As readers of music news, we face such a barrage of stories jammed through our Twitter and Facebook feeds on a daily basis that it can feel overwhelming to know what news is essential and what is merely filler for websites that seek relevance and page views over, you know, actually reporting the news. Of course, the amount of legitimate music news stories is usually limited to tour date announcements, new albums or singles, or, on occasion, some bonafide findings that come from old fashioned investigative reporting. And, then there is the rest of it.
We all know what “the rest of it” is. Those stories that you click on because the title seems intriguing or mentions your favorite band, only to discover that it isn’t a story at all. Maybe it is a blatant click-grab, maybe it is making a mountain out of a molehill, and maybe it is just slander or the perpetuation of rumors. Now, I’m not claiming that Beats Per Minute is always innocent of perpetuating these kinds of stories or that we somehow hold a moral highground over sites that push this kind of stuff, but, in this new weekly column, I will be counting down the most glaring offenders of turning music journalism into an unabashed music clickgrab, in the hope of us all doing our job a little bit better, and a little bit more responsibly. And, hell, maybe we’ll have a few laughs along the way. So, here is The Week’s Worst News.
5. Liars Working On New Album, Get Tattoos
The Story: Originating on The Quietus and then picked up by Pitchfork, the essence of this story is that Liars are working on a new album and offering hints about the album on their website. Clues include “video clips with ambient sound” and pictures of the band getting “new album tats.”
The Problem: This is one I know I am also guilty of (see here), but any close examination of this story reveals that there is no story at all. The band reveals they are working with their dream producer, but who that is is not revealed. The videos and sounds tell us nothing about what the new Liars album will sound like or what direction they are taking. The tattoos aspect is even more useless, as the actual tattoo is blurred out. Essentially, the story is that Liars are working on a new album, which is something I think we all kind of knew before these cryptic hints. Sure, the movement on the Liars website is worth noting, but this should probably be limited to a tweet with the link of that website.
4. President Obama Seeks Endorsement From Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend
The Story: Following the trail of origin leads to The Tennessean via MTV via Stereogum. Apparently, President Obama has a wish list of campaign supporters that includes Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, Wilco, and many others.
The Problem: As Stereogum points out at the end of their version of this story, the Obama camp have neither confirmed nor denied this story, but the whole thing seems rather suspect. Most of the names on this list are likely to be Obama supporters anyway, but the whole story stinks of just a clever ploy to put Obama and Arcade Fire in the same headline. If any of this is true, it is likely a brainstorming list from some element of Obama’s campaign that did not include Obama, and discovery of such a list is hardly worth considering, or reporting on.
3. Kanye West Possibly Collaborating With The Creators Of Angry Birds
The Story: Everything we know about this is essentially in the headline. West and the team behind Angry Birds met in London about the possibility of collaborating. This was originally reported in The Sun, then trickled down to NME and Prefix.
The Problem: As you can see, the posts of this story get smaller as it trickles down, probably because there is absolutely no information to be had. Are we now reporting on every meeting Kanye West takes? Well, maybe so, considering that we are also reporting on things he did as a child. But, the fact is that Kanye West and Angry Birds look good next to each other in a title, and maybe we should show a little restraint when we realize there is absolutely no story to be had.
2. No Age Vs. Kings Of Leon
The Story:Spin began this story that made its way to many major music news outlets. Apparently, No Age posted on their blog a photo of a Kings Of Leon t-shirt that bares a resemblence to a No Age shirt, with the caption “t shirt designs by the kings of originality… looking good.” Pitchfork then brought Fleet Foxes into the discussion, quoting Robin Pecknold as tweeting “THEY ARE THE WORST” about KoL.
The Problem: This story bothers me on many levels. First of all, look at the shirts side by side. How similar are they, really? The shirts clearly contain different colors and lettering, Kings Of Leon takes up more lines because it is a longer name, and, well, nevermind. Writing about this makes me feel ridiculous. They are t-shirts. The biggest music publications in our industry are posting a top story about a beef about t-shirts that is likely not a beef but just a tongue-in-cheek observation.
But, my difficulty with this story goes deeper. I really like No Age, but this story paints them as kind of jackasses. I find it hard to believe that this band would really waste time considering the fact that Kings Of Leon’s t-shirt resembles one of theirs. But, everyone also knows that “beef” stories are click-getters and there is no responsibility when it comes to reporting these stories. Also, could it be more clear that sites are villainizing Kings Of Leon in this story because they used to be indie-ish and aren’t anymore? I severely doubt that the actual band members have anything to do with their t-shirt design. But yeah, these two paragraphs are more than this story deserves, much less top billing across the net.
1. Brian Williams Speaks Out On Lana Del Rey
The Story: Internet music sensation Lana Del Rey gave a sub-par performance on Saturday Night Live and the web went batshit crazy. But, weirdest of all was the Gawker story that was picked up by everyone in which NBC news anchor Brian Williams emailed Gawker and noted “Brooklyn hippster [sic] Lana Del Rey had one of the worst outings in SNL history last night — booked on the strength of her TWO SONG web EP, the least-experienced musical guest in the show’s history, for starters.” Yes, this was a major music news story.
The Problem: Now, I don’t know a whole lot about Gawker, so my initial reaction here was confusion as to why they are printing off-the-record emails from Brian Williams, and then, when NBC asked to remove the story, they simply printed the removal request. Classy renegades, I guess.
But, in the wake of the Lana Del Rey SNL debacle, sites were champing at the bit for an angle to approach this story and this gave them exactly what they wanted. It didn’t matter that Brian Williams has no voice of music criticism that I know of, only that he works for NBC, the network that airs SNL. Is this what we are reduced to? What did Ellen think of Lana on SNL? What about the cast of Community? I can’t think of a more irrelevant story run by news sources who just days before posted those Del Rey performances without much commentary at all. The Lana Del Rey media storm is difficult to cover, I acknowledge, but anyone who ran this story failed in my eyes.