Long ago, in the early days of the HOF, the Grantland staff got together and honored the "worst music videos of all time," from Billy Squier to Sisqo. But, of course, there will always be more worst music videos of all time, as demonstrated this week by Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. So today we bring you a second edition of badness, in an effort to outbad our personal worst. Enjoy?
What do Kanye West and Justin Bieber have in common besides lack of filter, fondness for leather jogging pants, and close personal friendships with Jaden Smith? They both hate major labels! But for different reasons. In an interview with Amp Radio, Kanye lauded social media for giving consumers the edge over marketers when it comes to deciding what's popular. Sayeth 'Ye: "I love the Backstreet Boys' songs, so if any of them are listening, no knock to them, but there will never be another Backstreet Boys! Not in this day and age. It's going to be artists like Lorde, singer-songwriters in this day and age that are going to come up. This is Instagram, this is the information highway."
I guess Kanye hasn't heard about One Direction. But he has a point! Artists are no longer entirely dependent on the funding of a major label to publicize themselves. They can put up content and attract fans long before they get paid for it, and if they're extremely lucky, a devoted fan base can spark a bidding war. Of course, that's a very optimistic and utopian take on the new model: The Internet as testing ground doesn't always function the way Kanye thinks it should. It has caused some really horrendous one-hit wonders to get signed for multi-album contracts they can't possibly deliver on, since they'd already peaked on their big song by the time they got signed. And Lorde isn't exactly the grassroots phenomenon Kanye describes; she has been signed to a major label since the age of 13, and her current label is clearly spending lots of money promoting her. Kanye is bigger than Yeezus now, but most artists need all that promotional push, because consumers need to hear a name repeated ad infinitum on posters, billboards, and pop-ups to realize they're meant to buy things. Kanye also reminded everyone that "rant" is a pejorative word for his speeches, saying, "'Rant' has a negative connotation, and these are inspiration, visionary breaks in pop culture. Every time I talk it is a crack in the matrix." The Backstreet Boys? The Matrix? Somebody has been thinking about 1999 recently. Me too, 'Ye!
Welcome to Escape From Pop Purgatory, where we check out new music made by people who are more well known than 98 percent of the oppressively “cool” artists over whom the media obsesses, and yet are commonly perceived to be years past the point of their cultural relevance. (Pop Purgatory is fame plus time.) Because we’re unwilling to let albums released by established if unfashionable pop culture institutions come and go without a proper listen, we’re giving these damned souls a shot at redemption — or at least some much-needed publicity outside of their respective fan bubbles. In this installment, we look at the new LP from the most popular ’90s boy band not named ’N Sync, the Backstreet Boys.
Period of Peak Fame: 1997-2000. In light of Justin Timberlake’s solo success, people often forget that it was the Backstreet Boys (and not ’N Sync) that ruled the boy-band roost in the late ’90s. In fact, when it comes to groups of absurdly well-manicured guys who sing and dance in unison, nobody has ever been more popular than BSB, which has sold a staggering 130 million albums worldwide. Most of those records moved at the height of the pre-Napster music industry boom, which was fueled by blockbusters like 1997’s Backstreet Boys (10 million sold in the U.S. alone) and 1999’s Millennium (12.2 million in the U.S.). Backstreet was so huge that 2000’s Black & Blue was considered a relatively modest seller, notching “only” 5.4 million domestically and 24 million worldwide. Even music critics came around eventually: Only the grumpiest writers could deny the merits of “I Want It That Way” as impeccably sculpted cheese.
Scarlett Johansson Is Depressed: "She was totally out of control in Moscow recently" at a champagne brand's promo event. "She was drinking nonstop and barely slept. It was obvious that she was trying to numb her feelings." She's sad about her breakup with ad exec Nate Naylor. "She's not used to going home alone — it's a shock to her system. The fact that Ryan Reynolds is happily married while she's single again has done a number on her. And the drinking is taking its toll — she's been crying because she feels so fat." She got a lucky horseshoe tattooed on her ribcage "because she's feeling a bit unlucky." A rebound with ex-boyfriend Jared Leto quickly went south. "She thought a fling with Jared would make her feel better, but since it was only a hookup, it only made things worse." Time for Lost in Translation 2? I know I'd pay good money to watch Scarlett be sad in Russia.
Nirvana, “Territorial Pissings”
Here is a professionally shot and edited video of Nirvana, playing “Territorial Pissings” at a show in Seattle on Halloween of 1991. It comes from the deluxe 20th anniversary reissue of Nevermind that’s out next week. It’s a tight, blistering version, but there’s nothing revelatory about it, and if you already feel inundated by the steady torrent of covers, tributes, and essays that have accompanied the album’s anniversary, we totally understand if you choose not to click. But just know this: You’ll be missing the opportunity to see Dave Grohl wearing white shorts over white long johns.
Bad news, fans of freedom! China’s Culture of Ministry has released a list of 100 songs that will be banned in the country effective September 15 (music websites have until then to remove the offending tracks). The Ministry hasn’t explained why these particular songs are being banned, although the common presumption — despite the fact that many of the selections are pretty vanilla — is that they contain inappropriate lyrical content. And while most of the list is made up of Japanese and Taiwanese music, the Guardian to a handful of Western pop songs that may soon never be heard in China again. Now, in solidarity with our music-loving friends in China, Hollywood Prospectus offers a few alternatives for the blacklisted tracks.