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Jewish World Review Feb. 28, 2001 / 5 Adar, 5761

Mark Lane

Mark Lane
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Consumer Reports

Hate not cool? Ya sound like ya mama -- DIALOG is good. But not that good. Trying to put the best face on the embarrassment of rapper Eminem's hate-filled lyrics, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and various show folks told us before, during and after last week's Grammy Awards that honoring him was A Good Thing. It created "dialogue." It revealed "a dark and disturbing underbelly obscured from the view of most people of privilege."

They only did it for our own good.

"People are mad, and people are talking. And that's a good thing because it's through dialogue and debate that social discovery can occur," intoned oleaginous academy president Michael Greene.

"We can't edit out the art that makes us uncomfortable. That's what our parents tried to do to Elvis, the Stones and the Beatles," he scolded.

Harsh comeback. He told critics they sound like their parents. I suppose that's the worse charge a grumpy baby boomer can hurl. Aw, ya sound like ya mama.

The logical calculus we heard all night was this:

Great art shocks. Eminem shocks. Ergo, Eminem is great art.

And it was repeated so often, many people must believe it.

Great art often shocks. But so do pranks by mean people. Eminem falls into the latter category.

Here's what another performer, the Grammy-nominated techno-rock guy who calls himself Moby, said backstage during the awards:

"I was talking to somebody earlier about the notion of Eminem being in the continuum of Elvis Presley, the Sex Pistols, Public Enemy and Kurt Cobain. But the difference is that they were all rebellious in the sense that they were extending boundaries - creating culture that broadened people's perspectives. The problem with Eminem is he's creating culture that appeals to the lowest common denominator."

The rock press called it "a tirade" because it appeared to make no sense.

You know that you're too old to watch the Grammy Awards when the only categories you are rooting for are Best Contemporary Folk and Best Boxed Recording Package. (Emmylou Harris, a goddess who walks among us, won the former. A Miles Davis/John Coltrane collection won the other, but I digress.)

So, yes, I am supposed to be offended by Eminem. I'm not the demographic target audience the music marketers are trying desperately to reach. I'm the demographic that's the kiss of death to performers.

One does not have to be Too Old to Get It, a member of the culture police or a fan of Lynne Cheney to see the trouble with this act. If this were that kind of controversy, the industry would not be so defensive at being on the receiving end of the public dialogue.

The reason for their discomfort is they know Eminem and similar acts are selling a cool, stylish hate. And selling it well and with a lot of breathless industry hype and marketing muscle.

Yes, he uses poses, and different voices and nuance and overstatement, but the message is how terribly hip it is to hate women and gay people and how right, how cool, it is to assault them.

Add to this, too, a good-sized contempt for the sick suckers who buy this.

The theme of "Stan," the song Eminem performed with Elton John to demonstrate he's not a total bigot, is that fans are pathologically pathetic people.

Imagine any other industry using its most high-profile event to spotlight the creepiness of its customers.

All in all, a nasty spectacle. A patronizing explaining away of hate-lyrics and a circling of the wagons by the defenders of the industry's most cynically marketed product.

That's entertainment.

Comment on JWR contributor Mark Lane's column by clicking here.

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01/24/01: Ugly lyrics should make trendies squirm
01/12/01: White boards taking over classrooms
12/23/00: Post-election holiday etiquette
12/15/00: Outlawing dodge-ball
11/30/00: Courts should be on-line, on-TV and in public
11/29/00: Where did all these solution providers come from?
11/20/00: Giving it the old Electoral College try
11/10/00: Ballot messes a Florida tradition
11/07/00: Vote naked! Cool idea, but is it progress?
11/02/00: Semi-whistle while you para-work
10/27/00: Decided by the undecided


© 2000, M. R. Lane