Tuesday, February 09, 2010

In a post about The Game, can there not be a 50 Cent reference?

Nitsuh Abebe writes on Jessica Hopper writing on Nitsuh Abebe writing on Jessica Hopper writing on Vampire Weekend

I like Abebe, generally dislike Hopper, and couldn't care less about Vampire Weekend. I am interested in identity politics in pop music, and the question of whiteness that Abebe writes on is pretty compelling. As someone prone to toss around the phrase "white" to mean bourgie, I feel like I should take a swing at some of the nuance I think Abebe misses there.

First off, it's worth noting that Abebe handily skips over the question of whether being bourgie is worth criticizing, if that's the central complaint of "whiteness." And, frankly, it is. Abebe's point that it's bourgeois to criticize the bourgeois (therefore implicitly hypocritical) is fair, but that doesn't mean that the criticism is wrong.

Second, and I think Abebe misses this fully, there's more to the charge of "white" than "bourgeois." It might be handy for Abebe to think about it as French—calling something "blanc," blank, loses some of the most obvious race and class baggage (which is only really tedious because most college educated folks learned it early) and replaces it with what's a common complaint about his e.g. Vampire Weekend, that they're bland.

Their blandness is on track with most other indie blandness, with facile, cheery, clever lyrics, and perfunctory "outside" influence. Vampire Weekend's was afropop by way of Paul Simon's "Graceland." It might just as well have been cellos or ukuleles.

Now, I totally grant that "bland" is a subjective judgment and that a lot of people like Vampire Weekend a lot and that I only downloaded their first album when it came out, listened a couple times, then deleted it (the system works!). But not every smug crack about "whiteness" is unjustified or playing The Game (which Abebe seems to not realize is Nomic). But no one gives a shit when I complain about Coldplay being overhyped, bland, and yes, white.

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