#076: How’s It Going?
I’m Todd L. Burns, and welcome to Music Journalism Insider, a newsletter about music journalism. I highlight some of the best stuff I hear, read, and watch every week; publish news about the industry; and interview writers, scholars, and editors about their work. My goal is to share knowledge, celebrate great work, and expand the idea of what music journalism is—and where it happens. Questions, comments, concerns? You can reach me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today in the newsletter: Interviews with cultural critic Gerrick Kennedy; gospel music expert Claudrena Harold; and the editors behind the book Ten Cities: Clubbing in Nairobi, Cairo, Kyiv, Johannesburg, Berlin, Naples, Luanda, Lagos, Bristol, Lisbon, 1960–Present. Plus a whole lot of links. Like, tons of them! But first…
How’s It Going?
Panama Jackson invited a number of writers to celebrate Black music in advance of the opening of the National Museum of African American Music
Miranda Reinert on whether what is happening right now on TikTok can be called music journalism
Alexander Rudenshiold looks at why heavier music feels more niche than ever
Phil Cho writes about comic book superhero art in dub album covers
LB Cantrell interviews MusicRow’s Sherod Robertson about ten years at the magazine
Helena Fitzgerald ruminates on the holidays via Phoebe Bridgers’ Christmas EP
In celebration of i-D's 40th anniversary, co-founder Terry Jones has been making collages from old covers of the magazine
Brady Gerber interviews Vulture writer Justin Curto
Q&A: Gerrick Kennedy
Gerrick Kennedy is a cultural critic, journalist, and author. He penned Parental Discretion Is Advised: The Rise of N.W.A and the Dawn of Gangsta Rap and is currently at work on an exploration of the life and career of Whitney Houston. He covered music and pop culture from 2009 to 2019 at the Los Angeles Times. In this excerpt from our interview, Gerrick talks about where he sees music journalism headed.
I think the rise of Substack and podcasts is the clearest indicator of where music journalism is headed. Writers are walking away from major publications in search of the autonomy and power they lost (or never had), and this was before the pandemic forced us all into reevaluating how we live and work. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about where we are headed, as much of our work is dependent upon an industry that is also trying to navigate the pandemic as well.
What would you like to see more of in music journalism right now?
I’d love to see more publishers invest in the scholarship of Black music written by Black writers, that also extends to wanting to see publications invest in Black and brown writers. And give them the space to grow and promote them the same way you promote your white writers. The scarcity of Black and brown music journalists and critics at major publications is appalling and we all notice it.
Some Final Year End Things
Jason Gross rounds up 2020 in music journalism
Andre Gee finds that there were plenty of musicians who toured like it was a normal year in 2020
Patricia Cohen crunches the numbers on what the live music shutdown has meant for performers
Joe Coscarelli writes about the year of the stan
The Guardian explains why we should listen to birds [h/t Marc Weidenbaum]
Name 3 Songs has on rock music stylist Payton Dale to talk about the oversexualization of women in pop
Jeff Poggi, the co-CEO of premium audio company McIntosh Group, was a recent guest on Masters of Business
Q&A: Claudrena Harold
Claudrena Harold is Professor of African American and African Studies and History at the University of Virginia. In addition to having written and edited several books, she has written, produced, and co-directed eight short films with the artist Kevin Everson as part of a larger project on Black student activism at UVA. I got in touch to talk about her latest book: When Sunday Comes: Gospel Music in the Soul and Hip-Hop Eras. In this excerpt from our interview, Claudrena explains what it’s all about.
When Sunday Comes tells the story of gospel music’s commercial growth and sonic evolution during the last three decades of the twentieth century. Spanning the years between Reverend James Cleveland’s founding of the Gospel Music Workshop of America in 1968 and Kirk Franklin’s meteoric rise to superstardom in 1994, my book examines gospel music’s commercial triumphs, theological tensions, and political assertions within the larger framework of the socioeconomic and cultural transformations taking place in post-civil rights black America. It spotlights how larger political developments in the United States, such as the rise and fall of the Black Power movement as well as the emergence and growing power of the Christian Right/Moral Majority, shaped the music and politics of black gospel performers like James Cleveland, Andraé Crouch, Shirley Caesar, the Clark Sisters, Al Green, Take 6, the Winans, and the Sounds of Blackness.
Stuff You Gotta Watch
Larry Levan was a groundbreaking DJ and remixer, worshipped for his marathon sets at The Paradise Garage in ‘80s New York—yet he died in poverty in 1992, addicted to heroin and without a home, or even his record collection. In the shoestring documentary Larry's Garage, director Corrado Rizza pieces together the sad story of a still influential figure.
The doc hinges around a single, previously unreleased interview, filmed in a club in 1989. In it Levan is serious, smart and considered—a striking presence, and rather the opposite of the fun-times raconteur remembered by his friends. The rest plays out via talking heads (David Morales, Nicky Siano, Patricia Field, many more) who don’t always have much to offer beyond their admiration.
Levan was clearly much-loved, and his geniality was repaid in kind; when he'd somehow lost all of his records in the meagre years after The Garage, for instance, Danny Krivit went round the local record stores and bought them back for him. But with little in the way of period music or archival footage (only a few photos of The Garage have surfaced), the doc struggles to convey the magic of the era and the power of Levan's influence. That said, serious heads and house historians will certainly get something out of it.
Resident Advisor got a redesign
Sarah Hallam launched Music & Beans
7 Days of Sound, a digital event celebrating women and non-binary folks in music tech, will take take place later this month
Tone Glow has a new Patreon
A new book collecting ‘90s hip-hop magazine Elements Magazine is out now
A talk celebrating the publication of Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures of Mark Fisher is taking place on Thursday
The Royal Philharmonic Society has launched a Young Classical Writers Prize
Adam Neely and Dadabots made an infinite bass solo together
Noisey profiles the struggles of Black folks who have participated in the punk, goth, and alternative scenes
Sound Field explores Jersey Club
Rick Beato discusses and plays examples of how Beethoven may have heard music
Two Minute Music Theory talks about music in Classical Greece
Sunday Review Time?
Q&A: Johannes Hossfeld-Etyang, Joyce Nyairo, and Florian Sievers
Johannes Hossfeld-Etyang, Joyce Nyairo, and Florian Sievers are the team behind the new book Ten Cities: Clubbing in Nairobi, Cairo, Kyiv, Johannesburg, Berlin, Naples, Luanda, Lagos, Bristol, Lisbon, 1960–Present. The book is a massive international project that explores the sounds of nightlife in cities previously been ignored in clubbing histories. For anyone into electronic music, it’s an essential read. In this excerpt from our interview, the authors offer some advice for anyone looking to write a music book right now.
Florian Sievers: I feel unfit to give anybody tips who intends to write or is actually working on a proper music book about a genre or artist right now. But me personally, since these are interesting if not bumpy times, I am mostly interested in reading books that aim to detect the inmost force which binds the world. Which means that explicitly politically and socially conscious books, music or otherwise, are definitely more appealing to me lately than just entertaining books. And I have the feeling that many people feel and think so at the moment.
Johannes Hossfeld-Etyang: I would encourage them to ensure that they still publish books, with real publishers. To my mind, a book is still the best medium to engage with substantial content and to make sure it is archived.
Joyce Nyairo: Read widely and collaborate with other writers (that’s two tips, not one)!
A Cause Worth Supporting
From Joyce Nyairo:
African Digital Heritage is a non-profit that works at the intersection of culture and technology. They undertake research with the aim of increasing access to cultural content, increasing engagement and reinterpretation of cultural pasts and archiving partly through reconstruction of sites and landscapes. This work is critical for a continent that is still trying to reclaim its stolen and forgotten pasts.
Check out all of the causes highlighted by the folks I’ve interviewed.
Current Musicology is accepting submissions for an upcoming issue
The Columbia Music Scholarship Conference is accepting submissions
Jazz and Culture is looking for a Book and Media Reviews Editor; email email@example.com for more info
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The Closing Credits
Thanks for reading! Full disclosure: My day job is at uDiscover Music, a branded content online magazine owned by Universal Music. This newsletter is not affiliated or sponsored in any way by Universal, and any links that relate to the work of my department will be clearly marked. Feel free to reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter, it’s @JournalismMusic. Until next time…