Paglia Prattles On Pop Music

Music,Pop-Culture,The Zeitgeist


The pronouncements of the once-interesting Camille Pagilia have grown rather obtuse. How bland has she become? You be the judge. What she says here about “CrotchGate” is as worn and uninteresting as anything Gloria Steinem might muster.

Paglia has always substituted symbolism for substantive assessment in the realm of art. Remember her clapped out claptrap about the significance of drag-queen iconography? This awful error has led her to evaluate Madonna as “an authentic, creative artist.”

Madonna cannot sing or compose a song worth hearing. Like most pop “musicians” today, she is a product of the visual medium: first the video, then the DVD. If you were unable to see these “artists,” you’d not want to hear them. I suspect that their image alone has, over the years, supported CD sales. And of course, the masses habituate to the thump-thump studio-engineered racket that substitutes for a voice, instrumental arrangements, and chord progression in a Madonna or Britney ditty.

Every “recording” artist today is drawn from a highly biased sample, where T & A are the prime criteria for selection, not musical ability. Janis Ian’s “Seventeen” would never have been recorded today; she’d have flopped. In music nowadays, the visual, not the auditory, is the medium.

Paglia blathers about the mismanaged sexuality of well-worn, ugly monsters like Britney Spears. (And the media mock Tom Cruise, a man of 44, for his double chin. Have you seen the chins on the big, flat, expanses that make up Britney’s mug?) The Porn Aesthetic is at work here, not the sensual.

The notion of Paglia as a sharp cultural commentator finally evaporated when she called Condoleezza Rice a brilliant woman. The woman, Condi, has not even been able to fulfill the minimum requirements of her office, much less demonstrate brilliance.(Her last official “remarks” are quite good…for a 12-year-old.)

Donald Trump, who, shall we say, has a good sense of what would fly in the private sector, said of the Secretary of State that she was a lovely woman, but that she “goes around to other countries and other nations, negotiates with their leaders, comes back and nothing ever happens.” He’d have fired her, that’s for sure.

In any event, I’ll no longer be following Paglia too closely (her eventual evaluation of the blogosphere came well after mine and only echoed what I had said in “The Importance of Boundaries“).

4 thoughts on “Paglia Prattles On Pop Music

  1. Joseph

    I hate to say it – not that I hate to agree with you – but I’ll admit Paglia has slipped from her “zenith” in the early 90’s when she burst on the scene as academia’s premiere hell raiser. I’ve been an admirer of hers for several years now and was particularly galvanized by her manifesto/essay “No Law in the Arena” from her book Vamps and Tramps and her readiness to challenge dogma. [Me too]

    On the subject of contemporary musicians you wrote “Every ‘recording’ artist today is drawn from a highly biased sample, where T & A are the prime criteria for selection, not musical ability.” I am curious if you are familiar with the Pet Shop Boys? Dare I ask what your opinion of them is?! They’ve had a successful career for 20 years now and have finally been recognized with a couple Grammy nominations. [Garbage]

  2. Dan Maguire

    I must confess that I’ve never read a whole lot of Paglia. Saw an interview with her once on 60 Minutes, later tried to wade through an essay in Sexual Personae (at least that’s what I think it was called), but really it didn’t hold my interest. Mea culpa.

    On current pop musicians…right on. The necessity of good looks in music has become so constant that I find myself bigoted (unfairly) against musicians who make the big time and are good-looking. Give me the fat, tooth-spaced, hideous Van Morrison and his fantastic soul over any modern, prettyboy crap. He wouldn’t stand a chance nowadays.

    Finally, I totally agree on Britney Spears. That gal is a neck-sag in progress!

  3. Stephen W. Browne

    One wonders how many of the Founding Fathers could have gotten elected in the television age.

    George Washington? Painfully shy, standoffish and a slow and deliberate speaker. Dan Rather would have torn him apart.

    Thomas Jefferson? Didn’t deliver his own speeches, he had them read – and maybe too much of an intellectual for today’s taste. James Madison? Physically tiny with a high squeaky voice.

    If we’d had TV journalism in 1790, there might not be an America today.

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