Friday, December 23, 2016

Won't somebody think of the Nickelback?

At this time of year, it's good that someone is prepared to make a stand for a cause that they believe in. Even if that person is Avril Lavigne, and the cause is fucking awful.

A few days ago, Mark Zuckerburg - The Riddler of the Information Age - made a funny video in which, in part, he made a joke at the expense of Nickelback. Avril Lavigne wasn't having that:


The first paragraph isn't even coherent, and I suspect a whole sentence got forgotten to try and link 'people not liking Facebook' with 'Zuckerberg not liking Nickelback'.

At the other end of the notelet, why is Lavigne putting hashtags into something she's going to share as a screenshot?

In the middle... in the middle, that's where it's really rough. If 'selling lots of records' makes someone worthwhile or significant, based on the wheezy figures achieved globally by Avril Lavigne's most recent album, Lavigne has effectively been invisible since about 2011. Selling lots of a thing doesn't mean you're doing anything worthwhile; not selling lots of a thing doesn't make you worthless.

But if that crude dollar-equivalent basis of cultural value is the one Lavigne's going for, then Zuckerberg - having persuaded millions upon millions to seal their online experience inside his unlovely scroll-jail - would be in a position to pass judgement on nearly every artist or musician in known history.

Let's set that aside, though, and just focus on the core claim that Lavigne is making - that criticism of a musician is akin to bullying.

The joke was Zuckerberg asked his AI to play a good Nickelback song; the AI replied that there were no good Nickelback songs.

Lavigne has done a lot of really good work to promote anti-bullying charities online, and it's sweet that she's defending her ex-husband in this way. But it undermines real victims of bullying to try and conflate a weak gag about a band's music with bullying. Music is immensely personal and music fans are incredibly tribal and - clearly - it's not unknown for that to boil over into actual bullying. But Zuckerberg's joke is no more than the equivalent of giving an album one star in a review and, really, if you don't want to be told that some people don't like what you make, you probably are in the wrong business.

My Mum used to say 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all', but she never let that stop her having a go at Cliff Richard whenever he appeared on the radio.

Presumably the royalty cheques help soothe the pain a little, but what really should count isn't the people who don't like Nickelback, but the people who do. If you're making something that you care about and want to make a connection, you'll understand that sometimes it's a passionate connection, and sometimes it's going to be a firm rejection. That's the whole point of artistry.

Unless of course you don't really care about your music and just value the number of units shifted.


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