Previous playlists: 2010, 2011, Japan and 2013.
Yesterday I was reading about old school hip hop and realized that Missy Eliott is the same age as me. I wondered what, if anything, I could make of this fact. I thought of googling "(other) celebrities born in 1971" but then thought that would be pathetic. (Born in 1971: Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dog, Mary J. Blige.) I'm now wondering if this has anything to do with my recent, reignited obsession with hip hop, a music that I have been alive for the entire history of. A music that has changed, become less innocent, perhaps more cynical, over the exact same years I have.
If you have been reading A Radical Cut in the Texture of Reality, and I find it almost impossible to imagine that anyone is, you will know I have spent much of the past year obsessed with my own failure. I still can't quite believe that the most hits here this past year went to my post Must lead to something else, where I begin: "Most of my favorite artists follow a fairly standard trajectory. They start out okay or good, have a period of getting better and better, peak, then slowly or rapidly decline. (Some of them die young, before the decline begins, but that’s another kind of question.) I have now been making work for about twenty-five years and wonder if my decline has already begun, or will begin any minute."
(At the same time I know at least some people are looking at this because I obsessively check the blogger statistics. I suppose this is mainly what I mean by 'failure': this life of checking blogger statistics and compiling YouTube playlists. And at the same time I manage to do so many other things. I'm never quite sure how. I suppose I work quickly and don't look back.)
I was about to start writing this post about failure (even though I am continuously promising myself that I will stop writing about failure on my blog) when I stumbled on the Momus post 2013: A bloody good year to be Momus. I was going to write about what a failure my life is while, at more or less the same time, Momus was writing about how well things are going for him. (Momus writes about all the amazing things he did this past year but I could never bring myself to do the same thing in regards to my own past year. I wonder why. Is it only because I'm a self-deprecating Canadian?)
As many people seem to already know, Momus is one of my ongoing obsessions. (Others include: Hip Hop, Las Malas Amistades, Chris Kraus, The Transformation by Juliana Spahr, Alvaro Mutis, Lene Berg, David Graeber, I'm sure there are more I can't think of at the moment.) But for such a long time Momus has been an obsession very much connected to my own sense of disappointment. In my early twenties I was so obsessed with his first five records (Circus Maximus, The Poison Boyfriend, Tender Pervert, Monsters of Love, The Ultraconformist -- not actually his first five records but those were the ones I loved) and so much of what came after was a let down. Specifically, I had a story about him I told myself: that he made a conscious decision to sell out, that he wanted to sound more like The Pet Shop Boys, and more importantly to have their success, and this decision led him down a road that, for me as a listener and fan, was mainly a road of disappointment.
Strangely, I have the same story in my head about David Bowie, a story I heard in an interview with Nile Rogers, that when Bowie came into the studio to begin recording Let's Dance, Nile Rogers was preparing to experiment and get weird, but instead Bowie began the session by saying: "I want a hit." For Bowie it worked (for one album at least, after Let's Dance I think it was pretty much downhill), for Momus not so much (I think he had a minor hit with Michelin Man but then got sued by Michelin and had to remove the song from his record.) However, both of these stories are burned into my mind as a kind of lesson: when you make a conscious decision to 'sell out', it later becomes extremely difficult to get back onto the right artistic path.
I say 'strangely' because Momus begins his post with how excited he is that Bowie put out a new record in 2013. I was disappointed with Momus, but Momus was never disappointed with Bowie (I believe his major influence.) And the past few years I've come around to Momus again. I liked Otto Spooky, Ocky Milky, Joemus and Hypnoprism. I spent a lot of time this year listening to the first MOMUSMCCLYMONT record and now there's already a second. And I realize I've listened to every record he's ever made many many times, and even on the records I liked the least there were a few songs I still listen to. Disappointment is part of life and yet shouldn't go on forever.
I'm wondering if I'll have to stop making these YouTube playlists because there now seems to be a commercial between almost ever track. When I started the playlists in 2010 I don't recall it being this way. Everything on the internet is becoming (unsurprisingly) more monetized. More ads on Facebook, boost your post, more commercials on YouTube, etc.
Something has changed in how I listen to music. This was the year I decided to try living with no internet at home (in a futile attempt to spend less time on Facebook), and because of this I mainly leave my computer at the office. So at work I listen to music on the internet and at home I listen to CD's. This split has somehow begun to fascinate me. I listen to music in completely different ways on my computer than I now do at home. The most obvious difference being at home I listen to albums all the way through while on the computer its always some form of jumping around or shuffle. The computer is really the land of A.D.D. And at home I'm listening to the same records again and again, while the computer ignites my thirst to hear something new, always new. More music than I will ever be able to listen to and a slight sense of defeat that I will never make it through it all.
Last thought (for now) on YouTube playlists. If I love all these obscure songs enough to compile them every year, why aren't I delighted to be among the obscure and relatively unknown? Why do I consider my own relative obscurity as such a complete failure? Is it only because I feel that music - as a thing in itself - is so much better than anything I'm capable of? Yet these seem to be the (mostly obscure) artistic things I love most.
And Missy Elliott is still really good.