When my copy of the latest installment in Da Capo's Best Music Writing arrived in my mailbox earlier this week, I couldn't wait to read it. But upon opening the book to the table of contents, the first thing that I noticed was that there were no Blogcritics represented.
Which drew a reaction of "What?"…
Surely, one of Mark Saleski's ever insightful Friday Morning Listens, like his recent one on Kiss Alive, had to qualify as being among the year's best music writing, I thought to myself.
Or perhaps one of Josh Hathaway's gushing setlist reports from the Springsteen tour.
No? Well, how about Pico's amazingly detailed look at Miles Davis' On The Corner box set then? Or even — if I may be ever so humble — one of my own Rockologist columns, such as my recent Open Letter to Neil Young?
Then as I began to read the introduction to the book, written by guest editor Robert "The Dean Of Rock Critics" Christgau, it all became clear to me. The first thing which leapt out at me was Christgau's dismissal of internet journalism, which, in his own words he regards as "a trackless waste of hastily composed one-upsmanship."
Then, as I read further, I noticed something else that has actually bothered me for a very long time. And that is the simple question of why guys like myself, Saleski, Hathaway, Pico, and the rest can't make a decent living doing something we enjoy doing so much — and would like to think we are fairly good at? The answer to that question also comes in Christgau's introduction to this collection of the best music essays of 2007.
Out of the hundreds of submissions for this book, and the fifty or so that finally made the final cut, a grand total of ten of the articles represented here come from the internet. And out of those, only three received any sort of monetary compensation for their efforts.
So I guess that clears that matter up, and thank you very much for clarifying that point Mr. Christgau. To use your own letter grade system of rating albums, you get an A for that.
So as to the book itself, Best Music Writing 2007 is not so much a book for fans of music as it is for fans of music journalism. In this collection of music essays from 2007, the editors take what purports to be the best of the lot, and presents them as they originally appeared in print, or (apparently occasionally) online.
The sources here range from pieces written for places as obvious as Rolling Stone, to websites like Pitchfork Media (which Christgau again pulls no punches in hiding his disdain for). The writers range from seasoned — and a few not-so seasoned — journalists, to musicians like David Byrne and Richard Hell (who writes a particularly passionate piece on the closing of New York punk club CBGBs).
As a music journalist, and as someone who really enjoys reading music journalism, I really enjoyed several of the essays in this book. Among those that really stood out for me were Ann Powers piece on how the Latino immigration movement has adopted Neil Diamond's song "America" as their own; Jonathan Lethem's excellent "Being James Brown,"; and a piece by Michaelangelo Matos on the Supremes' song "Love Child" that I understand actually became a multimedia presentation at a rock critics symposium here in Seattle, held earlier this year and sponsored by the Experience Music Project.
So as I said, this book is not so much necessarily for music fans as it is for fans of those who write about the subject. And on that note, it comes highly recommended from this music journalist.
As for any of us Blogcritics making the cut?
I got two words for ya' Christgau.