It is a long-standing joke in American society that the most massively absurd creations were certainly "designed by committee". While we're pulling from axiomatic folk wisdom we could easily invoke the "too many cooks in the kitchen" clause here as well (or some variation thereon which involves the spoiling of soup). So if one too many well intentioned and skilled chefs is a problem, imagine the trouble America would be in with, not one, but a whole boardroom full of souless marketdroid hollywood-wannabe music industry executives! With that introduction I present to you America's newest, cleanest, prettiest, yet angsty teen "rockers": LI\/\KIN PARK! A band designed by committee if there ever was one.

    The guidebook for our analysis of LI\/\KIN PARK (yes, it's officially spelled with a backwards "N", in starkly creative contrast to that other goatee metal-rap band that's spelled with a backwards "R") will be their massively popular hit single "In The End". But to set the stage I need talk about the following.

    There are bands and musicians in the world that change things. That rise up out of the swirling depths of the music being played by millions all around the globe. From time to time, like an evolutionary leap, a spark will ignite something special and a musician or a band will start to make a sound that makes everything that came before seem irrelevant. With some notable exceptions, the music industry often makes almost no money off of bands like this because they demand, and receive, respect and admiration from their audiences through channels which the industry doesn't control.

    The music industry, in response to genuine musical evolution, then sets off creating clones, and clones of clones, and clones of clones of clones, until all the credibility has bas been washed away and all of the profits wind up in the bank account of some portly CEO named "Clive" who rarely comes in from his golf game to sit in his cathedral like office at Mega Records Inc. To achieve his prosperity, Clive employs an army of vacuous bubble-headed, we-decide-what-the-new-cool-is, don't-mess-with-my-focus-group(or-my-Porche), stair-climber-in-the-office-riding, industry executives. It is these same people who brought you Kenny G, O-Town, Christina Aguilera, and their venomous brothers in television who keep insisting on bringing you "Big Brother" even though no-one has watched it since 1999. "Well if we could just 'retool' it a little and make it more like 'Survivor', or 'Charlie's Angels' or 'Springer' or any other show that anyone ever watched". It is this group of souless bastards that controls MTV and your FM dial, and their latest "if it were only a little more like..." financial bonanza is called LI\/\KIN PARK.

    Let's imagine the committee meeting together:

"Market research indicates that the lucrative teen girl market is already saturated with N*SYNC records, we need a new product, one that sparkles on MTV. What are our hottest acts right now?"

"Backstreet Boys, Limp Bizkit and Creed"

"But to create a combination that sinister, we'd have to genetically engineer some cute teenage boys that could be both remote controlled by skilled choreographers AND 'rock out' convincingly. Speaking of rocking out, I got the new Bryan Adams CD 'Mellow Gold' and turned it up loud! Why my cute little fru fru poodle "Freddie Prinze" must have thought I was going to start headbanging! Whatever that is." *

{hearty laughs of agreement from around the room}

"I agree that the new Bryan Adams CD 'rocks hard' but over at CBS records all their 'rockin' bands wear scary masks and have misspelled names. We'll have to use those touches to compete in the credibility sniffing 18-23 year old male market"

"Brilliant, so we'll get some band of good looking teenagers off the street, or just hire models, and put a backwards "N" in their name! The cyclotron electronic name generator suggests "LI\/\KIN PARK!"

"We are SO. DAMNED. BRILLIANT!"
{applause}
"Now I've gotta run to my herbal enhanced Ty-Bo acupress-a-massage. We'll talk."

    I expect that you think I am exaggerating. As evidence I present to you the song "In The End" by LI\/\KIN PARK.

    The song begins with a piano melody, which segues into a hilariously serious rap. Now, we're not talking about the vocal flourishes and personalized stylings of other white-boy rappers such as Eminem, or even {shudder} Fred Durst**- here we're talking about the plain... well... vanilla flavor of Vanilla Ice quality rhyming.

One thing...
I DONT know WHY
doesn't even matter...
how HARD you TRY

    It sounds like Karaoke and it goes on for ages like that. All the while there's an intentionally creepy high-pitched guitar line wallowing about. This is lifted straight from Limp Bizkit who, in turn, stole it from Korn. Speaking of Korn, my favoite thing about LI\/\KIN PARK is that in their videos they do the little Korn dance! They bend way over so their guitars are hanging nearly to the floor, then they bob up and down without ever standing up. I love it! What is this, the 60s? When people actually stole dance moves from each other. I love it. Ha ha ha.

    Okay so we've made our way past the limp verse, and into the thick bellowing chorus. Pretty generic fare, I guess, and not much to complain about. You could call it Creed, except with the voice of a 16 year old, but this is wholly uninteresting when compared to the crowning moment of the song: the vocal bridge. Do you remember in that committee meeting that one of the blondes mentioned N*SYNC?

"Too Crazy!" you say?
"They'd never go that far!" you object?

    For your listening pleasure I submit the following audio clip ( http://mattreynolds.com/sub1/reviews/intheend_criticalexcerpt.mp3 ). It's amazingly shameless, a special little "he's the cute one" vocal solo so overtly in the style of N*SYNC that I wonder if they didn't have to rent one of the boys' handlers to produce this bit. Thrash Metal, indeed. It's not that I'm against genre-bending, it's just that the hopeless trend chasing is pure comedy. I imagine the poor lads in the band probably cringed when it was forced on them like Dilbert cringes when the PHB want to add a new "feature" to a project. If you haven't listened to that clip yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. If that doesn't make you laugh, I can't imagine what would.

    LI\/\KIN PARK. It's orig-i-fortified and cred-i-liscious!


* Note that credit for the Bryan Adams joke goes to a non-noder friend.
** I can't believe that I just accused someone of having less credibility than Fred Durst. Something is deeply wrong here.
Thank You to everyone who submitted ideas for hardlinks in the innovation / credibility paragraph.
Thank You, as well, to Linkin Park fans for tolerating a critical point of view, and not firebombing my house.


Orange Julius: You are wonderful! Thank you for a great writup and for reminding people to enjoy music. That's an important thing to remember in the face of critisism in a performance/subjective/art arena. As for the critisism itself, however, would you argue that the rapping here is, in fact, of high quality?

Let's imagine the committee meeting together:

"Members of the board, the explosion of rap music gives us a unique opportunity to exploit the genre and make buckets of money. However, I've noticed that these rap artists are black, and I think our suburban white demographic has a hard time relating. Any thoughts?"

"Ooo! Frat boy antics are really big right now! I mean, remember how big Porky's was! There's a whole slew of movies just like that right now. Bachelor Party, Revenge of the Nerds - no one seems to be getting sick of horny white boy antics."

"Hmmm. Crazy white boys performing rap music. I'm not sure the public will buy it. They don't have... Simmons! What's that called that the white folks don't have?"

"Street cred."

"Yes, they don't have 'street cred', thank you, Simmons. How do we get around that?"

"What if we have them rap about prank phone calls and girls and partying? That'll appeal to the white kids, won't it?"

"I've got an even better idea! We can even include elements of punk rock!"

"Woah, hold on chief! Rock and rap together? I think you have flipped your lid, Mr. Wilson!"

"No, get this. We take all those ideas, find a bunch of silly looking Jewish kids from New York, spin a few rhymes, add some punk rock, slap it on a lunch box and sell it. It's synergy, baby!"

"Hmmmm. I like it!"

And thus, the Beastie Boys were born.

And as you reach to click the downvote button, let me explain that this is exactly what the above write-up could describe fifteen years from now. The Beastie Boys were hated by critics, seen as a joke by rappers, seen as a target by angry punk rock fans, and branded as imitators. Fifteen years later they're seen as innovators - one of the most influental groups of their time.

Is that to say that I'm comparing them to Linkin Park? No. It's just that the above write-up enrages me so much so that even though I'm not a fan of Linkin Park, I find myself fundamentally disagreeing with almost everything written. Linkin Park is a band, slapped together not by the music industry, but forged by a bunch of guys with a particular blend of musical tastes. They've been together in some form or another since 1996, so let's cut the shit when we say that they're a corporate-bred mixture of the Backstreet Boys, Limp Bizkit, and Creed.

For every band that sounds like a rehash of the rap-metal genre, there's another band playing straight five-bar blues, and another guy in his basement working on some ambient techno. The success of any of these bands is due in large part to market demand. And while record companies have a large say in creating marketing demand, if fifteen million people don't want to hear your music, fifteen million people really don't want to hear your music.

Knowing full well the popularity of bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn (and as a side note, I find it absolutely hilarious that Korn is pipelinked among the artists in the "innovation/credibility" paragraph), the megaconglomerate music distributors are looking for bands that sound like them. This is nothing new. The success of The Go-Go's spawned acts like Bananarama and The Bangles. That's not to say that either of these groups were a copy of The Go-Go's. It's just that the success of the aforementioned gave similar sounding groups the opportunity to be heard.

At the same time, marketing is everything. While Weezer gets away with being geeks, the general album-buying public isn't going to buy a rap-metal album performed by a bunch of middle-aged men in lab coats. The Offspring have a whole slew of advanced degrees to their names. Do they run around with slide rules and Erlenmeyer flasks? The answer is no. And maybe that's why Linkin Park has taken off. They look slick, performing in the rain on top a weird temple in the middle of nowhere, the "cute" lead singer crooning in an unbuttoned white T-shirt. If you don't think that helps sell records, you're silly. And if you don't think the sideburns, the hip-swinging, and the gold Lemay suit helped Elvis gather 50,000,000 fans, you may be the highly suggestible type. And that was long before MTV.

The look has been the thing for as long as there's been a look. Do you think Bob Dylan wore James Dean's red windbreaker on "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" because it bolstered his artistic integrity? Or because it just looked good? The marketing department will always put a spin on artists to sell records. They made The Go-Go's look like fun-loving innocents while they snorted coke and had anonymous sex with multiple partners backstage. They'll make Linkin Park look exactly the way they need to.

And as for this trend of pre-packaged bands... it's nothing new either. The girl groups of the sixties, the soul groups of the seventies, and the one-hit wonder new wave and synth-pop bands of the eighties were all the products of record companies. Not everyone can languish in relative obscurity and critical praise like Sleater-Kinney, and a good number of people don't want to. I'd imagine Justin Timberlake would rather have millions of dollars to blow and hoards of big-breasted teenage girls to deflower than have a record everyone talked about and nobody listened to. Some people are like that.

So what's the big deal? If ten million people genuinely enjoy listening to N*Sync, who are you and I to criticize them as a bunch of no-talent throwaways? Music is for the masses, and if nothing else is subjective. The point of music is to evoke an emotion. Though "November Rain" may not be the masterpiece that, say, Mozart's "Requiem" is, it evokes far more emotion for me because of circumstances under which I heard it. The mind makes strange connections -- the smell of snow can remind you of the day in third grade when you forgot your mittens. And thus, a song can bring a tear to one person's eye while the rest of us find the words meaningless and forgettable.

And as vapid as "In The End" might be (it's supposed to be about existentialism), not everyone's like Midnight Oil -- most music doesn't have a message. One could easily argue that "In The End" has a deeper meaning that songs by "credible" arists. How about "Somebody To Love" by Jefferson Airplane? Yeah, that's got a deep, meaningful message. "Rainy Day Women #12 And #35"? I'm sure doctoral theses have been written analyzing the complex messages Bob Dylan was trying to convey with that song. And N.W.A's guide to sucking dick skit is the pinnacle of rap excellence.

If you don't like it, find something else to listen to. Buy a Dandy Warhols album. Go to a concert and throw apples at U.S. Maple. There are a million more outlets for music than Total Request Live. And while we're trashing American music (and throwing in every single trite pop culture reference we can), let's not forget that other countries are responsible for Bryan Adams, Aqua, the Spice Girls, and Ireland's answer to Wilson Phillips, The Corrs. And if you've got any question at all as to how different people can have different musical tastes, listen to "Philosophy Of The World" by The Shaggs, and try to figure out why it was Frank Zappa's third favorite album.

Sound. Original or contrived. Written by the artist or someone else. Performed by studio musicians, band members, or a computer. By lifelong friends or two guys a record company put together. Who cares? If you like it, turn it up. If you don't like it, turn it off.

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