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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Another Stupid Pitchfork Review

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I haven't exactly been vague on the subject of my distate for Pitchfork.com. I still visit regularly, though, so I must hate myself or something. Anyway, I've complained heartily about their overuse of hyperbole, but here I would like to complain about an offense even more egregious: Pitchfork staff writing reviews based on a narrative the author has already pre-set, and not based on the actual music the writer is reviewing.
My case in point today: Andrew Ryce's review of The Weeknd's Echoes of Silence. Ryce gave the album an 8.1 out of 10, a score with which I actually agree. It is the content of his review that disturbs me. My complaint revolves around Mr. Ryce's description of the song "Initiation."
Says Ryce, " It's (previous song "XO/The Host") transparently deceptive, and it slips into "Initiation", a cringe-inducingly detailed tale of drug-fueled kidnapping and gang-rape told through the part-grunted, part-rapped exhortations of an inhuman goblin." Man, that is some lurid detail there. What a shocking description of a song. It's like he's talking about a snuff film or something.
The Weeknd's 2011 mixtape trilogy is filled with some pretty depraved content. The protagonist, if one can possibly call him that, does drugs all day, engages in meaningless sex, thinks he is the greatest person in the world, and hates himself. He gets ticked at the girl he usually sleeps with on Thursday for calling him on Wednesday. When he finally consents to come over, he tells her to let him keep his eyes closed so that he can imagine he is with someone else. He's cold, and he's a huge jerk. Actually, at times, most people are. But just being a self-obsessed jerk is quite far from kidnapping someone and raping them.
If Echoes of Silence revolves around a theme, it's that girls who mean nothing to the protagonist throw themselves at him because he is famous, but couldn't care less about him, while the girls he does care about don't love him, and love other men (which is, of course, ironic). By the end of EOS, he actually seems to have found love, singing in "Next," "I got my baby waiting home/She been to good too let that go." But outside of this one woman near the end, he is extrememly jaded on women and the way they perceive him. On "Initiation," he sings to a girl who is tagging along and trying to get with him, "I got a test for you/you say you want my heart/well baby you can have it all/there's just one thing that I need from you/it's to meet my boys/I got a lot of boys." The word "boys" can have at least two meanings here.  The first is literal, and means that he is asking the girl to sleep with all of the guys in his crew. The second, and more heavily implied, is that his "boys" are the copious amounts and varieties of drugs he has been taking for the majority of the trilogy. The lyrics, imagery, and tone of the song all jibe with this interpretation.  Both are disgusting, and it's obvious that what the protagonist really wants is for this girl to just go away.  She never gets kidnapped, and she never gets raped.  Whatever horrible, messed up things that happen in this song are consensual, and reflect the awful psychologist's dream of this three-part mixtape series.
 If you've made it this far into my diatribe, you know that description I just gave was long and actually required me to think outside of just composing an eye-catching sentence. But Ryce heard the song, noticed the dark, agressive vibe, picked up on a few words, took the meaning he wanted and ran with it. In doing so, he actually undersells the depth of an album he is attempting to recommend.
So to use your own tactics once again, Pitchfork: you suck.

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