Published Jan 02, 20145. Fake Onion Sites
There's a reason The Onion gets so much attention. It's because they hire some of the funniest people in the world, work them mercilessly to produce top-tier content, and routinely pull of hilarious, larger than life stories. Unfortunately, 2013 has seen a rise in Onion knock-off sites that are less clear about their intentions. It's not exactly a viable long-term plan — they might have one article go viral with people thinking its real, but where can they go from there? Equalizer is one of the more annoying sites, having spread the irritating rumour that mysterious dubstep performer Burial was in fact an alter-ego of Four Tet. Then some site called Wunderground posted a story about how party-rocking ex-punk Steve Aoki had a wake-up call about his bad music and apologized to the public for pretending to be a real DJ when it was instead a long-running performance art project and a joke. We wanted both of things to be true, but they weren't. So screw those sites.
It's hard to believe that we still have to make this request in 2013, but can we chill out on the racism? From that one old rockabilly dude who wore blackface to raise controversy, and in turn draw attention to a concert, to Mastodon's questionable Thanksgiving shirt, a lot of white dudes were grabbing headlines for all the wrong reasons. Kanye West got in trouble for his Confederate flag shirt, as well as his alleged anti-Semitism. Lorde's breakthrough hit "Royals" was interpreted as a critique of black culture, as was Lily Allen's "Hard Out Here." A lot of gross conversations were had ("Racism's over! Haven't you seen White Chicks?") that could've been avoided if people would have just thought before they spoke or designed "controversial" T-shirts. And especially before they reached for the dark face paint.
What does it mean to be "authentic"? What does it mean to be real? From "real rock'n'roll" (think the Black Keys) to "real hip-hop" (fast-rapping performers continue to fuel a "return to lyricism" narrative from gangsta-hating critics) to "real Amish banjo feel-good music with lots of shouting" (Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, other dudes in suspenders playing rinky-dink folk music), there are still legions of artists who are offering something "real" and "authentic," and turning music into a Portlandia sketch in the process. No matter the intention, the whole "return to authenticity" thing needs to go. If your whole persona hinges on you being the opposite of someone else, you're not offering much substance at all.
2. Gimmicky Album Roll-Outs
It's tough to get attention in the vast cesspool that is the internet, but the way artists are getting attention for their new records is quickly playing itself out. Shrouding their releases in mystery, artists like Daft Punk revealed their albums through slow, calculated information leaks. Boards of Canada went a step further, releasing one-off 12-inches and insanely nerdy web codes to announce their album, while Arcade Fire tagged the entire world and wore sneaky costumes to announce Reflektor. Vampire Weekend announced their LP in the New York Times crossword section. Jay Z's entire album campaign was just a giant ad campaign for those enormous fake iPhones, while Beyoncé's self-titled album release was gimmicky because it had no gimmick — it just hit iTunes with no forewarning.
All of that was fine, we guess, but let's leave this trend as a relic of 2013. Otherwise, artists will keep trying to outdo each other to the point where we'll have to go through our lives with a new level of music-fan paranoia. If we put this free Cialis spam email into Google Translate, will it announce the new Broken Social Scene album? Did that crosswalk sign just flash a QR code to stream a new Fucked Up single? Should we spend hours watching the Weather Channel just in case there are details about a secret new Outkast LP? What if your dog is sniffing at that patch of mud because someone buried a brand new Burial 12-inch in there? What if someone implanted a microchip with a new U2 release date under your skin? Dig it out! Dig it out!
1. So Much Whining
Life's not always the greatest, and most people aren't navigating their day-to-day existence with optimal satisfaction levels. Try as they might to find sweet solace in the music world and its surrounding culture, things still tend to come up short. Music fans whine about how things used to be better, before the Miley Cyruses and Kanye Wests of the world came along (easily two of the year's most hated artists, despite both releasing solid albums — Bangerz haterz back off). Small-time musicians whine about being excluded from the industry's elite, while those in the industry complain about the industry they're in. Music writers complain about everything they can come up with in curmudgeonly thinkpieces and bitchy lists (guilty as charged), then get at each other's throats on Twitter. Nameless poseurs utilize comment sections to trash everyone and everything. The music fan's internet has turned into a long, painful family road trip: we're all crammed in here together, and getting sicker and sicker of each other by the minute. If we don't calm down and smarten up, Dad's gonna turn around and it'll all be ruined. Here's hoping for a butthurt-free 2014.