as the figureheads themselves rarely offer even a sharp rebuke (can’t anger your source of income) and even become targets themselves. In the age of clapbacks and digital information, tread lightly.
“However, in a postmodern world, where the pop culture is political and consumer power is social and political power, fan communities can easily foster cultures of control and abuse.”