Your semiregular seapunk-journalism update | Bleader

Friday, March 23, 2012

Your semiregular seapunk-journalism update

Posted By on 03.23.12 at 04:42 PM

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Zombelle and Ultrademon
  • Kevin Schowengerdt
  • Zombelle and Ultrademon
With the publication over at the AV Club of former Pitchfork editor in chief Scott Plagenhoef's "The Tumblr trap: Is Internet culture turning musicians into content-producers?," the number of trend pieces on seapunk is finally greater than the actual number of people making seapunk music, which makes seapunk officially the quintessential musical style of the modern age. Actually it's a really good article, and Plagenhoef mostly uses seapunk (as well as the excellent artsy electronic weirdo Grimes) to shed some light on the way the indie rock world has opened itself up to other musical styles, and to replicating on a smaller scale the type of faddishness that counterculturalists of yore used to condemn the mainstream for.

He also digs into the way the massive paradigm shift the Internet has effected on the process of making and distributing music threatens to overextend artists, turning them into content producers cranking away at their Tumblrs instead of actually making music, which is something that's been on my mind for a while. The first revolution in getting your music out into an Internet-enabled world demanded that musicians be marketing wizards and social media gurus on top of simply being musicians, which was distracting and sort of unfair to the many very good acts out there who don't happen to also be good at doing things like maintaining e-mail lists. The second one demanded that they start producing material constantly—whether it's music or Tumblrs or videos or whatever—just to keep from being completely forgotten about amidst the torrents of material coming at music consumers from all angles. This is especially true in hip-hop, where hyperprolific artists like Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane, and Lil B have raised this particular bar to dizzying heights—watch enough young rappers trying to make their name by matching or exceeding this superhuman creative pace and you'll see more than a few hit a wall after releasing something like their fifth album-length mix tape in a year and completely fall apart. I felt kind of lukewarm over the second Weeknd record exactly because I think you can actually hear the need to release three albums in a year actually draining the energy from the music.

On the other hand you can use the seapunks as an excellent argument for exactly the musician-as-content-producer scenario that has Plagenhoef and me so worried, and that there is a young generation of Tumblr power users who are not only up to the task but don't see it as a big deal. Plagenhoef notes that "while progenitors such as [Shan 'Zombelle' Beaste] understand the playfulness of the whole thing, once the seapunk article appeared, many straight-faced online commentators shrugged and insisted they had already moved on to slimepunk anyway. Another day, another meme." What he doesn't mention, and may not be aware of, is that the progenitors of the progenitors of seapunk are also the progenitors of slimepunk, and the progression is less a matter of "on to the next one" now that seapunk's been overexposed but a weird conceptual game of cat and mouse between seapunk's inventors and the very people paying attention to them. Having stitched together this strange aesthetic that's had an effect on people at the very apex of mainstream fame, they've gone on to invent a whole new one and put it in direct competition with their earlier and still ongoing innovation. Building a successful aesthetic and then almost immediately forming a new one to declare war on it and daring the spotlight of mainstream attention to follow you is a media prank that I'm sure the surrealists would have appreciated.

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