As you know, I can not read reviews right now, as I have taken a vow not to spoil the new tour for myself. But I have it on good authority that, as is to be expected, um…not everyone loves our favorite Brothers, or the show. Big deal, right? I am all for constructive criticism, and there is inevitably a poor review or two (or more), but today, I am gonna try to get a little meta on it.
Apparently, a writer in San Francisco (I’ll allow myself to read his full piece after next Friday, I’ve only got non-spoiler excerpts) not only abhorred the Guys’ staging, but finds them to be both too eclectic and too derivative. OK. For me the term “eclectic” is not an insult (nor is another oft-used pseudo-slam against them, “harmless”).
As for being derivative…well, I don’t think they’ve ever claimed anything but a debt to their various professed forebears, but…OK. (Though I respectfully disagree…and I tend to be a harsh critic of bands that sound ridiculously derivative…which is pretty much every band out there at the moment, for my money). As far as I can tell, the reviewer is trying to put them down for the very thing that makes their derivations of old sounds (is there anything else?) ultimately more original.
I have not seen the show yet, so perhaps he is very right to call the performance “bloated” (I’ll let you know), but the reviewer seems not to have been too keen on the fundamental concept of the show from the get go, and some of his basic concert review “revelations” tread all too familiar ground. Still, I am going to try to highlight it, because there was another interesting article that came through the alerts last week which relates. This other piece, I think, touches upon what bee is in the bonnet of some of these heinously ill-assigned “critics”, who call their brief, shallowly dismissive mentions of the show criticism, which they tuck neatly amidst longer, more colorful passages which rip the scene as a whole.
In short, there is something quite sexist about the way the Boys get reviewed (even though they are boys, and even though sometimes the critics are women). And it’s about a lot of us, the fans.
Some food for thought…after the jump.
Here’s what the San Francisco critic had to say:
The Jonas Brothers’ young fans all seemed to be having a great time, but they weren’t the greatest barometer of the group’s musical talent and potential longevity as artists. Judging by the devoted looks in their eyes (and homemade pink sparkly-painted “What Would Jonas Do” T-shirts), the fans would have kept screaming if Nick, Joe and Kevin did nothing but sit on the stage reading a William Faulkner novel.
They screamed as they walked through the security checkpoint on the way into the show. They screamed as they took the farthest seats on the lawn, squinting to see the stage. They screamed when a commercial came on the big-screen monitor, advertising something about malaria nets. By the time the Jonas Brothers reached the stage, prompting an uncharted decibel level from their mostly preteen fans, anything short of the Rapture was going to be an anticlimax.
It’s OK if your 12-year-old daughter and her friends go to a Jonas Brothers concert in somewhat trampy attire. This has been going on since Elvis Presley started shaking his hips. But if you’re the 43-year-old chaperone and you’re also dressed like a hussy, you probably have a clinical problem. The Rock Medicine people really should set up a separate tent for that.
FROM: Jonas Brothers concert bloated, unfocused by Peter Hartlaub
Okay, since this commentary has precious little to do with what was going on onstage and everything to do with harshing on the audience, I don’t feel so bad about taking it out of context.
Why is he so hung up on the behavior of the audience? Would he feel less disturbed by the show itself if he felt less alienated from his fellow concertgoers?
Take a look at a vaguely more feminist slant on why very specific types of writers seem to keep giving the same reviews of the Boys’ efforts.
Lucinda Breeding, of the Denton Record-Chronicle, did a column on tween pop and consumerism, which is not always fully accurate or cohesive, but glances intriguingly at how acts largely marketed to and adored loudly by tween girls have such a hard time getting respect. She is addressing Miley Cyrus primarily, but see how well you think her points, whittled down here, stick to our Guys:
We’ll call them Disney’s Squeaky Clean Brat Pack.
They have perfect skin, shiny hair and ultra-white, toothy grins. They are fashion forward and very mature. And apparently, these bright and shiny tots are the geese who lay gold-plated eggs for Disney.
The company has some of the top-grossing music available. The most recognizable acts are also the most criticized.
[They are…] mocked by both grouchy critics and indie music buffs who deplore the assembly-line nature of acts like Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Their music is hyper-pop, and sweet enough to cause tooth decay.
Chances are, they’re savvy young artists who have a lot of focus and the kind of energy only found among the young. But these performers are packaged, and Miley and others like her are the Tiger Beat magazine crew.
But they don’t get the kind of credibility afforded other acts that are just as mass-produced. (Ne-Yo, we’re looking at you. Usher, you too.)*
Why do the masses like to roll their eyes at Miley, and her alter-ego, Hannah Montana? Her show and her music are the ultimate fluff, right? But is she any lighter weight than the Beatles were when they first broke in the states, with confections like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand?”
It could be that Cyrus’ target audience is the young female demographic. Her products are aimed at preteen girls…
Entertainment for boys doesn’t get the same rap. Video games, sports and recreational markets — such as go-carting and paintball — aren’t mocked for being fluffy or light-weight.
FROM: Beyond the Pink Feathers and Sparkles by Lucinda Breeding
(*If I was writing the column, I would have called out a lot more faux-indie rock and hipster types, myself.)
So, yeah, I may be getting a tad Jezebel on you here, but I think it’s fair to say that it is commonly accepted for the media, critics especially, not to even bother to find a point to the entertainment enjoyed largely by women, especially young girls.
Instead of caring about what resonates with our demographic – Why do the little ones arrive at the venue at full scream? What drives their moms to get into the act and dress up? – and valuing it or finding meaning in it, there seems to be no problem blatantly mocking something in the culture which is largely appreciated by women.
It is automatically assumed that a female-heavy fan base is devoted to the superficial and couldn’t possibly be able to discern a legitimate thing about the music or the staging, let alone see through the marketing of the music.
I think people are entitled to their opinions, but I do think we sometimes need to reflect deeper about where the opinions are coming from inside ourselves, and if it’s rooted in unfair bias (for the record, women do this a lot too, especially those who reject traditional ideals of girlishness, often for reasons which are just as paternalistic in the end. Clearly, the issue is much more subtle complex than this, but there is only so deep you can go in this blog post.)
Having a predominantly female fan base is seen as something to be ashamed of and justifies disrespect…and you’ll rarely see the situation reversed.
So, should girls feel insulted when events we find fantastic are deemed worthless in print, or the objects of our affection are called names or teased in the mainstream media for the very qualities we value in them?
I think so.