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Nicki Rose was an aspiring musician who made a VHS tape of himself playing guitar and singing ‘original compositions’ which he then sent to record labels. He was not signed. The tapes have circulated from person to person, dub by dub, ever since. You have to admit it’s pretty funny, and a little sad to watch. It reminds me of really bad pornography, where it’s more interesting to wonder who’s filming it than to pay attention to what’s happening on screen.
Apparently the video is a big hit in Portland. Where people have organized dances, screening parties, art exhibitions, and even a ‘Rockumentary’ specifically for the Nicki Rose video. It’s borderline obsessive. Sure the video is funny, but so are a lot of other videos on YouTube. There’s nothing that warrants excess amounts of enthusiasm. Are we (and by ‘we’ I mean a select number of individuals living Portland) so desperate for irony that we need to obsess over a VHS tape of a dude playing terrible guitar and singing terrible lyrics? Really?
The Nicki Rose tapes tell almost no story. The amount of information that is given in the videos is almost nil. There aren’t enough hints about who he was, or what he was doing to pay off the mental energy it would take to ponder them. It’s also evident that this was a pretty vacuous attempt to enter a musical scene that was pretty damn vacuous to begin with, that of hair metal (although it’s odd that these tapes were first sent out in the mid-nineties, well after the peak of hair metal). There just isn’t enough soul in the Nicki Rose tapes to warrant this much excitement.
I am hereby officially naming the irrational exuberance for an item, or fad, due to its irony value by a group of people The Nicki Rose Effect. I’ve developed an equation to help explain it little bit more.
First let’s define Irony Value. The Irony Value for a given item or idea is inversely proportional to its Coolness Factor (CF) below zero. So it’s only when an item has a negative Coolness Factor that it can gain value in irony. For instance things that are cool to any degree, whether a very large degree (Daft Punk), or a very small degree (apples) cannot be ironic. While things that are not cool (Reeboks, horseradish) are just as ironic as they are not cool. Make sense?
The Nick Rose Effect (NR) is characterized by a strange increase in Irony Value that is disproportionate to the initial Coolness Factor. Why this happens is not entirely known, although there are many documented cases of it happening throughout history, the recent increase in pirate popularity is a textbook example.
The Nicki Rose Effect is much more telling of the human need for coolness than anything else. I think the hipster mentality has compounded this need and that the current state of the media environment has only added fuel to the flames. Now LOLcats, there’s something to get excited about!
Who has the Internet killed?
The internet gives us an incredible amount of access to music. Not just any music, ALL music. It’s possible to find whatever genre you’re interested. Cambodian garage rock, Tibetan throat singing, North American birthday ballads, even prog rock. But has this access destroyed the decade genre? What artists or songs do you think about when you think about the 60s? 70s? 80s? Even the 90s had grunge. But what about the double naughts? I can’t think of any specific genre to associate with the age of the rise of the internet. Is this because the accessibility music is at an all time high? Because the record companies aren’t loading the radio airwaves with what they deem to be profitable (actually the still do this but people are listening to more online radio and podcasts, so it matters less.)?
I might be in the minority in thinking this. A lot of people might say that the likes of Britney, or The White Stripes are the ‘official’ sound of the double naughts. I’m not going to argue that they aren’t popular, but it’s not a cohesive genre. It’s not Disco, or Brit Rock.
Has the internet undercut the sociological and human elements that have historically driven the advancement of music? In some ways yes. The social and geographical implications on music have been lessened. Would Hip Hop have happened if the internet had existed in the 1970s when it would have been easier to push your music out and find an audience with a podcast, rather than ‘taking it to the streets’? I think not. Although I still think everything we do relates back to how we are human even how we use the internet. It will be artists that have really utilized the medium to push all music forward that will be remembered. Artists like Radiohead and their pay-what-you-want album ‘Rainbows”, and Danger Mouse (remember The Grey Album?). The double naughts will remembered for music, not for The Music.
I had this article sent to me a while back, and have just now gotten around to reading it. It’s a rather enjoyable read about a teenagers Guitar Hero skills. As I breezed over the comments I noticed a couple that referred in pointed amazement to the younger generations ability to interface with on screen data. Now, I’ve never played Guitar Hero (I played a real guitar for a number of years) but it seems that the skill needed to ‘interface’ with musical data has existed for a couple THOUSAND years! It’s called musical notation! And yes it does take a certain amount of skill to master reading it, just like in Guitar Hero! Whether it’s notation, tablature, or GH3 is irrelevant, they are all just different languages used to make music. This begs the question; should that kid in the Best Buy aisle be placed on the same level as Herman Li as far as guitar chops go? Aside from the creation vs. recitation argument, what remains is the idea that because one can play the notes does not mean one can make the music.
Coming this holiday season! Preorder yours today! (thanks owmysweeteyes)
The thing is, if you’re familiar with Brian Eno’s work, and more importantly the way he works, you’ll probably enjoy this interview with him from a British television show from 1990. Thanks to Gazpachot for the link.
I loves me some Cat and Girl.