Homophobia, White-Supremacism and “Disco Sucks!”

The first album I ever bought on my own, with my allowance, was Mezzanine, by Massive Attack. I never really thought much of that until recently.

And the main kinds of music I really loved when I was that age, that kicked off my being into music in general, that set my love of music in motion, were industrial music, gothy-stuff, trip-hop (and the pretty broad range of electro-pop that was classified as trip-hop at the time), techno, and a little bit of punk. Needless to say, most of it was all definitely very electronic-music-oriented, with lots of drum machines and synthesizers involved. And I pretty much just straight-up forgot about that until recently.

To explain: I sort of lapsed out of music for a few years, first on account of my addiction, never having money, and all my music and electronic-gadgety-everything getting hocked or sold. And later finding out I just didn’t care as much anymore. But these past couple months, I’ve been really interested again. And finding myself particularly interested in electronic music, dance music, house, disco… things like that. Which for the most part I considered new interests.

But they weren’t really new. A lot of it is the kind of music I first ever fell in love with, and about which I kept a little candle of passion burning for a long time.

The thing is, I was taught to prefer and prioritize other kinds of music. I was taught, and taught myself, to love rock and “alternative” and “indie” instead. Because, overwhelmingly, that’s what my culture, my parents, my peers, and the messages I saw everywhere around me, said was the right kind of music. And I actually edited my own understanding of my own history with music to think I’d always been all about punk and stuff, that that was my “home base”, and to just cold forget that I’d ever left the etechno and house from The Matrix and Trainspotting soundtracks on repeat, or how often I cried listening to Portishead, or how many arguments I got in with my various fathers about why drum machines are a completely legitimate instrument and it’s not like pressing the fucking “bossa nova” or “waltz” button on a $25.00 keyboard from Radioshack.

There were a few things that were very, very consistent about the early messages that I internalized telling me that electronica, and especially dance music, were illegitimate in contrast to “real” music like rock, and especially “classic rock”. First was that it was “repetitive” and “all sounded the same”. Second was that shit about believing it took no “real” talent to produce or create. Third was pointing to the ubiquitous critical “consensus” that The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Nirvana and various other white dudes with guitars and snare-kick-hi-hat-ride-crash drum kits were clearly, “objectively” the greatest bands to ever exist. And fourth was that it was “gay”.

Yep… this dancey shit is fucking gay. I mean, anyone who’s anyone knows that, right? Besides, it’s too much like disco, and there’s that whole ubiquitous critical “consensus” that disco sucks, right?

These messages didn’t simply come from older guys like my dad and stepfather. They also came from my peers and friends, from TV, from magazines, from the internet, from endless jokes in sitcoms and cartoons and stand-up… it was everywhere. The apparently universal belief was that disco sucks and is dead, dance is gay, electronica is cool but shallow and devoid of substance or talent, hip-hop was violent and materialistic and sexist and corrupting the youth, and, again, The Beatles and Nirvana are the best things ever to ever exist in all of the existence that ever existed… objectively. And if that was the universal belief, then clearly I was the one who had the shitty music taste, and I had to learn to like better stuff, and lean into the punk and more rocky kinds of goth stuff I liked, and from there learn to like alternative and “classic rock” and eventually indie and from there the whole all-consuming dark and hopeless void of trying to impress the hipster record store clerk with your totally perfect choices.

(My dad, by the way, while making fun of me for stuff like house and techno, would actually praise and encourage me for liking punk. And would *literally* tell me that that meant I was learning to like “real” music.)

It never, ever occurred to me to think about what kinds of cultural forces and biases might have been shaping those mainstream perceptions of what kinds of music counted and were “real”, and what kinds of music were constantly being denigrated, mocked, or used as an example of everything that was wrong with 90s youth. It didn’t occur to me even despite the overwhelmingly obvious bias towards music produced by, or at least for, white heterosexual men. It didn’t even occur to me the 700th time I was told that dance was gay or that pop was for girls.

Nowadays, it occurs to me.

Going back to “disco sucks”: this is a concept that’s so ubiquitous, so common, and so normatively embraced, that most people simply tend to just go ahead and assume that, yeah, disco sucks, haha, we ALL know that. People tend not to think about it any further than that, or ever question how this particular concept came to be (much less why we’re STILL making jokes about it, and declaring it as a universal truth, even though it’s been 35 years and “deader than disco” has ITSELF entered our lexicon as a cliche). The way that we unquestioningly take it at face value, as established fact, seems very bizarre to me in that it’s normally incredibly obvious that music is tied to cultural and sub-cultural niches and forms of expression, and their attendant tensions… and how the subjective, contextual, fluid nature of music’s quality is normally itself accepted as a completely self-evident fact.

Still, “disco sucks”. It says right there on the bumper sticker. Don’t think about it. Everyone knows it sucks and it’s funny how much it sucks. Haha. Fuckin’ Bee-Gees. Fuckin’ ABBA.

(I also find it weird how people seem to assume that somehow an ENTIRE GENRE was sustained entirely by the Bee-Gees, ABBA (who aren’t really disco anyway), and one Gloria Gaynor song)
But to pause even briefly and consider the cultural context in which disco emerged, and the cultural context from which the reactionary push against it emerged (“disco sucks” was a refrain embraced by the rock fans of the late 70s… specifically fans of the heavily white-dominated contemporaneous form of rock), and it’s very easy to see an underlying cultural tension, related to race, sexuality, and gender.

Disco was a scene and musical form primarily created and embraced by Black Americans, Latin Americans, Italian Americans and, yes, by the LGBT community. Most of the performers (the ones who DON’T get remembered like the Bee-Gees do) and producers were black, and the music itself was largely based on the conventions of other primarily black genres like R&B, funk, gospel and soul.

“Disco Sucks” was a statement that, in two words, summed up an entire universe of cultural tension: the cultural expressions of white male Americans, and embraced by white male Americans, was superior to the “shallow” cultural expressions of American minorities.

Let’s go back for a minute to that question of certain forms of music being “repetitive” and “all sounding the same”…

You know what all sounds the same to me? Black metal. Fucking black metal. Every single black metal band sounds completely indistinguishable to my ears, and they’re all equally boring to me. And yeah, I can tell the difference between black metal, doom metal, death metal and folk metal, but they all also, internally, all sound the same to me. And 80s Washington DC hardcore. Samey. And most Sad Indie Folk Guy With A Guitar And A Beard music. Samey. Etc.

But I also know WHY it sounds the same: because I don’t fucking know enough about those genres to know what I’m supposed to be I’m listening for. I can’t read them. The “sameness” is produced by MY ignorance, not any inherent quality of music.

Despite silly concepts of “music is the universal language”, music has almost no universal or inherent properties. It’s just temporally organized noise, really. The way we respond to music, emotionally, is primarily learned by cultural associations, associations with other music, and also associations with our own experiences of that music or similar music. A minor key sounds “sad” to listeners familiar with western music in contrast to a major key because that’s the cultural association we’ve been raised to understand. But there are forms of music totally foreign to the western structures and concepts, like Javanese folk music, that we can’t “read” the same way. Their sad songs won’t be comprehensible as sad to us, because we won’t pick up on the signifiers of sadness encoded into it.

Even within the broader language of a given cultural tradition, each genre, and sub-genre, and sub-sub-genre, and genre-that’s-only-recognized-by-this-one-tumblr-I-follow,  is built around a set of conventions and expectations. Because of the consistent conventions of a given music marked, say, “classic punk rock”, the listener approaches the music *expecting* a certain set of things to be there, like aggressive guitars and drums, a basis in simple rock/blues chords, a fast tempo, probably vocals, a verse/chorus structure, a 4/4 time signature (maaaaybe 3/4, but nothin’ too weird!), and that the song be pretty short, simple, fun and non-pretentious. The band then PLAYS with those conventions, using them, toying with them, bending them, breaking them, working within them, seeing how creative they can be within them and how far they can go without breaking them, etc. and THAT’S what marks out the music as distinct. The push and pull between the conventions and expectations, and the creativity of the musicians within them.

(Some music has broader ranges of conventions than others… “rock” and “pop” are both extremely broad ranges of music, while “hardcore punk” is very narrow in what you’re “allowed” to do while still being considered “hardcore punk”)

If you don’t really understand what the conventions are, and can’t relate to them on the level of expectation, you’re not going to be able to understand when and where the performers or producers are being creative, you won’t be able to understand how they’re playing with or tweaking around, you won’t hear the talent and ingenuity when it’s there… ALL you’re likely to hear is the conventions of the genre itself. Which, of course, are by definition consistently the same across every artist within that genre (though you *might* notice when an artist *overtly* breaks the conventions).

Imagine someone who’d never, ever seen visual art before and had no concept of what it was about walking into an exhibit of mid-20th century art: “I don’t get it. It’s all just, like, big two dimensional rectangles with colours and stuff on them. They’re all the same”. Or someone who’d never seen a sitcom before: “they’re all the same… half-hour segments where a bunch of actors just perform some kind of humorous conflict while making witty remarks”. Or someone who’d only ever been exposed to classical music encountering all those “objectively greatest” rock bands the Boomers love: “It all sounds the same and is so repetitive. Just 2 to 4 minute vocal songs with pentatonic blues progressions and verse-chorus-verse-chorus structures.”

See what I mean?

Now, if we think about this in terms of normativity and privilege, things start coming into focus. A HUGE part of the nature of normativity is that it positions itself as the cultural default, and therefore the assumed base of knowledge, while knowledge of a marginalized identity, experience, culture, becomes specialized. Every queer or trans person already knows everything there is to know about straight cis people’s bodies and sexuality and courtship and romance and everything not only by having it pounded into our heads by almost EVERY work of art, literature or media concerning love or sexuality, but it was even straight up taught to us in school. Straight cis people, though, can be HILARIOUSLY ignorant about trans and queer people. Every black American is taught all about the history of Europe, the white-dominated western Canon, and the history of white colonists in the Americas, but black history gets marked out as a specialized topic, with a specialized month. The normative, privileged group have the luxury of being allowed to be ignorant about the marginalized group, but the marginalized group are forced to understand the normative one. This is part of why concepts like “a conversation about race” can be absurd: white people don’t have anything to add to such a conversation that PoC don’t already know. There is no special insight into the “white perspective”. There barely even IS a “white perspective”. White is just the ever-expanding umbrella for ethnic groups permitted inclusion in that privilege and normativity.

Because of normativity, knowledge as to the conventions and history and styles and genres of cultural expression that’s created by, or embraced by, a normative, privileged group is held by almost everyone, while understanding of the cultural expression of marginalized groups is limited or specialized knowledge. Consequently, it’s WAY more likely that someone from a marginalized background is going to understand the normative genres of music, like rock in the 70s, than someone from a privileged background will understand the music of marginalized groups, like disco.

And because that understanding is central to being able to interpret the music, well… yeah, normativity conditions itself to hear minority cultural expression through music as “shallow”, “repetitive”, and “all sounding the same”, regardless of the creativity that actually exists within the music.

Did you ever read that xkcd cartoon where the dude is taking a girl who (apparently) loves house/techno/electronica to “teach her some culture”, and they go to a classical concert? That is like, THE stupidest fucking…bullshit…grgh…horrible… AGH! Like NOBODY HAS EVER NOT BEEN “EXPOSED” TO CLASSICAL MUSIC. Classical music is TOTALLY part of the normativity!!! Nobody has “never heard of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart” because they spent too much time listening to Wolfgang Gartner!!! But I guarantee a bunch of y’all reading this are now going to go to wikipedia to find out who the fuck Wolfgang Gartner is!!!



Normativity doesn’t on its own, however, explain the ferocity of the dedication to the “disco sucks” mantra, or why it’s been handed down so consistently through history. It doesn’t explain how a murdering rapist prick like Phil Spector receives so many accolades for his production genius, while the fact of Larry Levan being black and gay results in the vast majority of our culture willfully forgetting he ever existed. To understand that level of things, we have to look to straight up bigotry, and the insistence on dance music sounding “gay”.

The thing is, when my peers and friends in the late 90s would complain about the gayness of dance music, they didn’t mean in the catch-all pejorative sense. They meant it much more directly. They meant it genuinely sounded to them like something that gay people would listen to. And they wouldn’t be wrong. What this was about was direct antipathy to the cultural expression of a stigmatized minority…and one that, at the time, could not be exploitatively embraced, like, for contrast, hip-hop could be (though in today’s world of Lady Gaga and Glee, that’s no longer the case).

The cultural expression of a marginalized group, or one associated with a marginalized group, naturally, inevitably, and usually intentionally, comes to signify that group’s values, needs, experiences, frustrations, etc. That’s part of the whole point: creating cultural expression that reflects you, in which you can see yourself and your experiences, because the normative culture sure as fuck isn’t going to bother. But this association, positive as it is, means that the cultural expression works as a stand-in for the group whenever the dominant and privileged want to attack. Like racists talking about the alleged violence, sexism and materialism in hip-hop (while ignoring the violence, sexism and materialism of, oh, VIRTUALLY ALL MAINSTREAM MUSIC OF THE LAST 70 YEARS) as a way to, by proxy, vent their bigoted racist feelings towards black people.

(also conveniently ignoring that by far the primary audience and consumers of mainstream hip-hop is actually young WHITE middle-class men. They’re who the music is “for”, in terms of demographics and the interests of the major labels, and they’re whose tastes dictate what tops the hip-hop charts. NOT the black community.)

House music and techno were genres that built off of the “abandoned” tradition of disco, as well as its predecessors of R&B, funk, soul and gospel. Part of the point was DJs remixing the dance records that used to be hot in ways that would make them fresh and hot again (along with some new influences from Europe), for a now smaller but more dedicated and passionate audience. Most of those early DJs were black, but the audiences were pretty ethnically diverse. And very quickly, it also appealed a lot to queer audiences.

(I sometimes wonder if part of that might have been about how so much of the lyrics and refrains and culture and even dance moves of house music, and disco, were focused on freeing oneself, being happy and finding pleasure within your body, throwing aside constraints on your body and identity, embracing your gender and sexuality and love and experiences, feeling loose and open, feeling a positive and accepting sense of community and togetherness, things like that… messages that were, intentionally or not, very directly queer and trans positive, or at least very easy to read as such)

So yeah… house music, and other genres of dance and electronic music to emerge throughout the 80s, came to be culturally associated with LGBTQ. And consequently despised or ridiculed by anyone who felt threatened by the existence of a queer cultural expression or sub-culture or… you know, existence of queer people themselves and stuff.

“Disco sucks” didn’t exactly recur. But lots of other reactionary responses did, and they occurred in response to almost EVERYTHING that wasn’t rock…and/or wasn’t within the normativity (increasingly defined by the interests of boomers, who increasingly were THE demographic with the greatest spending power to dictate the discourse of music). Over time, a new perennial meme developed, wherein “real music” was constantly under “threat” by the much smaller genres that appealed to minority audiences. Even while the “Rock/Pop” world continued, of course, to be the dominant and normative cultural expression, there were, and continue to be, constant hysterical fears (especially amongst the boomers) that it’s about to be extinguished by the latest shallow/all-sounds-the-same “fad” like hip-hop or 90s rave techno or boy bands (where the bigotry in question is misogyny and hatred of youth) or whatever.

It’s a very boring kind of perennial bigotry.

And HOLY FUCK does the “is real music going to be extinguished by boy bands/rappers/techno?” concept sound EXACTLY like “Are whites becoming a minority? Is Christianity being outlawed? Are the gay elite going to take away my Bible? Are the trans cabal going to give a sex change to my kid?”.

Disco never sucked. It just wasn’t white enough, straight enough, male enough and cis enough. And most dance music IS kinda gay. And that’s awesome.

And I’m done claiming I was always punk, and done telling myself it’s my taste that was shitty. If you’re unable to learn to understand and appreciate anything outside what the mainstream culture has already, by default, taught you to understand as The 100 Greatest White Dudes WIth Guitars Of ALL TIME, it’s not MY taste that has a problem, and not me who needs to “learn” to like “real music” or be “exposed” to culture.

Expose your own selves to some cultureS.

I’m putting up my last post to Freethought Blogs on Friday! To be kept up to date on where I’ll be going next, please follow my twitter, @nataliereed84. If you’d like to help me land on my feet, cover my medicine until I get my insurance coverage reinstated, save up for SRS, and invest in future projects, please donate to my Tip Jar!


  1. says

    (while ignoring the violence, sexism and materialism of, oh, VIRTUALLY ALL MAINSTREAM MUSIC OF THE LAST 70 YEARS)

    Oh, a lot longer than that; I grew up listening to traditional folksongs of the British Isles and colonial North America, and boy howdy, you want violence and sexism then there you go. Materialism less so, I can recall as many songs offhand about the joys of being a sailor, wanderer, or other not notably moneyed lifestyle as I can about going off to get rich.

  2. khms says

    Now I’ll be the first to admit I was never into any “scene” (social contact pretty much was what other people had), and worse, by far the majority of my contact with music was via the radio (where you don’t see skin colour and have to pay attention even to catch the name of the artists) so my impressions could be wildly off-base.

    But, well … in this German society (where white people are a vastly larger majority than in the US), my impression was always that disco “sucked” for pretty much the same reason German-language “Schlager” music or Country and Western “sucked”: because it was majority-accepted music when you were young, and because it was different from the music of your youth when you weren’t. The first time I ever heard of any association with gay-ness was from US sources (I don’t remember the exact details; I do remember reading some Wikipedia articles on the subject and wondering how that didn’t fit my impressions at all).

    Oh, and that disco was dominated by black people … that’s news to me today. On the other hand, I can rarely remember what skin color an artist had (if I even knew it in the first place), so what do I know …

    Oh, and rock? I always associated that one with (musical-)minority music. Pretty much because of people claiming it being all that much better; to me, that’s a sign of some minority group telling themselves they have better taste than the majority. (I’m told that round WW II and some time afterward, any rock/pop/whatever music was called “Negermusic” (negro music) by many members of the establishment, as a pejorative. You couldn’t really use terms like that today unless you wanted people to think you are a Neo-Nazi.)

    As for “repetitive” … other-culture music doesn’t usually sound “all the same” to me; uncomfortable, yes, all the same, not really. Repetitive and all the same – that’s an impression I have of jazz (even though I can hear the creativity), for example. And I’m pretty certain I didn’t hear that from anywhere, I’ve had to explain it too often to unbelieving listeners.

    Oops, time to go.

  3. left0ver1under says

    Generally, resistance to electronic music is because the groups cannot perform it live, by not playing instruments, and not necessarily the style of music. Many of the early electronica and synthesizer groups (from Stevie Wonder to Weather Report to Kraftwerk to OMD to New Order to Orbital to…) were widely accepted as “real music” because their music could be recreated on a stage. To many listeners, the ability to perform, recreate and improvise on stage is as important as the music itself. Rarely can groups do that when they rely on turntables, samplers and looping.

    I disagree on one point: the objection to disco came because disco become formulaic, not because of who made it. Early to mid-70s, disco, funk and other similar dance music had a wide range of sounds and styles, though it wasn’t as commercially successful as other genres. But into the late 70s, it did become “‘bossa nova’ or ‘waltz’ button on a $25.00 keyboard from Radioshack.” Wider commercialization narrowed the range of sounds and styles produced to what the public was familiar with and would buy instead of experimenting. By 1980, nearly every disco song sounded the same. The same has happened with rap, which had many wide varieties and sounds in the 1980s and early 1990s, then narrowed to a few accepted formats (“thug rap”, “porn rap” or “cooler than thou”) outside of which nothing sells. I’m surprised rap hasn’t gone the same way as disco because of it.

    Popular music goes in cycles. It stagnates for a while and the lowest common denominator crap rules the day, just as it does now. But every now and then, someone ignites a revolution and changes things by creating new sounds and breaking convention (1960s jazz, motown and funk, 1970s punk, 1980s new wave and heavy metal, 1990s alternative). It’s like a volcano erupting – it kills off the choking, poisonous overgrowth, creating new fertile land for a while until the overgrowth comes back.

    As for white people and disco, it wasn’t all bad:

  4. Scr... Archivist says

    This is a good essay, Natalie, especially for the cultural and historical overview it offers.

    For a few years now, I’ve been looking into the various genres of electronic dance music. There’s so much to learn. For example, I thought disco simply became unpopular. But it turns out that it just kept going and evolving in Europe (as with Italo-Disco, for example) and underground (not on mainstream radio) in the U.S. Was Europe generally more accepting of LGBTQ people and their cultural contributions? Or was this acceptance limited to small (young, urban, nightclub) audiences regardless of which side of the Atlantic one was on?

    Just a few months ago I watched a video about the “Disco Demolition Night” riot of 1979, and I think there is merit to the argument about enforced “normativity”. I think part of the responsibility for this problem also lies with large media companies, trying to sell the most “units” to the largest number of consumers (which left0ver1under points to, above). And I fully agree that the Boomer stranglehold on popular culture has overstayed its welcome.

    I have been putting together music playlists for my young niece and nephews, to introduce them to the best example of numerous genres. My goal is to keep them from being narrow in their musical understanding, and one broad category I’m including is electronic dance music, especially the foundational works of each major genre. I don’t know how it will go, since I’m not done with it yet, but it’s worth a try.

    I certainly don’t want to see another generation that only likes the music of their grandparents.

  5. jesse says

    Yeah, I’d have to agree left0ver1under, a lot of the stuff you seem to be talking about would be to my mind generational.

    My childhood was the 70s, and by the time I was a teenager disco was seen as stuff for older white people who couldn’t understand punkers and new-wavers. (The mid-80s punk scene in Boston was interesting to say the least). It was formulaic and had none of the interesting stuff the Bee Gees had done, it got associated with some really bad movies (the Saturday Night Fever imitators) and seemed completely corporat-ized.

    Now, none of this means that as teenagers we were aware of where Disco came from, or its origins in the gay culture or black cultures of the 70s. We just saw a bunch of goofy-looking 35-40 year olds. There was an association of Disco with the slick, the moneyed, the guy with the car and the clothes we could never afford, the places we could never get into. There’s a lot of class issues goin’ on.

    Or another way to put it: when a musical genre appears in a sit-com on a regular basis as a plot point it has jumped the shark. Disco hit that milestone ~1980. Punk in oh, 1988? ’89? You get the idea.

    Also, it should be said that New Order (for example) was widely accepted as “real” music, their stuff could be performed live, though they also had a reputation for really terrible live shows. It would take until Daft Punk appeared to change that, I think. But some forms of electronica just don’t lend themselves to live play. They just don’t. Daft Punk is/was so innovative because they managed to fix some of that. (Hey, I like live shows. So that’s my bias).

    I have to say, again being (I guess) some 20 years older, that the associations of electronic music with gay culture are for me rather different. There was a lot of heteronormativity in the music I grew up with, but the form was different.

    New Order, to bring that up again, became a bit of a “gay signifier” for my generation of listeners (I was in college, a radio DJ, in 1990). The same happened to the Smiths, and I wouldn’t describe that as disco by any stretch. At the same time I never heard anyone deride the music because gay people listened to it — that association was left to musical theater. 🙂 But to give another example, Kraftwerk never became much of a gay signifier at all, nor did “rougher” electronic stuff like — well, all those other German bands whose names I can’t spell. 🙂

    Again, I think the analysis is mostly right, but it misses the way these things move in cycles.

    • says

      “Disco sucks” wasn’t generational. It existed contemporaneously to disco itself. They had bumper stickers and everything. Hating disco was as much a late-70s fad as disco was.

      • says

        I hear it NOW! My family was raised on disco (my dad’s side are all still disco freaks) and my two favourite bands in the WORLD are rather poppy: Aqua and Savage Garden. Yet professing my love for any of the above is seen as somehow uncouth and unsophisticated and “guilty pleasures” blah blah. It’s not ~kewl~ or ~radical~ unless it’s a genderfucker in an Alternative Lifestyle Haircut with a guitar. I don’t *get* a lot of indie music, and that’s somehow seen as a failing in my taste.

        So basically, word.

      • left0ver1under says

        And in the 1990s, the phrase “disco still sucks” became commonplace. I did a quick search, and there are companies right now selling shirts, buttons and other things with that slogan.

        Since the 1970s, popular music has had nostalgia and rejuvenation of music 20 years prior. In the 1970s, it was 1950s rock and roll (“Happy Days”, et al). In the 1980s, it was 1960s music (the “new romantics”, like Spandau Ballet and ABC, or even pseudo-psychadelia like Dee-Lite). In the 1990s, it was a 1970s rerun (many new punks from original punk, and “I want to be a Carpenter”). In the 2000s, the MTV revival of 1980s music, and nowadays people are longing for grunge again, and boy bands of the 1990s are trying to reunite (though failing).

        But all of that has skipped disco. There has never been a big mainstream nostalgia trip for it. (I say that as observation, not commentary.) Then again, there was never a prog rock revival either.

    • left0ver1under says

      when a musical genre appears in a sit-com on a regular basis as a plot point it has jumped the shark. Disco hit that milestone ~1980

      I take it you’re referring to “Makin’ It”, one of the shortest lived, lowest rated and worst reviewed TV shows in history?

      The only redeeming quality of that show was David Naughton, he of “An American Werewolf In London”. And considering that he sang the song himself, it killed off any credibility he might have had.

    • says

      Uh-huh. Objectively, eh? How much have you even listened to? Do you have ANY concept of it outside of the Bee-Gees, Saturday Night Fever, and a thousand cultural paraodies? Do you have ANY idea who Larry Levan is? Or Geraldine Hunt, Class Action, First Choice, Plunky And The Oneness of Juju, Sister Sledge, Funk Deluxe or Positive Force? Nah, didn’t think so. At best you might know who Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor are.

      I’m always heartened that there’s at least one commenter who clearly didn’t get ANYTHING out of the essay.

      Your comment does, though, PERFECTLY exemplify my point about how we, as a culture, simply fucking assume this statement to be true without feeling any need to actually question it, or think about it, or justify it. You, like everyone, are just taking it as a fucking GIVEN.

      Dare you to actually make a substantial argument about the actual problems with disco *as a genre*.

  6. says

    ‘White supremacism’ in the title is a tad far fetched, don’t you think. Interesting article nonetheless with plenty of accurate points. Check my music ;^)

    • says

      I use the term “white-supremacism” in the sociological, race-studies sense, not the mainstream sense of only referring to dudes in bunkers in Montana with rifles and confederate battle flags and swastika tattoos. White-supremacism is any and ALL instances of someone treating white identity, white appearance, whiteness, or WHITE CULTURE as superior. Erego, treating white cultural expression through music (like 70s rock) as inherently superior to minority cultural expression through music (like disco, hip-hop, house, mariachi, R&B, soul, gospel, chicano-rap, etc) is clearly white-supremacist.

      • says

        Thank you, true I supposed that you use the term from the angle you describe, yet due to its direct evocation of the sort of radical extremist group you’ve just described I still find the choice of word itself extremist. Also one adolescent can genuinely appreciate 70’s prog rock regardless of any bands members skin colors and direct social influence yet have nothing to do in social or mind attitude with the silly concept of supremacism itself. Your end your answer above you use “through music” twice in the same sentence and I really don’t know what you try to convey, that 70’s rock is inherently ‘white supremacist’ just by its existence? I don’t think that it’s what you wish to say but that considering such style superior to other is an obvious sign of a ‘superiority complex’.
        Note that I may perceive certain aspect of you stand and choice of terminology from continental European angle, from where I have near certitude that popular cultural expression such as music is way less segregated and more often ‘experimentally’ mixed-up than in the USA. In the early days of Detroit Techno most US African-American who initiated the style itself, found great inspiration from EU originating music which for some had only white peoples in their formation (see Kraftwerk, The Human League, Front 242, … ). I do not think at all that -any- of these musical formations, as much from the US than the EU had any concept of ‘white supremacism’ in mind, neither their listening audience.

        • My name was already taken says

          You don’t get to decide what white supremacy means though – white supremacy has long been (accurately) used as a descriptive term by POC and white people don’t get to decide they “don’t like how it sounds”.

  7. Kengi says

    Not being a music historian, I can only speak to me personal experience growing up in Chicago in the 1970’s. Disco was, by the late 70’s, mainly represented by trite pop crap, with little if any resemblance to funk.

    While there certainly was a group which longed for the “good old days” of Beatles and Rolling Stones of the 60’s (as exemplified by the notorious Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park), the main thing I remember about the late 70’s music scene in Chicago was the resurgence of R&B to counter the trite pop crap of the day (ABBA, BeeGees).

    Greats such as Buddy Guy were getting air time again, and the blues club scene shifted into high gear. The vibrant R&B landscape even led to the creation of the Blues Brothers, and culminated in the 1981 Chicagofest which was one of the greatest music festivals ever.

    Of course I also liked Boney M., which people told me was disco, but I never thought of their music as such.

    As for dance/electronica, if your’e just getting back into music, be sure to check out Ladyhawke’s debut album. I even like much off her second album…

    • says

      I think the perception that disco was only “trite pop crap” in the late 70s is a perception affected, much like “it all sounds the same”, DIRECTLY by lack of knowledge of the genre. Honest-to-god ANY genre will seem primarily like “trite commercial crap”, in ANY given time period, if you don’t know it very well and your experience is limited to the hits and what gets played on the radio. There was a HUGE world of underground disco music all the way up until around ’81, and a lot of it was pretty damn good.

      Trite commercial hit-stuff is, BY DEFINITION, what ends up becoming hits and commercially distributed and played on the radio. That’s, like, exactly what MAKES it a trite commercial hit: prioritizing it’s potential to get airplay and sell “units” over the substance of the music. And it works, so those are the songs that get the most airplay. It works like that for every genre (except maybe the genres that CAN’T have hits, like avante-garde post-modern composition, experimental electronica, noise music, or the most abrasive “pure” iterations of punk and metal).

      Like, if the only country music you’ve ever experienced is glitzy Nashville country from the Top 40-type country radio stations, then yeah, you’re going to think country is all trite commercial crap. If the only hip-hop you’ve ever heard is the stuff that gets played on MTV and the 95 – 100 radio wavelengths, then yeah, you’re going to think all hip-hop is shallow and materialistic or whatever. And if the only rock music you’d ever heard was the Lynrd Skynrd, Eagles, Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple, Rod Steward and Tom Petty that gets played on 97.7 The Freedom Eagle (“ALL the GREATEST rock hits! REAL MUSIC With none of that rap-crap or metrosexual bullshit the other stations play!”) then yeah, you’re going to end up thinking rock music is all a bunch of vapid, sexist, narcissistic, jingoistic dudes strutting around with boneheaded stoner riffs.

      (the way that radio stations targeting white-demographics EXPLICITLY advertise themselves as “all your favourites, none of the rap” is one of the most overt examples of the degree to which music and popular cultural expression are intertwined with, and used as a proxy field for, racism and white-supremacism)

      And, as said in the essay, normativity positions the cultural expression of privileged groups at the center, meaning people are far far far more likely to know “classic” rock music isn’t just 97.7 The Freedom Eagle than they are to know that hip-hop isn’t just Macklemore and Drake, disco isn’t just The Bee-Gees and “I Will Survive”, electronic dance music isn’t just Skrillex and that dude from the “Harlem Shake” videos, country isn’t just Trace Atkins, R&B isn’t just Chris Brown, “alternative”/”indie” isn’t just Mumford and Sons, punk/emo isn’t just My Chemical Romance, and “pure” pop isn’t just One Direction.

      So yeah… always be careful to question how informed your perceptions of what a genre “is” really are.

      Also, I’m not familiar with Boney M, but why did you not think of them as disco? Was it primarily BECAUSE you liked them?


      Chicago is *exactly* where house music was born, by the way, from the innovations of a number of (mostly black) DJs and producers like Jesse Saunders, Frankie Knuckles, Chip E and Mr. Fingers who’d been interested in the full range of disco (which, again, was NOT just the fucking Bee-Gees, and ABBA aren’t even disco at all, they’re just pop… and pretty good pop, IMO) and in funk and R&B and stuff. They cut together their own mixes based on the parts of disco and funk and R&B songs that worked particularly well on the dancefloor, and incorporated some new elements (with influences from some weirder stuff going on like Kraftwerk), to keep a fresh, vibrant underground dance scene alive in Chicago.

      Meanwhile, in Detroit, DJs and producers like Kevin Saunderson and Juan Atkins had similar ideas and similar responses to the question of revitalizing dance music, and what they created became techno (the fact that the mainstream idea of who “invented” techno always claims it was Kraftwerk and various white New Wave bands, and overlooks the Detroit DJs, is itself an example of the white-supremacist bias in our collective cultural understanding of music history). And in New York City, the techniques of remixing, and the desire amongst DJs and producers to make fresh stuff out of disco, funk and R&B, led into their creation of hip-hop. (A simplified way of describing it was that DJs and producers all over the States were all tuning into the creative possibilities of remixing and cutting and sampling, and in Chicago they created house out of disco, funk, R&B etc, in Detroit they created techno, and in New York they created hip-hop).

      Anyway… speaking highly of The Blues Brothers, and recommending Ladyhawke to me as an example of cool dance/electronica? I don’t think our tastes mesh very well. 😉

      • Kengi says

        “Also, I’m not familiar with Boney M, but why did you not think of them as disco? Was it primarily BECAUSE you liked them?”

        No, because it didn’t sound like any disco being played at the time. In fact, much of it sounded more like a combination of R&B and reggae, which certainly didn’t describe the disco I was hearing.

        In Chicago, there were several alternatives to pop radio stations. I haven’t listened much to music radio since I was first able to rip CD’s into MP3’s back in the 90’s, so perhaps you are right about it all being nothing but pop crap now. But that wasn’t always the case (at least not in Chicago). Chicago stations frequently gave air time to local bands that were playing the club scenes at the time as well as a wide array of different genres from around the world.

        I kind of would expect music radio to be catering to nothing but the largest market now anyway since it’s pretty well been killed off by the Internet. It would be tough for a station like the old WXRT in Chicago to eke out a profit by playing anything that isn’t mainstream in such a reduced overall market.

        Also, I never spoke “highly of The Blues Brothers” in my post. I merely mentioned them as evidence of the resurgence of R&B popularity at the time. Again, this was R&B getting major air time on lots of stations. Just to give your point credence, however, I’ll say now that the Blues Brothers Band was an incredibly talented group that did indeed produce some good music. But you really should have been at the 1981 Chicagofest to hear great R&B artists performing great music.

        In other words, it was very easy to go beyond the top 40 stations. In fact, R&B and funk often seemed much more prevalent than top 40. Being in a Polish neighborhood also exposed me to a lot of euro-dance-tech stuff, which was kind of fun at the time.

        Which may be why I like Ladyhawke, I think she did some really creative work on that debut album, different from a lot of recent synth. At the least, I sure do like to dance to it. But yeah, we don’t seem to have the same taste in artists, despite having a crossover in genres. Honestly, I’ve genuinely tried to like ABBA, but just get tired of it very quickly. The only song I ever kind of liked was a live version of Hole in Your Soul. (I assume you’ve heard about Agnetha Faltskog’s upcoming new album.)

        I’m very accepting of your views on mainstream pop music being predominately driven by the straight white marketplace. Still, catering to the largest market is not exactly a dumb marketing strategy, so I suppose I see why. I agree that many people put down some music (especially rap, it would seem) just for bigoted reasons. You indicate the same thing happens with disco and even other dance music, which is a horrible shame as well, but not unexpected. We do, after all, still live in a very bigoted nation.

        At least some of what happens when people hate the new generation of music in favor of “their” generation’s is nostalgia for the music of their youth. The fact that the music of their youth was, often, market driven by the white straight majority is not in question.

        Individual motives, however, can be more nuanced. My dad (who grew up with and loved loved the swing and crooners of the 1940’s) hated the rock and R&B of the 60’s despite the historical connection of those genres as well as having similar rhythms and beats. He was always pushing Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and others pointing out how much more talented they were than the artists of the 60’s. Eventually I realized his main complaint was the shift from the singer being the main focus to the instruments being the main (or at least equal) focus of the mixing of the track. I even found modern artists he liked using this knowledge.

        In this case (only one example, of course) he was not putting down Jimi Hendrix or Bob Marley for racial reasons. The fact that his library of music was so dominated by white singers was a byproduct of the racism in the industry.

        The fact that so much early swing, rock, R&B and other genres HAD to be introduced to the public by white artists was a great tragedy. Pop music does seem to still be so focused on white artists, but the great thing about the Internet is that now I have an entire world of music and discussions of music at my fingertips. Still, I was able to easily get beyond most of pop music when I was young, so at least in 1970’s Chicago there was ample opportunity to explore minority music. It seems even easier now.

        I guess the real question is why do so many people JUST listen to top 40? Now or in the past. They seem to enjoy it, so I don’t think I should tell them it’s wrong. We can, however, point out how the mainstream music industry is still homophobic and white supremacist (in the sociological, race-studies sense). Since I enjoy music so much, I do wish people would listen to more diverse artists, but not everyone is that into music in general. They might just be looking for something to tap their foot to.

        I wonder what the future of the industry in the US will look like when the demographics change.

  8. brad says

    OK, so i just listened to Lawrence philpot.
    i actually had heard of him before, but didnt remember any songs
    good reason. they suck.
    some of it sounded a little like jazz/RB
    but most sounded like disco

    all music is personal
    does culture play into it ?
    sure it does, but that doesnt mean i cant open my mind to it.
    I have probably heard more types of music than most people.
    there are things i LIKE and things i DONT.
    I hate oprea, but like (some) classical.
    i used to be in a punk band, when punk first came out.
    ive been playing guitar and listening to music since. (im 51)
    i still dont like disco.
    i like a LOT of R@B butr not all of it.
    i love early Dylan, YES, early genesis, lots of Indian music
    but not all of it.
    I am not a racist or homophobic.
    i am actually an anti-war , civil rights liberal
    i still hate disco
    i dont need to make an argument about it as a genre
    i just freakin dont like it.

    real music 🙂

  9. cthandhs says

    Thanks for bringing this up. I also grew up with a lot of “disco sucks” but never thought much about it until I started learning more about music. I was way into electronica during my colledge years and I still like it quite a bit. When a friend pointed out the relationship between electronica and disco, I had to throw a lot of my assumptions about what i liked and why out the window. Nowadays I try to be a musical omnivore.

    My first tape was Paula Abdul, you can bet I got some shaming for that one. It was girly-pop, all the songs sounded the same, etc. but the lyrics were all about having respect for yourself, going after what you want and not letting people treat you badly. I am no longer ashamed to have that be my fist choice.

    By the way, someone argued that people don’t take electronic music seriously because you ” can’t perform it live” but I have been to plenty of live electronic music concerts, we called them raves.

    • says

      “Can’t perform it live” seems like the most ridiculous, absurd, completely fucking arbitrary reasoning. No WAY is that HONESTLY affecting anyone’s listening experience. They just fucking made up that excuse after the fact, as a convenient definition that sorts “real music” from not-real in exactly the way they WANTED it to. Sort of like how people don’t decide “chromosomes are what REALLY determines sex” because they actually give a fuck about people’s (invisible, largely irrelevant) karyotype, but it’s the definition that (conveniently) excludes the most trans people for the least cis people.

      And if they think DJing isn’t a serious, intense, demanding form of live performance, they’re total fucking idiots.

  10. says

    ” the fact that the mainstream idea of who “invented” techno always claims it was Kraftwerk and various white New Wave bands, and overlooks the Detroit DJs, is itself an example of the white-supremacist bias in our collective cultural understanding of music history ”

    Oh really? Have you asked them? I remember to have had a conversation with Kevin Saunderson for nearly 45 minutes on the stairs of a famous Benelux club back in the mid 90’s and had direct confirmation from him, even without asking about it, that himself and most of his Detroit friends (Carl Craig and Derrick May were also there but I didn’t had a chat with them for they were on the wheels of steel) were hugely focused on listening to what came from European electronic formations back then, which by the way we didn’t call New Wave. Techno was obviously invented by Afro-american Detroit and area based artists, no one in Europe unless wrong informed would deny that. One doesn’t have to confuse music roots and inspiration with reclaiming a whole style which by the way in case of Techno was very open to ‘cross pollination’. These Detroit producer really found their most dedicated public in Europe by the way, specially in the Benelux, previous to Germany, the UK and all the rest. Again the problem with the US is that popular and underground cultures such as music have been very confined to specific social and age groups since decades, I assume it changed over time. Chuck Berry isn’t it Rock music by the way?

    • says

      Wait… how does anything you’re saying contradict my point? It sounds like you’re supporting my point that there’s an obvious racial bias in our assumed histories of genres like techno / rock? Yes, I know that the DJs and producers in both Detroit and Chicago were drawing influences from a lot of European sounds, totally, but they were ALSO drawing influences from disco, funk, R&B, etc. The fact that we delineate the mark of techno’s “birth” as being at Kraftwerk (who influenced Detroit), RATHER than at the Detroit DJs themselves, who added TONS of the elements (like being DANCE music rather than DRIVING music, for instance, with a wholly different rhythmic style rather from the da-da-da-da-da-da-da—>infinity beat that Kraftwerk were all about) that made it TECHNO rather than just ELECTRONIC MUSIC in general (I mean, fuck, if we want to demarcate who invented THAT we could start talking Wendy Carlos, Bob Moog, the lady who did the original Doctor Who theme song, etc)… that choice of when and where, exactly, to mark the “origin” of techno despite dozens of other equally valid moments… that choice represents a bias. And it’s just silly to deny that.

      • says

        I do not deny that and Derrick May himself described techno as something along the line of being with Kraftwerk robots with George Clinton in an elevator 😉 I totally stand by the side of your article and all your arguments. That said Afro-american kids where inventing break-dancing new steps to the tune of ‘Numbers’ by Kraftwerk, so reducing European electronic music to solely ‘spacey’ music but not danceable is a bit reductive. One thing not question much in your article is that whatever the ethnic background (I couldn’t care less) music (even underground) seem to have been for quiet long a male dominated field!
        On a side note a Congolese owner of a bar at which I DJed in the past told me he was convinced that the best music in the world always was created by peoples of African descent and (sic) was superior to all others!
        Pride (even gay) attitude and music don’t mix well in my mind. What was great with disco and early deep-house was the dance-floor (and indeed not what was mainstreamed by major media as ‘what disco is’ was) and in its best incarnation (so not the elitism of studio 54) the fluid amalgamation of various ethnic source, gender presentation, sexual preferences and instant ‘melting’ such different social strata in a sort of here and now experience rejoicing carelessly which could still experience today at David Mancuso’s Loft parties.
        As for music style naming on could observe that many music styles are often already in latency of manifestation or already a while in existence previous to be given a name (often by its audience itself for dance or journalist / blogger oops for indie and the likes…). Anyway I don’t feel the aim of your blog post here was to debate style ‘taxonomy’ and the who was first in any styles (for music phenomenon mutate and cross-influence faster than even contemporary art) or (I hope) if you father was a white supremacist (for preferring prog rock and disin’ other styles, as it may simply have come from himself never questioning his possible prejudice and how these may have been shaped to comfort target audience, ‘ghettoize’ others and secure to power that be) nor if disco suck(ed) or not (nu-disco is extremely ‘en vogue’ since a few years now in some part of Europe) … But was more about the factor and aim of control within the realm of pop culture to censor one and promote another, yet I think your experience is very specific to your unique past context yet valid but you would most certainly have had received quiet different suggestions (and prejudice too!) from your relative as what would be ‘better to listen to’ if you would have been born in a Latino family in say Corona, Queens, yet indeed given the same normative program at school history classes. My point is also that assumption about how specific group or individual relate to music seem to be a very delicate and to some apparently (see the amount of comments here, though you have plenty of other post which I find have even more profound insight) leading to such extreme level of essentialist but in the big picture with sadly must agree (yet not accept) that as Susan Tedeschi once said is that “Clear Channel owns all the major radio stations and venues. Most musicians aren’t aware that a few people control so much of what we hear.” This is also why I was sort of furious at a good friend of mine in the Benelux when he decided to leave an little teamed independent Jazz/Dance&Alternative music events company to go join the rank of better paid job at Clear Channel which sadly has also invaded the EU a decade ago. One a side note it is obvious that we have very similar taste, though I’m also a hard-bop and latin/mpb/fusion and opera ear, additionally to the genre you mentioned. If you ever visit the EU please contact me, it’ll be a pleasure to welcome you into various ‘exotic’ sonic experiences. Cheers.

        • says

          Well, my point isn’t about how individual’s relate to music. Not at all. My point is about how mainstream North-American CULTURE relates to it, and what the dominant, mainstream narrative becomes as to its history and the relative “objective” quality of various genres. The way INDIVIDUALS relate to different genres is beside the point and, while inexorably tied to cultural influences, a lot more variable and nuanced. The take away point here is NOT “anyone who likes 70s ‘classic rock’ more than disco and funk is a white-supremacist” (that’d be absurd), the point is that how the *mainstream cultural narrative* obsessively asserts “70s classic rock is superior / real-er music to disco” is strongly tied to white-supremacism, homophobia, patriarchy and other cultural biases.

          • says

            No need to use upper-case character I understood the aim of your article from the start. That said I find that comments can permit digression! You also forgot to mention, following your stand, that worldwide spreading of US modeled ‘culture’ is -imperialist- in essence. Regardless of ethnic group. Hip-hop displaye on MTVs worldwide is not the street level hip-hop neither the conscious hip-hop, but more often the blatant promotion of materialistic ‘values’ (nothing against that but if that is all there is gee music shouldn’t specially be an engine to promote it) or/and the ‘bad nigger’, wealthy ghetto crook who ‘made it’ and any form of caricature of ‘glamour’. Same goes with heavy-metal, some rock, even much contemporary (still so-called) techno, only the most void of any insight and essentially emptied of a possible message are the more often promoted form of music by the US -worldwide- (perceived from my side of things as -anti-cultural- imperialism). Some 70’s music were at least carrying a message. So this is not truly a culture but a plain dumbing-down of culture that we witness for decade.
            Then this is -where- individual -do matter- to me and again I understood what your article is about but if you feel to approach me like a pupil with no discernment it’s up to you. My point here is to be allow to digress, comments foster discussion and exchange of standpoint, if you want to dictate for a cultural group entity, up to you, but that’s exactly what the US is anti-cultural doing since decade. My opinion is that only individual can change situation, every crucial social change always were taken upon reaction fostered by an individual, maybe many later rallied around such person but generally the masses are fed media and accept it without even ever questioning the propagandist agenda behind, and today such agenda can be presented behind colored bands doing a funky disco influenced music! So some farty old prog rock might even become more interesting in retrospect than what is often fed by mainstream music channels.
            When I comment on articles which I find of interest this is not often to simply confirm what the article is saying but instead attempt to share possible ideas such article inspired me and/or challenge some part of its statements but if you prefer to reaffirm what you say to anything challenged or only get appreciative comment so be it. The disco suck reactionary event was just a short historical event, disco ‘recovered’ from that and for fact didn’t care at all but just expanded beyond any expectation in styles mutations and geographical reach. Contemporary Nu-disco is coming to you US, it’s mainly produced in Scandinavia, Italy, UK and the Balkan today!
            All mainstream cultural narrative as you fancy naming are to be contested, any of them, if today it is brainless hip-hop, filtered Madonna like take on disco and pseudo punk grunge rock make no difference. Cultural attempt at obliterating other is what we are about I think. White-supremacism to me depict case of very extreme motives which often support hate speech. Although I admit that classic rock has often been produced and appreciated by a specific ethnic group (that isn’t always the case, some black bands also released some fine rock music) tagging that style with an attitude that strongly foster an ethnocentric agenda is willingly lacking nuance in my opinion and I could even suggest that such lack of nuance could even produce further retaliation of sort, probably by over sensitive left apart individuals such as ‘white trash’ specially today so-called diversity yet similarly lacking taste cultural products are mainstream within pop music (at least in Europe, no idea for north-America but I don’t think there is much difference, if not that you still may have race segregated broadcasting stations). I have it hard to trust that the current mainstream cultural aim is to promote white supremacism, we could have witnessed white superiority complex through the past but it is to be nuance from the radical occurrence of white supremacism. Some music bands with such ideology exist but they happen to be banned from nearly all media here in Europe and are watched closely by law enforcement officials.

            I would have used ‘racial hegemony’ or ‘white superiority complex’ maybe in alternative or various naming, to depict the past musical landscape or something alike instead of ‘white supremacism’ which when I read the true definition of it is depicting a non-majority group having an hegemonic agenda flawed by a racial superiority complex.
            No one forced anyone to listen to anything, yet I don’t say that most peoples are victims of propaganda yet only on an -individual- basis a discernment against what would be fed by the mainstream can happen.
            Very few peoples challenge anything when inside a specific group, often due to fear of been ostracized.
            Here again the individual matters!
            The way individuals relate (and could intertwine and have acceptance) to different genres is -not- beside the point, in an example you would soon know that if you were a DJ.

            In naming any music style and whole appreciative group of individuals for such style (who probably as well listen various music, at least in the contemporary western world which happen to be very much into mixing influence of various cultures, such as in various blend of techno, reggaeton, house, punjabi rap or more…) with any term which are often better applied to what it specifically represent, in this case: ethnocentric radicalism, instead of a making use of a more nuanced terminology you run the risk of scapegoating many -individuals- for simply having a taste inclination but then state that do want to consider the value of individuals anyway is too me as close as telling that the huge quantity of black hip-hop act which are constantly displayed on MTV in Europe equate to a black supremacist media narrative!
            Music cross borders mind you and if there is one body part that you’ll never be able to completely close it’s your ears. Do you want us to believe that any -goups- such as i.e. Pink Floyd had a dedicated white-supremacist, homophobic, patriarchal cultural biases? I could look into Peter Gabriel’s lifetime works or check David Byrne’s blog to have an idea of their standpoint on the issue and maybe their ability to nuance statements, for words choice does matter as much as individuals do in my culturally biased opinion.

            In retrospect although, I was enthusiastic at first read, I start to wonder if this wasn’t your worst blog post overall (and trust me I love to read your posts) and you appear relatively stubborn at challenging your own affirmations or open to give just a tad of weight for any single idea you would not partake with (which is a sign of lack of fine spirit for an educated mind is always able to partake in discussion of ideas one doesn’t partake with but here in comments you rather re-iterate your stand instead of giving even the chance of any validity at giving nuance to some of your statements.

            All form of supremacist ideology is misleading and dangerous.

  11. garlic says

    Obligatory Boondocks.

    Music snobism are also (perhaps mostly) an inter-generational thing. “The music of my 20s is obviously and objectively better than the music of your 20s”.

    (Personally I prove this by using a totally scientific and not-at-all cherry picked comparison between Radiohead, The Verve and Supergrass on one hand, and One Direction on the other. Now get off my lawn).

  12. zelkwin says

    Thank you for writing this! I didn’t know that Disco was associated with minority artists, but it makes sense. (Frankly, I really didn’t know that much a disco at all, but I will check it out now.) I think the majority might judge electronica as being less valid because they don’t understand the skill that goes into composing a good mix. Most people have a pretty good idea of how a guitar is played and how hard it is to do right, but have no clue what goes into mixing. This might seem like a far stretch, but my fiance has the same problem with her art. She does metalworking and the only people really appreciate the work she put into a piece are other metalsmiths. This isn’t a question of people not liking the art, because she gets wonderful and thoughtful fine art critiques, but then they’ll ask why she didn’t do something impossible in metal. Or suggest a laughable work time (“This took, what, 5 hours?” “Try 15 hours”). I happen to love Dubstep, and I used to let people judge me on that, but no more! I found out that as I listened more and more, I could hear stylistic differences come out. Also, of course there’s repetition in the song! It’s the chorus! Anyway. next time someone judges me for my music tastes, I’m referring them here. Thanks!

  13. NoAssume says

    There barely even IS a “white perspective”. White is just the ever-expanding umbrella for ethnic groups permitted inclusion in that privilege and normativity.

    I have found the failure of the norm to have property frustrating, especially due to the implication of what happens when justice is done. I think that this may partially be because the majority of people trying to put forward a white perspective *as* a white perspective were horrific racists and were rightfully crushed, but so was the idea that anything might be left.

    Amusingly, I used to listen to classic rock, which was reccomended by friends, but now I almost exclusively listen to >100 year old opera by my most internal preferences. .


  1. […] to be disappointed by the fact that she will have stopped again yesterday.  She has an interesting post about musical taste and society. I’m not linking to it because I agree with it, she has some oddly late […]

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