House-trained stars and media-wary PR agents are destroying rock‘n’roll

The music industry today is dominated by bland PR processes and musicians who just don’t have anything to say

Prince  was a blast when he was on form:  Last year claimed three other  magnificent communicators with the deaths David Bowie  Leonard Cohen and George Michael. Photograph: Kevork Djansezian/Getty

Prince was a blast when he was on form: Last year claimed three other magnificent communicators with the deaths David Bowie Leonard Cohen and George Michael. Photograph: Kevork Djansezian/Getty

 

One of the side effects of the grim reaper’s run in 2016 was how it presented an opportunity to rummage through back issues and reread old interviews with those who had just died.

The fact that it was David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen and George Michael who were doing the talking probably tints this bout of hindsight a tad rosey. All four were magnificent communicators – yes, even Prince, who was a blast when he was on form – and interviews with them tended to be full of the good stuff. It would be a poor hack indeed who didn’t come away from an encounter with any of that lot without a few nuggets.

By comparison, the paucity of interesting characters in today’s pop game is something which those of us who wield recorders and notebooks for a living frequently comment on. We moan and groan about the fact that today’s crop of music-slingers just don’t have anything to say because, well, they don’t have anything to say.

Worse, they’ve been house-trained by vested interests to be safe and unadventurous. In a world dominated by lifeless social media campaigns and bland PR processes, most pop acts share the same view of the media as those currently occupying the White House.

It’s a delight when you do come across a musician who speaks freely and colourfully. I interviewed rapper Loyle Carner recently and he was open, funny, thoughtful and quite brilliant. You left the encounter with a light step and eager to know more about where this talented London kid is going.

But it’s not just the music game where you have to put up with the dull, the sullen and the anodyne. In between lashing into the scalding tea and ham sandwiches, OTR’s pals in the press box at sports stadiums and arenas up and down the land will share our pain. They have to deal with sportsmen and women who are too frigid to do anything bar toe the accepted PR line of the day.

Best of luck getting a 1,200 word feature out of those four minutes of quotes about how it’s a game of two halves or their “unreal” respect for Brian Cody. It would certainly make for a much different feature if they were to share their real views on the latter.

Spouting rubbish

Yet this is not some new development. For all the articulation of a Bowie or a Cohen in full flight, it’s worth bearing in mind that the pages of the pop press of old were often filled with talentless no-marks spouting copious amounts of rubbish. It wasn’t all purple prose and beautifully structured sentences by any stretch. There was a lot of “we make music for ourselves and if anyone else likes it, it’s a bonus” going on.

Of course, there are two sides to this. Those facing the recorder are wary of the press because of how they’re seen colleagues and peers hung out to dry. There’s a sense that because of how the media now operates, with the focus on clicks and speed, that one loose quote will be all over the online ecosystem before you can say “what do you think of that, Joe Brolly?”. There’s no putting that horse back in the stable, thus reliance on quotes and language as stilted as Stephen Donnelly trying to justify his move to Fianna Fáil.

There may be an element of inside baseball to all of this, yet readers are not best served by artists who are afraid or unable to express themselves. The problem with dull pop profiles is that it might well put you off the man or woman who’s delivered the quotes. 

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.