The InsiderOne Daily Report
Friday, January 12, 2001
Another Take On Eminem
InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: "On the scale of social responsibility, what's the difference between Eminem and, say, Bruce Springsteen?" an editor friend of mine emailed in response to my comments in Monday's (Jan. 8) "Daily Report" about Eminem. SonicNet's Matty Karas quoted Springsteen's "Nebraska" ("From the town of Lincoln, Nebraska/ With a sawed-off 410 in my lap/ Through to the badlands of Wyoming/ I killed everything in my path...They wanted to know why I did what I did/ I guess there's just a meanness in this world") and Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues ("I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die") and mentioned director Arthur Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde." "I'm not saying Eminem is as great an artist as any of those three, although I am a fan," he wrote. "But I'm wondering why so many people think it's patently worse for him to be singing in the voice of a deranged, evil motherfucker than for someone like Bruce Springsteen to be singing in the voice of a deranged, evil motherfucker?" I wrote him back: "Eminem has made homophobic and sexist comments in interviews, dating back to the release of his debut album. It appears, from his comments and actions, that some of what is expressed in his songs is what he actually believes. In his case, the person and the character delivering the songs seem to actually be one and the same. With Springsteen, in terms of that song, everyone knows he's writing a fictional piece, going inside the head of a character. I think it is different. Don't you? And it is difficult 'cause the music is great and he's a great rapper..." Karas replied: "This is one of the questions I've wrestled with from the moment I began thinking about pop music. Does it matter what the artist thinks or believes, and do we even have a right to know what an artist thinks or believes? or does it matter only what the art itself looks like or sounds like or says? If Charlie Starkweather, the subject of Springsteen's 'Nebraska,' wrote and recorded the exact same song, with the exact same words and the exact same arrangement and the exact same voice, would it still be a classic folk song? My gut feeling is yes, absolutely, although I know it's not a black-and-white issue. Would Eminem's albums suddenly sound better if he happened to be a gun-control and gay-rights activist? My gut feeling is no; it'd sound exactly the same, and it'd be exactly the same. (And, for that matter, would Milli Vanilli's album be substantially better or worse if they put the real singers' names and pictures on the cover of the album? My answer is absolutely not.) The music is the music, and there's not a damn thing an artist can do about it once it's delivered to the public. Once it's delivered to the public, the artist himself or herself no longer really matters, in fact." I think my friend makes some interesting points, although I still stand by what I published Monday. But they're both just the opinions of two people who spend most of their waking hours listening to and thinking about music. What do you think? If you have some thoughts on Eminem and his multiple Grammy nominations, use the handy "Contact" link in the nav bar at the top insiderone.net's home page. If I get some interesting comments, I'll run another follow-up piece in this space next week.
Datastream: Quasi drummer Janet Weiss and singer/musician Sam Coomes have been recording tracks for their next album at studios in the Portland area. The album will be released on Touch & Go, probably toward the end of the year... The new Spoon album, Girls Can Tell, won't be out until March, but meanwhile a terrific, rockin' five-song EP, Love Ways, is here. Songs include "Change My Life," "I Didn't Come Here to Die" and "The Figures of Art."... Also just out is a four-song EP from Boards of Canada titled "In A Beautiful Place Out in the Country." No word yet on when the full-length follow-up to the duo's acclaimed 1998 debut, Music Has the Right to Children, will be completed and released.
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Michael Goldberg is the president of insiderone.net. He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.