David Hajdu explores Nicki Minaj’s relationship to Marilyn Monroe

Nicki Minaj wants to be the Marilyn Monroe of hip-hop. So let’s just say she is. After all, being a member of Minaj’s audience is all about submitting to her will, just as inducing submission was one of the main objectives of Marilyn’s art. This Sunday was the fiftieth anniversary of Monroe’s death, and the occasion brings to mind how much Monroe and Minaj have in common as musical performers, and how different they are in important ways.

Like Marilyn Monroe, Nicki Minaj is a sex symbol for her time and a magnificently theatrical self-construction, and she has no singing voice to speak of. We will probably never know exactly how bad Minaj’s singing really is, because Autotune and other studio effects do so much of the work on her recordings. No matter: Her music is ludicrous fun, and much of its appeal lies in the coy way Minaj plays off her own amateurism as a singer. In that, she’s not far from Marilyn Monroe, either. A rare moment of unironic self-seriousness in Minaj’s music to date happens to be the song she recorded in tribute to her idol, “Marilyn Monroe.” 

David Hajdu  “What Nicki Manaj Learned From Marilyn Monroe

"In pop music, normalcy is a commodity of fluctuating value, and its scarcity, like the gold that is electro-sprayed onto million-selling records, is manufactured—controlled and varied to suit the conditions of the market. Every phase in popular music calls for its own measure of apparent ordinariness: hayloads of it during the folk-music craze, considerably less of it in the disco era, more in the days of punk and grunge, and not so much in the extravagant luxury hip-hop of Kanye and Jay-Z, or in the high pop theater of Lady Gaga. This year the biggest star on the music charts is the English singer Adele, whose staggering popularity is rooted squarely in her image as both an extraordinary musician and the world’s most ordinary person. “In England I’m thought of as common as muck,” she said in an interview with The Sun, and she has nurtured that mode of thought successfully, flawlessly, while rising to the most rarefied strata of musical stardom. Adele has brought into line the fine-weight prices of muck and gold.”

- David Hajdu on Music: Billboard Goddesses

Photo courtesy of Reuters

What is Bruce Springsteen talking about when he says, “We take care of our own”?

"With his new album, Wrecking Ball, Springsteen has matched my weakness for his work with the weakness of his work. Granted, he’s aging; five years older than me, Springsteen is sixty-one now. Still, age is a limited defense for having released an album as wan and shallow as Wrecking Ball. If he’s tired, as he has every right to be, his job as an author of songs is to make something of that tiredness in his music—to make pop-music art of what he knows and feels, as Leonard Cohen (at age 77) has done this year with his lyrically autumnal new album, Old Ideas, or as Paul Simon, at 69, did last year with his So Beautiful or So What. Instead, Springsteen has avoided the ahrd work of vividly, intimately evoking the human experience in favor of platitudes and sloganeering in quasi-jingoistic bromides like “We Take Care of Our Own.”

—David Hajdu, “Today’s Bruce Springsteen is a Pale Imitation of the Real Thing

Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone.

Attendees at a far-right extremist music festival in Germany were punked by Exit, a group which helps people disassociate themselves from the far-right. Exit donated 250 T-shirts to the concert anonymously and they were handed out, the Guardian reports:

The slogan on the shirts first read “Hardcore Rebels” along with a skull and nationalist flags. But once the shirts were washed, the tagline turned into a message from a group offering to help far-right extremists break away from the neo-Nazi scene.”If your T-shirt can do it, you can do it too – we’ll help you get away from right-wing extremism,” reads the slogan on the shirts after their first washing.

As a loyal citizen of the ownership society, I felt, at first, deprived by Spotify. What it offers is ephemera—the commodity of our day—with nothing to keep and collect or show off to my friends to prove that I have more than they do. For materialists like me, Spotify provides, along with a wealth of rich musical experiences, the sensation of withdraw from object craving.

David Hajdu, “From Records To Spotify: The Remarkable Evolution Of Musical Access”