Thursday, August 30, 2007

Contrary to Popular Demand?

I don’t know when I got like this, but when it comes to pop culture – I don’t trust the masses.

And I haven’t for a long time.

If almost everyone I knew was saying so and so’s CD was the tightest thing out or such and such movie was the only one worth seeing this season, I almost automatically, yet unintentionally, blocked the likelihood of my even giving those projects a chance.

I don’t even think I had the power to control this myself. It’s like my media nonsense immune system has become so strong that it fights off viruses such as Soul Plane and much of the stuff that comes out of Atlanta without me even trying.

This is because years of looking at who’s on top of the music charts; the movie lists; and even the bestselling books lists (Supahead, anyone?!) makes me believe that the masses lack substance in their choices.

So you’d be surprised to hear which sitcoms I’ve never seen; which songs I’ve never heard; and which amazing artists and movies I got put on to mad late because I didn’t given them a chance until well after their probationary period.

But all of this became null and void concerning the film American Gangster.

I had the chance to see the film more than two weeks ago at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Las Vegas (I know some of ya’ll are tired of hearing about my trip to Vegas. I promise this’ll probably be my last Vegas-related piece … I think).

No, I will not spoil the film for you, but I’ll just say it was amazing. Period.

And while reflecting on the film shortly after leaving the theatre, I couldn’t help but to think that it almost joined the list of media that I almost missed out on.

I had very little interest in seeing American Gangster until I knew I had the chance to see it for free. (Sidenote: I’m one of those people who is forced to reconsider lots of things when the word FREE is attached.) I saw the posters for the movie before I heard anyone talking about it and thought it might be interesting. But when I read the online hype and other whispers about the film, like always, I began to be turned off.

I even ignored multiple opportunities to see the trailer. I was just that comfortable in my “I probably won’t like it” philosophy.

Had NABJ not stepped in at the right time with the hookup, I don’t know if I would have ever had the chance to experience that fine moment in pop culture. Some might say, “You see? That’s why you can’t immediately dismiss popular demand!”

But I beg to differ. The examples where nonsense reigns supreme among the majority greatly outweigh the opposite.

Surely Common’s latest project “Finding Forever” recently debuting at number one – and furthermore India.Arie’s project doing the same months ago with far less promotion – is encouraging. But a quick look at the Billboard Hot 100 charts shows that “Crank Dat (Soulja Boy);” “Bartender” AND “A Baby Baby” are ALL in the top 10 this week.

Are you serious?!

How can I find a balance between keeping those with questionable reviewing skills on mute while making sure that I don’t miss out on the gems that seep through the cracks the pop gods leave open?

Gene is a journalist in Phoenix. Check him out at


Rell said...

I will say that while popular music that we tend to frown upon isn't "good" in artistic sense, we have to be a little easy on it.

Soulja Boy is just some dude who made up a dance and now is happy. Same thing with A Bay Bay and Lip Gloss.

Ten years ago, we were worried about songs telling people to kill one another.

Now they just telling us to "watch me crank dat robocop." I think that's a good step.

But to answer your question, you just have to be a little more open. To use a little a a b a c format, just because something is popular doesn't make it bad. And just because something is underground, that doesn't make it tight.

Ivy said...

To answer your question:"How can I find a balance between keeping those with questionable reviewing skills on mute while making sure that I don’t miss out on the gems that seep through the cracks the pop gods leave open?"

As long as it's Denzel, it's all good! I know - trite answer - but more often than not, true. If anything, Denzel takes his craft seriously. You won't see him pretending to fend off snakes on a plane!

And I agree with rell on the turn hip-hop has taken. The kids are doing their thing and they are not trying to hurt anyone while they get it done. The fact of the matter is, we are getting too old for hip-hop (that 'pop' hip-hop, anyway). Which probably is a good thing - the music can keep evolving and we can keep maturing.

Gene said...

I feel you.

I don't think ALL of it's bad. And truth be told there is stuff that I actually think is bad that I listen to. I have my guilty pleasures. ; )

And my dislike isn't vehement. It's more disinterest if anything else. Pretty much the type that you'd have if you knew everytime you went over your Aunt's house, ya'll would have the same meal and it would be less than mediocre each and every time.

I so want to acknowledge that promoting coonery and nonsense in music is better than promoting murder in music, but I fear that somewhere along the lines my comments will be interpreted as saying that some of what is being played is acceptable ... and that's anything but the case.

Ticia said...

Good points Gene---

Andrew The Asshole said...

I look forward to seeing the movie, but partly because I'm a mafia fan