Tag Archives: kanye west

Barbi Martinez: Why I Love Pitchfork, Ryan Adams & Taylor Swift


Mainstream music site officially adopts pop superstar as its muse. Meanwhile, Ry-Ry goes shopping for a ring and a morning jacket… Above: perennial airbrush portrait of Swift that is apparently favored by Pitchfork.

By Barbi Martinez, Blurt Intern

I know, I know… we’ve all been teased by erstwhile indie rock supporter Pitchfork’s August-October love affair with erstwhile tween pop star Taylor Swift via their breathless coverage of Ryan Adams’ equally breathless COVERage of Taylor Swift (8 separate pieces in all posted during that time; no telling how many side comments occurred as well). Me, I love Ry, and our very own editor has sung the songwriter’s praises as well; although there’s probably no one here in the BLURT smoking tent right now that will ever admit to have listened to a #TayTay track all the way through unless they happened to be trapped in line at a Target or something.

Translation: Adams’ song-by-song cover of Swift’s 1989 did cause some dissonance along the lines of should-we-cover-should-we-dismiss dialogue, but luckily rational heads prevailed once the drugs wore off and the general consensus was that the newly-single Adams and the generally-at-loose-ends (so she says) Swift were just engaged in a ridiculously public mating dance via social media and there was no good reason to give ink to what’s ultimately destined to be a musical footnote to an otherwise respected artist’s career. (Adams’ career, not Swift’s, just in case you haven’t been following this.) This is not a genuine musical moment, in other words, but a sideshow.

Ry Ry

Anyway… getting back to the main point, as most folks know by now, back in mid-October Pitchfork sold out, er, completed what was a long, protracted process of selling out by being purchased by mainstream media conglomerate Condé Nast. The only surprise is that it took so long to happen; media wags had long speculated that Kanye West had bought a stake in the media outlet years earlier to coincide with its then-new all-Kanye/all-positive/all-the-time policy of urban music coverage. Subsequently, we sat back and awaited the inevitable.

It happened today (Nov. 1), as the following headline suggests: “Taylor Swift Performs ‘Here’ With Alessia Cara.” Putting aside the question of who is (and who cares about) 18-year old Canadian R&B pop tart Cara, this marks the first time in recent memory that the words “Taylor” and “Swift” have led off a header for Pitchfork. Previously, there was only the August 26 “Taylor Swift Brings Out Beck and St. Vincent in L.A.”, of course, but that put the spotlight squarely on the site’s acknowledged faves, Beck and St. Vincent, with Swift essentially just a sidebar.

Still… come to think of it, way back in June, during the big Swift-Apple dust-up over royalties, a pseudo-think piece about artists’ rights titled “Taylor Swift Fights For the Underdogs” was published, and in retrospect it now looks suspiciously like it was laying the groundwork for a full-on love fest between the site and the artist, with contributor Kathy Iandoli even using that excruciating “Tay-Tay” nickname of affection. (My little brother, who is in the 6th grade, told me recently about his principal using that yechh-y nickname at a school anti-bullying rally when quoting from “Shake It Off” lyrics. Keep that middle school reference in mind, as that is the context we are operating in when discussing Taylor Swift.)

Pitchfork hearts Taylor

Well, said love fest is complete.

Welcome to the (Big) Machine, Pitchfork. We get it. Everyone in your office will receive VIP tickets to the “1989-Redux” tour (plus invites to the presumably forthcoming Tay-Tay and Ry-Ry wedding), while we, your readership, will get wall-to-wall coverage of Taylor along with her BFFs Kanye, Ed, Lena and god knows who else. Maybe Mick?

Ms. Martinez is BLURT’s one and only official office intern. Keep this quiet: in the very near future we plan to send her out for coffee and Danish and, upon her return, give her a long-overdue promotion.


Uncle Blurt: Do Prince’s Plans to Save Sinking Tidal Platform, Fresh Comments on “Slavery” Make Him a Douchebag?


Exactly how many signed up for that fucking thing again? And what’s up with those gunbarrels on the dude’s album artwork?

By Uncle Blurt

If you are like most of America’s music consumers, you initially yawned, then laughed, at Jay-Z’s plan to save himself and fellow superstars from that big bad ol’ bogeyman “streaming music” by launching music platform Tidal. Precise figures are not available, but suffice to say that the utter lack of media excitement about Tidal, following the initial announcement back in late March mirrored the public’s general apathy towards it. For that matter, some artists publicly denounced it, like Mumford and Sons, Noel Gallagher and Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard, and which left Jay-Z stuttering and sputtering on social media—to much mirth on social media— for people to “give us a chance to grow and get better.” Bloomberg Business even penned an op-ed/analysis of the service, “Why Jay-Z’s Tidal is a Complete Disaster,” concluding that Tidal’s artist-exclusivity angle is ultimately at odds with the way the music industry – and human nature – operates, and that for him to think he can “save” the music industry from itself is naïve at best, and in general, reeks of hubris.

It’s not as if people care how they get their fixes of Tidal artists Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Chris Martin/Coldplay, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Kanye West, Madonna. Arcade Fire, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk, Jack White, and Deadmau5, much less how much these well-heeled artists get paid. Ask yourself when was the last time you saw the hashtag #TIDALforALL… People are already pretty happy with Spotify, and since Apple’s new Apple Music platform basically just slots in beside that iTunes app on your smartphone, why go to the trouble of signing up for something entirely different when one click quickly downloads and synchs Apple Music. Not to mention the fact that $9.99/mo. for Tidal is highway robbery (grand theft auto if you want the $19.99 hi def version). The fact that less than 3 months after the launch Tidal announced it was offering a special $4.99 rate (or $10 for hi def) for students only highlighted how the business is already feeling the pinch. I mean, c’mon: that whole students-don’t-have-much-disposable-income is a total myth in 2015 (I guarantee you that the average freshman on a college campus spends WAY more money on music, movies, concerts and beer than I do), and students also know exactly where they can score free, pirated downloads of new releases anyway.

But wait, here comes the cavalry! It’s The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Who Yanked His Music From Streaming Services, aka Prince, a late arrival to the Tidal roster, who announced the other day that his forthcoming new album HITNRUN will be distributed exclusively via Tidal starting Sept. 7. His statement speaks for itself:


“After one meeting, it was obvious that Jay Z and the team he has assembled at TIDAL recognize and applaud the effort that real musicians put in2 their craft 2 achieve the very best they can at this pivotal time in the music industry. Secondly, TIDAL have honored Us with a non-restrictive arrangement that once again allows Us to continue making art in the fashion We’ve grown accustomed 2 and We’re Extremely grateful 4 their generous support. And lastly, in the tech-savvy, real-time world We all live in 2day, everything is faster. From its conception and that one & only meeting, HITNRUN took about 90 days 2 prepare its release. If that’s what freedom feels like, HITNRUN is what it sounds like.”

No doubt Jay-Z Is Extremely Grateful 4 Prince’s generous support, because he’s probably the only artist among all the others listed above that has total cross-genre appeal. I mean, if Tom Petty or, I dunno, Patti Smith were to go with Tidal, I would have to do some serious thinking about signing up. As I am now doing re: Prince’s announcement. Of course, there’s always that apartment full of college students across the street from the Blurt offices that I can appeal to as well come Sept. 7….

Prince 2

But wait, as the saying goes, there’s more! Over the weekend Prince held a meet ‘n’ greet-slash-press conference at Paisley Park for a small assemblage of black journalists, ostensibly to drum up support for Tidal during the lead up to the album release next month. He’s clearly aware that Tidal has been taking it on the chin of late, so he rolled out all of Jay-Z’s talking points while talking about artistic freedom and about artists getting fairly compensated compared to the way record companies treat them. And echoing comments he uttered years ago when he divorced himself from Warner Bros., he invoked the “S” word:

“Record contracts are just like — I’m gonna say the word – slavery. I would tell any young artist … don’t sign.”

Fair enough; that’s your opinion, Prince, one which I’m sure is shared by many. Unfortunately, it’s based on a no-longer-useful model, one which may have been true back during the early days of the recording industry, when the status quo involved signing blues, jazz and R&B artists (read: people of color) to ridiculously one-sided contracts and oftentimes pressuring them to share or even surrender songwriting and publishing with their (white) producers, (white) managers and (white) label heads. Back then, there weren’t any options for artists: if you wanted to release records, you had to sign on the dotted line. Not for nothing was the music biz sometimes referred to as “a plantation system.”

But those days are gone. Nobody is forcing anyone to sign anything in 2015, and nobody is preventing musicians from earning a living. Last time I looked, Prince was doing pretty good for himself and has been doing pretty good from the time he released his first record in the late ‘70s. For him to use the term “slavery” in 2015, particularly given the recent heated dialogue over the Confederate flag, the Civil War and slavery, is worse than being disingenuous – it’s just irresponsible, and whether intentional or not, demeans the lives and legacies of those African-Americans who were actual slaves.

But as usual, whenever Prince talks about anything, even if on the surface it appears to be about a serious issue, in the end he’s just doing another sleight-of-hand magic trick. ‘Cos with Prince, it’s always gonna be about How 2 Benefit Me.


Uncle Blurt is our official web guru, reality checker and house conscience. He is older than everyone out there, so fuck you.