Jan 182011
Authors: Matt Miller

Many nights I lay in my bed fearful of sleep. If I feel my eyes beginning to become heavy, willing me to just shut them for a moment, I jump out of bed and shove my head in a waiting cooler filled with ice cold water. This tactic only works for so long.

Soon beyond my control I enter dream world.

I’m surfing the Internet. I’m looking at critic’s Top Ten lists. I go to Rollingstone.com and No. 1 is Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” In horror I go to Entertainment Weekly and find the same; on Billboard, there’s Kanye; Spin Magazine, West’s there; L.A. Times, same; Time Magazine, Washington post.

In 22 respected publications Kanye West sat gloatingly gulping in the praise as the No. 1 album of the year. As my last ditch effort I go to pitchfork.com where once again West was No. 1.

Unable to take the pain anymore I pinch myself. I throw myself into a bucket of water, and (spoiler alert) in a part M. Night Shyamalan and part “Inception” twist, I find I wasn’t dreaming at all ­­–– I was in a dark, twisted fantasy. And yes, if any nerds are reading this ready to tear me apart, the ending of “Inception” is up to debate.

Since November I have found myself feeling like YouTube sensation “David After The Dentist,” asking myself in a laughing gas induced stupor, “Is this real life?” as I watch critic after critic follow each other off of the groupthink cliff.

Don’t get me wrong I am a fan of West. In high school I was just a little, white boy wrapped up in my world of classic rock and indie music, until I first heard West’s second album “Late Registration.” After this eye-opening experience –– don’t worry I am still a boy and still white –– my specific music tastes have suddenly evolved to include rap.

The stars aligned, my world changed –– I hit music puberty and would forever appreciate and love rap music. I remember that day, both excited and fearful with the changes in my music tastes. It was like two middle schoolers making out in the back of class during the sex-ed video.

West will always have a soft spot in my heart, and even though “MBDTF” is a great album, it pales in comparison to “Late Registration.”

But what really worries me is not the quality of West’s music, but how critics received it. A domino effect happened instantly after the release of “MBDTF.”

It got one perfect score, followed by another, and another, and another. Then come November it sat smugly at the top of nearly every critic’s top album list.

What worries me is the state of music journalism. It seems that critics are fearful to deviate from their colleagues’ glowing opinions of albums. Did they really think that if they gave “MBDTF” anything but a perfect score all of the music industry would lose respect for their opinion?

I remember my days growing up devouring music writing and music reviews and the suspense of looking at different publications’ top albums of the year and comparing the opinions of reviewers to each other and my own.

This hive-mind that music journalism operates on today removes the identity of both the music critics and the artists. It’s like a musical Nazi regime where West is our fearless leader. He tells the critics what is art, and the critics then spread their propaganda, painting West as a Messiah to the masses.

I can’t help but be fearful that West created this album not for the fans, but for critics. “Late Registration” sold 860,000 copies in the first week and “Fantasy” sold only 496,000. This could also become his first album without a Top 10 pop single.

The worst part of all this is the artists out there who are leaving poor Taylor Swift alone, keeping their half-formed opinions out of televised Katrina benefits and just making quality music are being forgotten.

The Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs,” LCD Soundsystem’s “This Is Happening,” Sufjan Stevens’ “The Age Of Adz” and The National’s “High Violet” were all great albums that sat in less prestigious spots on top album lists.

They were left rotting under the bright glow of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” The passionate music of these struggling artists could not live up to the hype of an obnoxious West being shoved down the throats of the masses.

Entertainment Editor Matt Miller is a junior journalism major and can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

Out this week

  • The Decemberists – “The King Is Dead”
  • The Sundance Film Festival opens on Thursday
 Posted by at 3:19 pm

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