Things Music Critics Hate: Skrillex

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Skrillex.

Music criticism is as much an affliction as an occupation -- especially these days, it's far more reliable as a sickness than a paycheck. Things Music Critics Hate is an occasional series that will attempt to diagnose and explain the broadly shared beliefs and biases that shape the landscape of music criticism -- and also to discover what qualities (if any) professional observers generally agree make music good.

See also:

* Things Music Critics Hate: Foster the People, Cage the Elephant, Young the Giant, Portugal. The Man, Etc.

* Things Music Critics Hate: Coldplay

Many people love Skrillex, who in real life is 23-year-old Sonny Moore, onetime S.F. resident and former screamo bandleader. In less than two years, he's gone from virtual unknown to landing songs on charts worldwide. He's nominated for five Grammy awards this year. He draws sprawling crowds in San Francisco and at festivals like Las Vegas' Electric Daisy Carnival. Last year, he even made the cover of SPIN. That pale countenance belonging to Sonny Moore is pretty much the face of America's newfound obsession with electronic dance music.

A smaller, but no less vociferous crowd hates Skrillex and the mechanical bass detonations of his sound. Among music aficionados and many professional critics, Skrillex might as well be Satan's spawn, a strange-looking little demon who likes Korn and aims to spoil the precious soul of dance with a wobblestorm of hyperactive farting.

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Things Music Critics Hate: Foster the People, Cage the Elephant, Young the Giant, Portugal. The Man, Etc.

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Foster the People: Not bad. But also not that good.

Music criticism is as much an affliction as an occupation -- especially these days, it's far more reliable as a sickness than a paycheck. Things Music Critics Hate is an occasional series that will attempt to diagnose and explain the broadly shared beliefs and biases that shape the landscape of music criticism -- and also to discover what qualities (if any) professional observers generally agree make music good.

See also: Things Music Critics Hate: Coldplay

Let's call this group of bands "gateway indie rock with bad band names": The big dog here is obviously Foster the People, but fellow entry-level party-rockers Young the Giant, Cage the Elephant, and Portugal. The Man are all basically doing the same thing: Derivative, anthemic guitar rock built on optimistic melodies and pop-friendly arrangements. In the case of Foster the People, there's a healthy smidgen of synth-pop thrown in there for danceability points. But since you probably can't keep all these bands perfectly straight in your mind, here's a cheat sheet:

Cage the Elephant: Arctic Pixies.

Foster the People: A Maroon 5 for the flannel-and-wayfarers set.


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Things Music Critics Hate: Coldplay

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"As hated as a band can be?"

Music criticism is as much an affliction as an occupation -- especially these days, it's far more reliable as a sickness than a paycheck. While critics vary in their particulars of taste, most share a generally similar set of symptoms, leading to widespread prejudice in their ranks against certain artists, sounds, and fads. Things Music Critics Hate is an occasional series that will attempt to diagnose and explain the broadly shared beliefs and biases that shape the landscape of music criticism -- and also to discover what qualities (if any) professional observers generally agree make music good.

Is there any band more hated among music writers than Coldplay? Probably not. The British quartet is a more favored target among rockscribes even than Train. The written dismissals have been accumulating for years, and have found a cause for revival with today's release of Coldplay's new album, Mylo Xyloto. In advance of the new album, the New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones -- the pop critic most music writers wish they were -- indulged himself in a full-fledged (and hilarious) investigation of his negative views toward the band, exploring why "it's hard to deal with vexingly adequate music." Prejudices abound, but the new music itself has equally disappointed writers: The L.A. Times' Randall Roberts gave the album a tepid response -- "Coldplay is an expert at pleasure or at least poking into pockets of emotion without disturbing anything too much" -- and 1.5 stars out of four possible. Entertainment Weekly awarded it 2.5 stars out of five, asking whether the band members were tired of themselves. (Of course, Rolling Stone found cause for a 3.5 out of five, but we must take that with a grain of salt.)

Yet, as many of these reviews take pains to point out, Coldplay is wildly popular. Its shows pack arenas, and its records sell like half-off Viagra -- more than 15 million albums were unloaded in the U.S. alone since 2000. So why such a vast chasm between what fans adore and critics loathe?

Here's why: Coldplay to a music critic is like a Toyota Camry to a motoring enthusiast, or Applebee's to a foodie -- it's a denial of the artform, an abdication of nearly every interesting potential of the medium. And the search for new and interesting music is the very thing that keeps critics from selling out and getting better-paying jobs as high-school janitors.

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