May 10, 2014

White people music


Because I'm old, I don't pay attention to music much anymore, but I recall a commenter named ash who would point out, for example, in response to my 2007 post "What's Gone Wrong with Music?"
Steve, for the first time since before disco, heterosexual white men are composing dance music. This has got to mean something (besides that, consciously or not, they recognize doing so as a way to get laid.) 
Something is happening out there, but it won't be as apparent, at least not right away, because of technological and market differences. There's not as much money to be made when people are just giving their music away. 

For example, above is a video (with Spike Jonze as one of the cameramen) of LCD Soundsystem performing "All My Friends" at Madison Square Garden a few years ago in front of pretty much everybody who is anybody in Brooklyn. (Here's the superior studio version.) 

When not playing live, LCD Soundsystem was, more or less, a middle-aged white guy named James Murphy who looks like a cross-between Kevin Spacey and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I presume Murphy has a day job in the music and/or marketing industry, because he is so adept at embodying the Tired Frequent Flyer ("And here we go, like a sales force into the night"). White people markers include that it's obvious that the frontman has a 3-digit IQ, self-consciousness, irony, and metaness. (Here's Murphy non-musically talking like Carl Spackler about kids these days on "Losing My Edge," LCD's first single in 2002.)

"All My Friends" has been a pretty influential song: here's a video of The 1975's recent knockoff hit "Sex" (a.k.a., "She's got a boyfriend anyway.") Sounds like early U2, which sounded like early Public Image Ltd.
  
LCD Soundsystem's songs tend to strike the elderly as homages to 1970-80s white people classics like Talking Heads, Bowie, and other Enosphere artists. For example, "All My Friends" isn't too far from New Order's "Age of Consent." Melodically, I'm reminded of a quite different flavor of song, The English Beat's intentionally wobbly "Doors of Your Heart," a song so black rhythmically that only white people like it.
    

74 comments:

Thursday said...

The reason that that English Beat song is only popular with white people is that the main vocal is so obviously by a white guy.

Anonymous said...

As I mentioned on the last thread, Murphy was offered a job as a writer on Seinfeld before his music career. LCD is very SWPL, but the most political he gets is this nice line from New York, I Love You:

"your mild billionaire mayor's now convinced he's a king."

Anonymous said...

U2's "I Will Follow." 1980

In the YouTube video we see white guy, Bono, dancing real bad.

Good call on the Brian Eno thing. That's definitely part of the sound, but Steve Lillywhite was at the helm on "I Will Follow."

As an aside, why are there no The Brains c.d. available anywhere?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Brains

Dave Pinsen said...

NYC venture capitalist Fred Wilson is a fan. I think he went to the LCD Sound System farewell concert. He's also a fan of a band called Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Jr., which is quite a SWPL name (unlike, say, Martin Luther King, Jr. Jr., which wouldn't be).

Steve Sailer said...

Right, The 1975 sounds like U2 when I saw them in 1981. They didn't have a lot of songs then, so they did "I Will Follow" twice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2BqLlVHlWA&feature=kp

Early U2 (1980) reminded me a lot of Public Image Ltd's beautiful chiming guitar on their initial 1978 single that was Johnny Rotten's post-Sex Pistol's debut.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylOCIP54PIQ

Shouting Thomas said...

You're not very interested in traditional music, Steve.

Plenty happening in traditional music. Sirius is a major new venue for airplay and plenty of great new country and blues artists are taking full advantage.

Oswald Spengler said...

English Beat also had several ska-influenced hits in the early 1980s, including "Mirror in the bathroom" and "Save It for Later."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VzakY8h5vI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bM0wVjU2-k

Anonymous said...

Hey, Steve, I saw U2 open for The J. Geils Band in 1981 in Atlanta.

U2 started with "I will Follow."

Then I don't remember a lot. I know I didn't stay for The J. Geils Band .. I think.

stari_momak said...

The Smith's "Hang the DJ" was about the dominance of non-musician, middle aged guys in the clubs of Ibiza and elsewhere.

Auntie Analogue said...


Every time I see audiences at pop concerts my mind's eye can't help seeing the massed goggle-eyed crowds with their arms raised in the Hitlergruß, lining the streets of Nuremberg in Leni Riefenstahl's 'Triumph Des Willens.'

Steve Sailer said...

I saw U2 open for J. Geils on the same tour in San Francisco in Feb-March 1982. Intel flew me up for a job interview the next day, so I drove up to San Francisco in the pouring rain to see U2. I didn't get the job.

Auntie Analogue said...


By the way, I have not paid attention to pop music since 1971. By then it all sounded the same - amplified monotonous rehashes upon monotonous rehashes of monotonous rehashes.

The other thing that put me off pop music - and pop culture - was what became its smug, moralizing, preachy self-regard.

One of Theodore Dalrymple's best lines: "Civilisation can survive dictatorship, but it cannot survive rock music."

I fear he is right.

Dave Pinsen said...

Didn't stay for Angel is a Centerfold?

Anonymous said...

Stari - The Smith's "Hang the DJ" was about the dominance of non-musician, middle aged guys in the clubs of Ibiza and elsewhere.

Thats actually a line in the song, the title is "Panic". FYI.

At the time I took it to be a more a comment about vacuous radio DJs that 'superstar' club DJs.

I like this good natured parody from Frank Sidebottom. In his version "Hang the DJ" becomes "Anne the DJ". A reference to Anne Nightingale of BBC Radio 1.

Orthodox said...

This is why the top 40 radio seems to get worse and worse. It's demographics. White people music was still cracking the top 40 in early 1990s, but the demographic shift was fully in effect by the 2000s.

Anonymous said...

"By the way, I have not paid attention to pop music since 1971. By then it all sounded the same - amplified monotonous rehashes upon monotonous rehashes of monotonous rehashes."

I know people around here tend to pass out kudos for naked contrarianism but, Jesus Christ, you sound terrible.

Anonymous said...

Side-note: LCD Soundsystem and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are the only two bands that come to mind if I'm thinking of rock acts with Asian (Korean-Polish in the case of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) members.

Anonymous said...

Mommy organizing your band practices and performances is not cool. Not cool is boring. If you're a white kid, Mommy runs everything now and you are boring.

ben tillman said...

Hey, Steve, I saw U2 open for The J. Geils Band in 1981 in Atlanta.

I saw the J. Geils band open for the Stones in Munich in 1982. They were surprisingly good.

Dave Pinsen said...

Big Head Todd & The Monsters? Smashing Pumpkins?

Anonymous said...

"This is why the top 40 radio seems to get worse and worse. It's demographics"

I don't think we can pin responsibility for Bastille on minorities and it is #12. Personally I like them but I realize that many may not.

http://top40-charts.com/songs/media.php?sid=35585

Gloria

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:

"Mommy organizing your band practices and performances is not cool. Not cool is boring. If you're a white kid, Mommy runs everything now and you are boring."

5/10/14, 8:37 PM

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Cue obligatory Whiskey "white women hate hate HATE white beta males" rejoinder.

Anonymous said...

Bill Murray? That's an interesting connection, cuz I always assumed the lyrical delivery there was a Mark E. Smith homage on heavy Sudafed... The structure is suspiciously similar to "Change," an early track by Killing Joke track (as good a candidate as any for the Ur-band of Grim Disco) but IIRC Murphy claims any homage was unintended.

For those who might see calling everything racist as a 21st Century fad: "Hang The DJ" somehow earned that distinction at the time.

hbd chick said...

@steve - "Right, The 1975 sounds like U2 when I saw them in 1981."

saw u2 at the park west sometime in the early 80s. was that 81? don't remember. i remember having a fake id to buy a drink. (~_^)

Space Ghost said...

Intel in 1982...their stock has gone up by 100x since then. Hope that was a good concert!

Anonymous said...

Murphy is a hack who has yet to release a consistently good album.
He's a decent singles artists, though. His influences are probably the most interesting thing about him--Arthur Russell, Liquid Liquid, Moroder, Material, New Order, Can, and all of those "Enosphere" acts that you alluded to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyJzv4AFZXc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IL45YOtbuy0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch9i7UmLyyg

Anonymous said...

Public Image Ltd's beautiful chiming guitar

Keith Levene favored aluminum (aluminium?) guitars at that point. Specifically I think he played a Veleno... Or at least that would be quite mnemonic.

Smart Patrol / Mr. DNA said...

You're not very interested in traditional music, Steve.

Just skimming the most common themes in post titles on this blog over the years I had developed a body of informed guesswork as to what sort of seminal late 70s/80s musical act would probably be Sailer's favorite.

So... it's either Air Supply or Barry Manilow, right

Anonymous said...

Euro-style electronic dance music has definitely surpassed hip hop as the main form of party music in the US, which is basically another way of saying that White guys who are good with Ableton and FL Studio have retaken the dance clubs from Blacks.

Hip hop seems to be on the decline in general. There doesn't seem to be much new going on there, and parody rap like Epic Rap Battles or The Lonely Island gets more hits on YouTube than virtually all "real" rap.

This trend has been clear to me for a few years, despite not following pop music all that closely, yet for some reason I don't see much discussion of it anywhere.

Dennis Dale said...

"By the way, I have not paid attention to pop music since 1971. By then it all sounded the same - amplified monotonous rehashes upon monotonous rehashes of monotonous rehashes."

I know people around here tend to pass out kudos for naked contrarianism but, Jesus Christ, you sound terrible.


Must be the same guy who said Lou Reed sucks, because his mother was appalled by the lyrics to Heroin.

Anonymous said...

Murphy is an ultra derivative hack. He's a decent singles artist, but he has yet to release a consistently good disk. His influences are probably the most interesting thing about him--Can, Liquid Liquid, Arthur Russell, Material, New Order, Moroder, and all of
those "Enosphere" acts that you alluded to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyJzv4AFZXc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch9i7UmLyyg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IL45YOtbuy0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30hr7DyAuAY

Oswald Spengler said...

Smart Patrol / Mr. DNA said...

"Just skimming the most common themes in post titles on this blog over the years I had developed a body of informed guesswork as to what sort of seminal late 70s/80s musical act would probably be Sailer's favorite."

"So... it's either Air Supply or Barry Manilow, right?"

--------------------------------------------------------------------

My guesses were Steely Dan or Journey.

Anonymous said...

"This is why the top 40 radio seems to get worse and worse."

Radio is the only industry I can think of that became so obnoxious that the free version drove demand for the creation of a paid alternative.

really deep lyrics said...

Isn't that Vampire Weekend's whole shtick? A crew of Ralph Lauren catalog models strumming tropical/Afropop lite-funk with their well-manicured fingers? (Sort of a refinement of the Talking Heads' shtick, actually)

Steve Sailer said...

It wasn't that good of a concert.

NSA dot gov said...

My guesses were Steely Dan or Journey.

Nah, we looked through his first-generation Nomad Jukebox once while he was in the grocery store and seems he's more into klezmer techno.

JI said...

"...elderly people", Steve? That really hurts.

Anonymous said...

http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/Painting-a-false-portrait-7887

smooth operator said...

The Human League was one of the early HBD bands

Anonymous said...

Worst HBD song I've heard was probably "Darwin" by Third Eye Blind (an invisible-knapsack group if there ever was; at least their merit was totally invisible/inaudible to me). Though I did attend college in the late 90s I remember finding the apex period of altrock a la Pearl Jam totally sucky (except that cool video for "Do The Evolution" which admittedly was not very TRL-friendly). It's always been my feeling that the dream of the 90s died with Woodstock '99

Jonah L. Ehrer said...

Anonymous said...
http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/Painting-a-false-portrait-7887

5/10/14, 11:06 PM


This sounds as if it could be hilarious to the right reader. Haven't seen a printed copy but hopefully the jacket has a few choice free-associated blurbs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Sarah Palin, or Bob Marley?

Dave Pinsen said...

I forget which of their contemporaries said it, but a '90s alt rocker shot down the suggestion that Pearl Jam was alt rock. He said, "They're the Buffalo Springfield of the '90s". He had a point.

Kai Carver said...

I'm so out of it I get my music tips from iSteve... I like this James Murphy fellow, so thanks Steve. Pretty fly for an old guy!

Anonymous, "ultra derivative hack" seems harsh. Anyway as you say his influences are good. He talks about them in this fun, long interview from last year (good DJ set too):
http://www.heyreverb.com/blog/2013/05/30/james-murphy-talks-influences-and-favorite-songs-releases-dj-set/69719/
This kind of smart chatter makes me miss New York...

For what it's worth "All My Friends" reminds me of Britpop, esp. Pulp's "Common People" from nearly 20 years ago.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuTMWgOduFM

Anonymous said...

I notice I hate all this music. This seems like Hipster White or SWPL music, i.e. the music of White race-traitors.

That is, Whites who like to distance themselves from other Whites, do harm to them, but don't want to actually live around non-Whites.

Anonymous said...

"Big Head Todd & The Monsters? Smashing Pumpkins?"

I had no idea Big Head Todd was half-Korean, although I knew about Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Another half-Korean is the singer from Hoobastank. That's a sample of 3 from a very uncommon and specific ethnicity, in one particular field. Not sure what it means. Also, Big Head Todd was born in 1965, and people of his mix would have been far more uncommon than just a decade or two later.

Kgaard said...

God ... this song is HORRIBLE. Or should I say -- retarded. It's monotonous to an extreme. Even a two-year-old should be revolted by this degree of repetition. Jimmy Page is spinning in his grave and he's not even dead yet ...

Anonymous said...

One possibility is that the internet makes it possible for you to see more kinds of music, so therefore more things that might surprise you.

Unlike in the past there are currently fewer gate keepers like the big record labels to constrict supply to raise prices.

But fear not once net neutrality is gone, assuming nothing replaces it, the gate keepers will have their tool to suppress choice.

One theory I read on the decline of the Big Band Era was that changes in tax laws, for example requiring licences for establishments with couples dancing, and maybe the social security tax, made it impossible to operate Big Bands and dance halls.

Anonymous said...

If you come to NYC, a walk down Bedford Ave. of a nice afternoon Thursday-Sunday is in order.

Forget white people - you have never seen more people out & about, checking the goods, than at those times and in that place.

But yes, they are all white. & Young!

slumber_j said...

Murphy's a nice guy. I lived in LA years ago and used to go up to a friend's parents' house on Mulholland Drive to play drums with my friend and his sister (who'd played Nancy Oleson on LHOP, weirdly) and a revolving cast of friends of theirs--one of whom was James Murphy. I like to think that makes me the first drummer for LCD Sound System. Which is probably why I get laid a lot.

Or maybe it's because I'm married. Anyway, before it was pointed out to me that I was once their drummer, the main impression I had of the band was that I couldn't stand their name. "Daft Punk" is even worse, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Murphy is a hack who has yet to release a consistently good album.


That's a sixties or seventies mindset. The whole notion of the "album" is long dead.

elmer said...

In a related vein, as an old man I am fairly sick of the canned music that assaults me in every retail or service establishment. For some reason business proprieters think that loud screaming music must accompany my every shopping experience, perhaps they fear that customers might get bored or feel insecure if they don;t have a racous soundtrack while contemplating which toilet paper to buy.

Just last week I was in Amarillo at an historic hotel, trying to negotiate the crappy parking garage. The hotel was blasting loud music into the empty garage instead of providing a valet to help me unload and park.

And it's a mix of all musical styles, so everyone feels included. I realize now what it is : "Diverzak".

Oh how we mocked Muzak back in the day. This is our punishment.

Anonymous said...

The Human League was one of the early HBD bands

Ultra-geek-ref: They took their names from an Earth political alliance in the sci-fi board game STARFORCE.

Anonymous said...

And in other news, Diplo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKaL7WL-onI

Anonymous said...

Daft Punk, one of the biggest bands of the last two decades are two white guys making dance music.

A worldwide hit from the late 90s:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9MszVE7aR4

A big hit two years ago:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NV6Rdv1a3I

E. Rekshun said...

SS: I saw U2 open for J. Geils on the same tour in San Francisco in Feb-March 1982. Intel flew me up for a job interview the next day, so I drove up to San Francisco in the pouring rain to see U2. I didn't get the job.

In 2000, as I graduated w/ my MBA from the University of FL, Intel flew me out to San Diego three times over a 6-week period for a series of interviews at their Poway, facility. It was looking so promising that I even looked at a few apartments while I was out there. I, too, didn't get the job.

Oh, and I saw the Boston-based band, J. Geils, in Boston in 1982.

E. Rekshun said...

@ben tillman: I saw the J. Geils band open for the Stones in Munich in 1982. They were surprisingly good.

Wow!

I was having a discussion w/ a "millenial" at work the other day. She was complaining that tickets to Beyonce are $200. I told her I just spent $200 each for two excellent seats for Fleetwood Mac in mid-December in Tampa. Of course, she wasn't familiar w/ F.Mac, and now I think she thinks I'm an old fogey.

Oh, and I just caught an excellent Pink Floyd tribute band last night!

peterike said...

The most essential band right now is The Mountain Goats.

Isn't that Vampire Weekend's whole shtick? A crew of Ralph Lauren catalog models strumming tropical/Afropop lite-funk with their well-manicured fingers?

Possibly, but nevertheless their recent "Modern Vampires of the City" is a pop classic on the level of "Sgt. Pepper's" or "Rumours".

Anonymous said...

WTF is wrong with people. Black people enjoy and listen to white artists all the time. This is a pointless article.

David Hume said...

How do you justify yourself to yourself in the morning with non sequiturs like that?

ben tillman said...

@ben tillman: "I saw the J. Geils band open for the Stones in Munich in 1982. They were surprisingly good."

Wow!

I was having a discussion w/ a "millenial" at work the other day. She was complaining that tickets to Beyonce are $200. I told her I just spent $200 each for two excellent seats for Fleetwood Mac in mid-December in Tampa. Of course, she wasn't familiar w/ F.Mac, and now I think she thinks I'm an old fogey.


I bought my ticket for 30 marks ($13) from a scalper.

The Voice of The Urban Reconquista. said...

Wrong. Most Hipsters are recolonizing the black Ghetto

Anonymous said...

I had no idea Big Head Todd was half-Korean, although I knew about Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Another half-Korean is the singer from Hoobastank. That's a sample of 3 from a very uncommon and specific ethnicity, in one particular field.

Viktor Tsoi, from the band Kino, which was one of the biggest bands in the Soviet Union, was half-Korean.

Anonymous said...

Daft Punk, one of the biggest bands of the last two decades are two white guys making dance music.

Daft Punk is a ripoff of an electronic band from the 70s/80s called Space. Down to the helmets and everything. Daft Punk, and a lot of the electronic music these days, are derivative of that older electronic music from that period.

Here is Space from the late 70s:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_ukfGAd8T4

Anonymous said...

The most essential band right now is The Mountain Goats.

The Mountain Goats are another terrible, boring band like Grizzly Bear that a segment of lame SWPLs are into.

Boring bands like them are why electronic music like LCD Soundsystem came back into vogue.

pablo cruise said...

Wait, what? Tell me one white group blacks have ever listened to, say after 1970.

Anonymous said...

I knew James Murphy slightly in the early 1990s. He was the sound man for Six Finger Satellite, an aggressive punk-Kraftwerk-inspired band on Sub Pop.

Murphy was a bit of a loser then, a bright guy who hadn't succeeded in music like his friends.

But your interpretation of Murphy is correct. Part of his lore is that he turned down a writing gig at Seinfeld prior to the show taking off. He is quite bright and does not have a day job. Instead he manages a group of middle aged straight white guys who DJ around the world and occasionally release albums with the house musicians on Murphy's label. It's probably no surprise, but it pays very well to fly around the world and spin disks for girls in their 20s and gay men. You just have to say the right things and, I kid you not, occasionally get photographed in a sexual ambiguous manner with another man. Murphy dates a model.

Anonymous said...

Off Topic: Elvis Costello and The Roots on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon performing the song High Fidelity from the album Get Happy!!:
http://vimeo.com/72230933

And the song Black & White World, also from the album Get Happy!!:
http://vimeo.com/69806280

-meh

C. Van Carter said...

"Tell me one white group blacks have ever listened to, say after 1970"

A lot of black people secretly liked Bon Jovi.

David Davenport said...

... I told her I just spent $200 each for two excellent seats for Fleetwood Mac in mid-December in Tampa. Of course, she wasn't familiar w/ F.Mac, and now I think she thinks I'm an old fogey.

She is correct.

One theory I read on the decline of the Big Band Era was that changes in tax laws, for example requiring licences for establishments with couples dancing, and maybe the social security tax, made it impossible to operate Big Bands and dance halls.

Another theory is that a smaller number of amplified guitars could make as much sound as a larger number of unamplified horn blowers, thereby saving labor costs. ... An efficiency improvement.

ogunsiron said...

Anonymous said...
WTF is wrong with people. Black people enjoy and listen to white artists all the time. This is a pointless article.
-----
Which white artists have significant followings among black people in the usa or elsewhere, apart from maybe artists like Timberlake ?

The way I remember things, when I was a kid in the 80s it was still common for black people to listen to white artists. In fact, the global music heavy hitters were mostly White, though the king of kings was Michael Jackson. Still, the teen magazines in the African country that I grew up in were filled with pictures of global White celebrities and musicians.

I doubt that this still happens in the age of Beyoncé, JayZ, etc.

At this moment the only White mega-celebrity I can think of who would probably draw a huge crowd of blacks is Céline Dion. She's pretty much sui generis though and can't be compared to anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that song is awful. I didn't make it past 1:30. A bunch of monotonous dit-dit-dit-dit-dit-dit for a whole minute, back by a boring mechanical drum track, and then the pompous-sounding singer comes in with a dull and unoriginal melody.

Oswald Spengler said...

"The way I remember things, when I was a kid in the 80s it was still common for black people to listen to white artists. In fact, the global music heavy hitters were mostly White, though the king of kings was Michael Jackson. Still, the teen magazines in the African country that I grew up in were filled with pictures of global White celebrities and musicians."

--------------------------------------------------------------------

In retrospect, it's looking more and more like the 1980s were the last full decade that white rock music was a culturally dominant force in America. There was a little carryover into the 1990s with the grunge movement as a last hurrah for white rock. However, by the late 1990s, the writing was on the wall.

Steve Sailer said...

The white lead singer of the English Beat became a Greenpeace executive.

Anonymous said...

I forget which of their contemporaries said it, but a '90s alt rocker shot down the suggestion that Pearl Jam was alt rock. He said, "They're the Buffalo Springfield of the '90s". He had a point.

Which probably makes Stone Temple Pilots the Paul Revere & the Raiders of the 90s. Anyway the circle around Nirvana -- hailing from flanneled logging town Aberdeen -- hated the Seattle-suburban Green River/Pearl Jam set, deriding them as "jocks" per the classic minimalist grunge vernacular. The reason we lack a go-to mental shorthand of 90s music is their near universal plagiarism of 70s arena rock, or 70s dance/funk, or 70s easy listening. In the 90s' wake we saw the plastic crooner revival (N-Sync, Britney Spears, Beyonce, Bieber, whoever's on the Disney Channel this year) and the surge of corporate hip-hop, so the remaining actual musicians in the last decade have had to split off from each other to the point of imitating fairly obscure pre-FM genres like Krautrock or dub. I did find it amusing that "peterike" admits to preferring Vampire Weekend over Skrewdriver.