I guess this is the moment when I finally disagree with Lorde. I always wondered what it would feel like, and now it’s here. (Kind of tingly, in case you were wondering.)
Over the weekend, Lorde put up a post on her Tumblr complaining about how music magazines like Complex and Pitchfork slam your album one week, and then just a week later they’re up your ass again, begging for an interview like that never happened. Here’s the text of her post, with the image she included:
“bugs me how publications like complex will profile interesting artists in order to sell copies/get clicks and then shit on their records? it happens to me all the time- pitchfork and that ilk being like “can we interview you?” after totally taking the piss out of me in a review. have a stance on an artist and stick to it. don’t act like you respect them then throw them under the bus.”
I’ll be honest, my immediate inclination is to hop on board with anything and everything Lorde says (just like Iggy Azalea did when she tweeted back at her, calling Complex ‘spineless’), because Lorde’s proven herself to be much wiser than I. Howeverrrr when you really give this some thought, it doesn’t pan out. You’re asking a music magazine for one of two things, and neither one works out very well for either of you. You either want them to…
- Write exclusively positive things about you just because you have a good relationship with them, give them interviews, etc.
- Immediately stop writing about you as soon as you do one thing they don’t like or create one piece of music they aren’t as fond of.
But the thing is, that’s not how you run a magazine! And even if it was, is that really what you want? Wouldn’t you rather have the publicity and an honest, unbiased perspective on your career? Isn’t that kind of the best of both worlds?
It’s a point that Complex themselves elucidated much more clearly and eloquently than I ever could in their response to Lorde’s post, published later that same day.
“Contrary to whatever Lorde may think, for Complex to give a cover to an artist like Iggy Azalea or current covergirl Jhené Aiko (or even Lorde for that matter) it simply boils down to Complex thinking the artist is someone our audience is interested in. Giving someone a bad review basically boils down to thinking someone our audience is interested in didn’t make a very good record.”
Their bottom line is what their audience wants to read, and the only real reflector of their success at that is whether people are still purchasing their magazines.
“Lorde declaring “have a stance on an artist and stick to it” is a bizarre notion for an organization like Complex, which is to say bizarre for any media organization that claims to have any journalistic integrity. No one should stick to their opinion when new facts (possibly in the form of new music) are made available that can alter your views. Art and artistry are fluid things.”
Yup! Things change constantly! Ever wonder why were aren’t still applauding Oscar Pistorius for being the first Paralympics contender to make it to the trials for the actual Olympics? Because we got some new information. That’s a way more intense example, but it fits.
“If Complex—or the media at large—operated the way Lorde wished, it would do away with journalistic integrity all together. [...] Truth is, not every media interaction will be mutually beneficial. [...]
Yup. They have a responsibility to their readers, not to the artists they’re profiling.
“Celebrities seek attention and media coverage every time they do something great, why would the camera stop rolling when they do something not so great? And even if they do, it isn’t meant to be disrespectful—it’s meant to be critical.”
And whether she realizes it or not, Lorde brought up a really important issue, and one that actually endangers the future of music review and critique.
“This issue Lorde highlights is an on-going problem in music writing, one where artists seem to think of journalists as akin to their publicists, and journalists are afraid to say anything bad about an artist for fear of losing access. An artist thinking that just because they’re interviewed by an outlet that said outlet can’t then “shit on your records” muddies the difference between music profiling and music criticism. The job of a journalist profiling an interesting artist is to bring their story to life for an audience. The job of a music critic writing a review is to put an album in the proper context for listeners and, yes, share their opinion on the album.”
So let’s everybody just do our jobs, yes? And everything will be fine. And Lorde, in case you’ve forgotten — yours isn’t starting beefs with anyone who passes through your peripheral vision, okay? As tempting as I’m sure that must be.