Sunday, March 15, 2009

Breakfast At Sulimay's: A Critic's Choice

Breakfast At Sulimay's comes via New Yorker pop-music critic Sasha Frere-Jones. He took my "Ask The Author" question last week and what a thrill it was to see my name appear in that venerable font (I'm not worthy!):

Isn't music criticism just a veiled attempt to create an exclusive canon of what's cool?

David Kootnikoff
Hong Kong, China

SFJ: I thought it was an overt attempt to get a seat in the balcony.

There might have been a canon of cool—Velvets, Miles, Rakim, etc—but it seems compromised now by the light-speed news cycle and a fragmented audience. That is: If all your friends are nuts about Conor Oberst, you might achieve coolness by being a J. Geils freak, but that won’t play as cool in the midst of genuine J. Geils fans. Some rap fans try to outdo each other by finding C-list Southern rappers to champion over Jay-Z, though they will likely fall back on Jay-Z if their uncle asks them to name a rapper who is genuinely as good as [fill in blank with sixties jazz legend]. Consensus cool, give or take a “Paper Planes” and a Radiohead, is so rare that it feels almost accidental.

Ha! I take his point - terms like "cool" or "hip" have become somewhat obsolete, but the truth remains that so much of what critics do is reinforce their own prejudices. I like what Globe & Mail critic Carl Wilson suggests in Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste - one person's cup of tea is another person's cup of meat. No one can understand/like everything - at least let's be transparent in our preferences.

As Ann says in Breakfast At Sulimay's - "I like it, yup, I like it a lot."

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