The Right Scarfie Profile wrote:I don;t know how this is interconnected, though I'm sure it is in some way. It seems that basically every lifestyle magazine (or magazine of any sort) will have someone who specialises in record reviews. I'm not sure whether they were always the staple of 'arts' related publications, if it is , then maybe this train of thought adds up to nothing.
But what is true is that some of the best (and worst) music writing is mostly seen in publications and forums that aren't of the traditional kind. The DA CAPO series of 'best music writing' usually come from magazines that don't deal with music as a rule. When a satirical magazine like The Onion covers pop music (and I'm using the term in its broadest sense, basically referring to anything that isn't modern classical and will be considered contemporary) as eloquently as any other forum, then it pretty much means that music is open season.
This is a fairly recent development. In the 80s, the music press was to some extent the only place to find detailed coverage of popular music in print (with the exception of big stories like Live Aid). This has all changed in the last ten years or so.
There is a theory that the general explosion in media interest in popular music springs from a single event: the suicide of Kurt Cobain. Certainly, in Europe, the mass media was taken by surprise by the reactions to this sad news. It was reported in the newspapers, but didn't generally make front page news. Then extraordinary TV pictures of mass grief came back from Seattle, and editors suddenly sensed this was a huge story that they'd underestimated.
In the weeks that followed, there was a lot more coverage of Cobain's life and work - in Britain, it reached surreal levels when Bernard Levin (a celebrated classical music critic who'd happily ignored popular music previously) was intrigued enough to explore "Nevermind" and "In Utero". He used his column in The Times to explain why he thought the records were valid artistic statements.
This was compounded in the UK with the rise of Britpop. Fear that papers would be seen as 'out of touch' with youth culture ensured that battle of supremacy between Blur and Oasis was inescapable in the mass media, to the point of bathos.
Do I buy this theory? Up to a point. I'd argue that it's an oversimplification to state that there was no interest in pop in the mass media - 80s style mags such as The Face and Blitz did cover indie, rap and dance on their pages. But it's also true that the general print media did underestimate the overall importance that pop could have for a long time. In a UK broadsheet newspaper during the 80s you would have not seen many mentions of The Smiths outside of review pages (that might deign to review a couple of gigs every week). By comparison, this last week, an academic symposium at a British university about Morrissey and his band received quite a few press inches.
How times change.