7 For Seven: Cookie Monster Metal

The "grateful to be here" generation, k-pop fans, the failing-but-not-really-failing NYT, Lamb of God, Wagnerism, half a billion butterflies

Brady Gerber’s “7 For Seven”: Seven links on writing and creativity in your inbox by 7 AM EST every Wednesday, as well as Headphone Nation and ARTS & FARTS song reviews. 1st Friday: a new short story. 2nd and 4th Fridays: interviews with writers. Read on your browser.

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why does my aggressive cookie monster look like kermit?

It’s Wednesday morning. Oof. Here are seven things to make your week more interesting:

1. This was published right before last week’s newsletter, yet it’s still a good read: Connie Wang’s “The ‘Grateful To Be Here’ Generation.”

“We — older millennials in media who I call the Grateful Generation — saw as national protests against the World Trade Organization, Wall Street, and the Iraq War flared up and then flamed out, making leftist collective action seem like a historical magic trick and not a reliable modern tool for change. The 9-5 and Working Girl of our era was The Devil Wears Prada, which taught us that the best way to deal with a bad boss and a toxic workplace is to quit. But, if quitting wasn't an option — either because we cared too much about our careers or lacked the funds to just stop working — we were supposed to find ways to exist within the broken system, by heeding the unspoken rules, watching our own backs, and privately fixing things when they went wrong. Along the way, many of us did more than just survive a bad situation. We learned how to thrive within these environments, becoming devils ourselves.”


2. I’m not great at staying up-to-date on k-pop - I tend to get a headache from how aggressively sugary k-pop sounds to me - yet I loved T.K. Park’s deep dive into how American k-pop fans are having a moment in U.S. politics.

(If you have any great k-pop recs, please respond and let me know!)

“The symbiotic relationship between K-pop stars and their fans also makes the fandom’s transition to politics easier. Being a fan of a K-pop idol group is a more involved experience than, say, being a fan of Taylor Swift. In some ways, the experience is more like being a fan of college football. Each K-pop idol group comes with a prepackaged set of markers for its fandom: nicknames for supporters (BTS has its ARMY, Blackpink has Blink), colors (NCT’s color is “pearl neo-Champagne”), chants, and slogans. Each fandom also asks its members to take coordinated action to support its stars, like mass-calling radio stations for song requests or streaming their idol’s music at a certain time, all to help the star’s chart position. To burnish the star’s image, the fan clubs organize donation drives and volunteer services under the idol group’s name. Importantly, all of these activities are organized without meaningful leadership or hierarchy; instead, they are carried out horizontally through real-time online communication on social networks. The net result is an unusually participatory pop culture experience.”


3.
Longform Podcast - still one of, like, two podcasts I actually listen to - snagged an epic interview with the New York Times’ Executive Editor Dean Baquet.

(However you feel about Baquet probably won’t change after listening to him talk - he is exactly who you think he is, for better or worse - yet it’s absolutely fascinating to actually hear him talk about the past near-decade of leading the New York Times, Obama and Trump, and what he wants to do next.)

"I always tried to question what is the difference between what is truly tradition and core, and what is merely habit. A lot of stuff we think are core, are just habits. The way we write newspaper stories, that’s not core, that’s habit. I think that’s the most important part about leading a place that’s going through dramatic change and even generational change. You’ve got to say, here’s what’s not going to change. This is core. This is who we are. Everything else is sort of up for grabs."

(Related, I don’t love the blog-like, finger-wagging tone of this essay - the first few paragraphs make me cringe - yet in the end, it’s a good read: Columbia Journalism Review’s “Why the left can’t stand the New York Times.”)


4. For Vulture, I interviewed Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe; he did a very cool deep dive with me into his career and some essential ‘80s and early ‘90s Richmond math rock bands that influenced him, more of which below!

(And yes, Blythe really did confirm: The Cookie Monster is metal.)


5. This weekend, I submitted my book proposal (!) for a 33 1/3, and I found Michael T. Fournier’s 2014 guide to writing a book proposal very insightful, not only about writing a book proposal but also in general how to pitch a story; Just saying, “well, I like the album” is not enough.

Your book needs to sell. The pitch process is wrapped in romance, to the point, sometimes, of distraction – I can’t think of another group of people more sentimental than music fans. We’re all the way we are because our lives were changed, somehow, by some album or band. (For me, it was the Sex Pistols.) It makes perfect sense, then, to try and pay back whatever debts we feel we incurred through writing about that band or album.

“A lot of the pitches that I read never get beyond this point, though. Certainly there’s something to be said for simple appreciation, but there needs to be a hook. I don’t think that “(album) is seminal” or “(album) is underappreciated” or even “(album) is a product of a certain time and place” do the job, because pretty much any record you can think of is a product of a certain time or place, and is either seminal, underappreciated, or both. You need to have a better reason than these.”


6. I’m still very excited for Alex Ross’ Wagnerism, and Ross recently did a blog post going over his writing process (it took him 10 years to write!) and previewing the main topics of his book.

(I wish nonfiction book writers would do this more often; there’s this temptation to want to believe in the mystery of how a book just comes out of nowhere, fully fleshed out and perfect with no edits, but I would argue that talking first about the unsexy parts about writing - how you did your outline, how did you actually do your research, the biggest void your book wasn’t able to fill, etc - actually makes the work more enjoyable and, in the end, relatable. Also, frankly, in this case, the difference between Wagner and Wagnerism is fascinating, and it’s an important distinction that all culture writers should consider.)

“I end the book by proposing that the monstrous complexity of that connection [Hitler’s love of Wagner] is what makes Wagner a perennially relevant case. Working through the problems he has created is the kind of labor we must always undertake when art collides with reality, as it inevitably does. The fundamental error is in assuming that art and reality are separate to begin with.”


7. And finally, this calming video from Sonia Feldman’s Poem of the Week newsletter: Half a billion butterflies, waking up all at the same time.

And so …


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HEADPHONE NATION

(think global)

Terbeschikkingstelling (Groningen, Netherlands): Spider-jazz

Joeseph Hill (Wuppertal, Germany): Beat beat beats

HANS HU$TLE (Munich, Germany): Very happy to go from the new HAIM to this EP; the latest in "Europeans daydreaming about LA"-core

Genetic Disease (Mexico City): Interesting deathcore with one of the better drummers I've heard in awhile

COLOR SQUAD Records (Chernobyl, Ukraine): All the best The 1975 electronic beep-boops, remixed by Jamie xx

… we carry on …


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ARTS & FARTS

Song “reviews” … listen to all available tracks on the ARTS & FARTS Spotify playlist

The Replacements - “Rock ‘N’ Roll Ghost” (1989)

A perfect song from a perfectly imperfect album.

Honor Role - “Livin’ in the ‘60s” (1982)

Of all the bands Randy and I talked about in our interview, this was my favorite discovery. This entire album is six-minutes long.

Wilco - “Unlikely Japan” (2003)

The moodier twin to another perfect song. What I didn’t realize until now was that this was recorded a few years before, since this was released a few years after.

Richard Wagner - “Tristan And Isolde: Prelude” (1865)

Speaking of Wagnerism, I hope Ross explores the near-perfect use of Wagner in Melancholia, which I watched for the first time over the weekend. Not a fun film, but a very good one.

HAIM - “Hallelujah” (2019)

Technically a bonus track off their great new album, yet this is still my favorite version of HAIM. Women In Music Pt. III feels very much like a companion to last year’s Father of the Bride, which Danielle Haim sings on. Washed Millennial-core, or “Let’s move to LA”-core.

Onward!

-Brady


Brady writes about music (and other things) and draws cartoons. You can find him in New York MagazineRolling StoneInterviewPitchforkMcSweeney’sElectric LiteratureLiterary Hub, and more. Check out his website, where you’ll find his reading list this year, his latest features, and more ways to connect. Brady is a freelancer for hire who can do interviews, reporting, criticism, and playlists - get in touch if you need a writer.

Read this and all past newsletters online here.

All cartoons by Brady Gerber. Headphone Nation logo by Sophie Wiener. ARTS & FARTS logo by Simon Morrow.

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