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Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life

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One of Amazon's Best Books of 2016 So Far Music critic Steven Hyden explores nineteen music rivalries and what they say about life Beatles vs. Stones. Biggie vs. Tupac. Kanye vs. Taylor. Who do you choose? And what does that say about you? Actually--what do these endlessly argued-about pop music rivalries say about us? Music opinions bring out passionate debate in people, and One of Amazon's Best Books of 2016 So Far Music critic Steven Hyden explores nineteen music rivalries and what they say about life Beatles vs. Stones. Biggie vs. Tupac. Kanye vs. Taylor. Who do you choose? And what does that say about you? Actually--what do these endlessly argued-about pop music rivalries say about us? Music opinions bring out passionate debate in people, and Steven Hyden knows that firsthand. Each chapter in YOUR FAVORITE BAND IS KILLING ME focuses on a pop music rivalry, from the classic to the very recent, and draws connections to the larger forces surrounding the pairing. Through Hendrix vs. Clapton, Hyden explores burning out and fading away, while his take on Miley vs. Sinead gives readers a glimpse into the perennial battle between old and young. Funny and accessible, Hyden's writing combines cultural criticism, personal anecdotes, and music history--and just may prompt you to give your least favorite band another chance.


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One of Amazon's Best Books of 2016 So Far Music critic Steven Hyden explores nineteen music rivalries and what they say about life Beatles vs. Stones. Biggie vs. Tupac. Kanye vs. Taylor. Who do you choose? And what does that say about you? Actually--what do these endlessly argued-about pop music rivalries say about us? Music opinions bring out passionate debate in people, and One of Amazon's Best Books of 2016 So Far Music critic Steven Hyden explores nineteen music rivalries and what they say about life Beatles vs. Stones. Biggie vs. Tupac. Kanye vs. Taylor. Who do you choose? And what does that say about you? Actually--what do these endlessly argued-about pop music rivalries say about us? Music opinions bring out passionate debate in people, and Steven Hyden knows that firsthand. Each chapter in YOUR FAVORITE BAND IS KILLING ME focuses on a pop music rivalry, from the classic to the very recent, and draws connections to the larger forces surrounding the pairing. Through Hendrix vs. Clapton, Hyden explores burning out and fading away, while his take on Miley vs. Sinead gives readers a glimpse into the perennial battle between old and young. Funny and accessible, Hyden's writing combines cultural criticism, personal anecdotes, and music history--and just may prompt you to give your least favorite band another chance.

30 review for Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Carmen Petaccio

    "Axl Rose is commonly perceived to be a tough guy. But Axl Rose is not a tough guy. Axl Rose was once beat up by Tommy Hilfiger."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    I am a total sucker for the whole music criticism/slightly memoir-y genre, and who hasn't been passionate about an artist enough to immediately dislike something else out of loyalty? Hyden does a nice job of picking rivalries from practically every walk of life, from genre to level of engagement from the musicians themselves. Ultimately it says more about us as fans why we imbue our picks with such meaning and power, and Hyden doesn't shy away from sharing his own personal experiences here. I kno I am a total sucker for the whole music criticism/slightly memoir-y genre, and who hasn't been passionate about an artist enough to immediately dislike something else out of loyalty? Hyden does a nice job of picking rivalries from practically every walk of life, from genre to level of engagement from the musicians themselves. Ultimately it says more about us as fans why we imbue our picks with such meaning and power, and Hyden doesn't shy away from sharing his own personal experiences here. I knocked off a star because Hyden only begrudgingly admits respect for Damon Albarn's solo record after refusing to listen to any of his music due to Oasis loyalty. Just kidding, I just wish this had gone on longer or had a final chapter to ease out of the book. It felt like it cut off jarringly. But seriously, dude, you could have taken one for the team and listened to a Blur album all the way through. Or Gorillaz. (But hey, I like Oasis too. You're totally right about "Acquiesce.")

  3. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    Often interesting, frequently funny, largely enjoyable reading covering the same ground as Steven Hyden’s usual essays and podcasts on music. I read much of his stuff and listen to his podcast occasionally, he’s exactly my age and shares a lot of the same perspectives on music as I do. Each chapter is a meandering music + [whatever seems relevant at the time] discussion framed in the context of some kind of a rivalry between the artists. Some rivalries are real--like, they were popular at the sam Often interesting, frequently funny, largely enjoyable reading covering the same ground as Steven Hyden’s usual essays and podcasts on music. I read much of his stuff and listen to his podcast occasionally, he’s exactly my age and shares a lot of the same perspectives on music as I do. Each chapter is a meandering music + [whatever seems relevant at the time] discussion framed in the context of some kind of a rivalry between the artists. Some rivalries are real--like, they were popular at the same time and genuinely hated each other, or at least there was a myth that they did. Others aren’t really rivalries per se, just interesting comparisons. These latter kind, on the whole, are a much stronger bunch. (For example, the chapter on Hendrix vs. Clapton, which explores the real cultural difference between burning out and fading away.) Hyden can be very good at discussion-oriented pieces that delve into new ways of thinking about, or relating to, music and culture. Other chapters seemed to struggle for a thesis and just rehashed who said what at which made-for-tabloids awards show. I skimmed and skipped these as needed to maintain good mental health.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Laila (BigReadingLife)

    My music geek heart loved this book of essays, ostensibly about some of the biggest rivalries in popular music - Oasis/Blur, Nirvana/Pearl Jam, Madonna/Cyndi Lauper, Tupac/Biggie. But he connects those rivalries to things bigger than simply that, like what it means to be a fan, why men have a hard time making friends with other men, anxiety about getting older and relaxing into being totally "uncool." You don't have to know a lot about these rivalries to enjoy this engaging, funny, smart book. I My music geek heart loved this book of essays, ostensibly about some of the biggest rivalries in popular music - Oasis/Blur, Nirvana/Pearl Jam, Madonna/Cyndi Lauper, Tupac/Biggie. But he connects those rivalries to things bigger than simply that, like what it means to be a fan, why men have a hard time making friends with other men, anxiety about getting older and relaxing into being totally "uncool." You don't have to know a lot about these rivalries to enjoy this engaging, funny, smart book. I loved this quotation on page 34: "If you're reading this book, there is probably an artist or band whose music you have an intense personal relationship with. I would also guess that this artist or band came into your life during a time when you were highly vulnerable. if this is the case, this artist or band might be the closest thing you had to a confidant. in fact, he, she, or it was better than a confidant, because his/her/its music articulated your own thoughts and feeling better than you ever could. This music elevated the raw materials of your life to the heights of art and poetry. It made you feel as if your personal experience was grander and more meaningful than it might otherwise have been. And naturally you attributed whatever that music was doing to your heart and brain to the people who made the music, and you came to believe that the qualities of the music were also true of the music's creators. "If this music understands me, then the people behind the music must also understand me," goes this line of thought. "

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Well, you should probably take this review (or at least that fifth star) with a grain of salt because, as a Bearded White Dude Who Loves Pop Culture, I'm pretty much exactly this book's target audience. Google Image Steven Hyden, who wrote this book, for evidence of what I'm talking about. Anyway, this is the second book from a former Grantland writer that I've read this year (the other one being Shea Serrano's hilarious/essential The Rap Year Book), and, at the risk of seeming like some sort of Well, you should probably take this review (or at least that fifth star) with a grain of salt because, as a Bearded White Dude Who Loves Pop Culture, I'm pretty much exactly this book's target audience. Google Image Steven Hyden, who wrote this book, for evidence of what I'm talking about. Anyway, this is the second book from a former Grantland writer that I've read this year (the other one being Shea Serrano's hilarious/essential The Rap Year Book), and, at the risk of seeming like some sort of Grantland fanboy, I unabashedly loved both of them. Hyden's is all about using music rivalries as a jumping-off point for discussing a number of broader topics - Kanye v. Taylor becomes about "Default Smart Opinions," Nirvana v. Pearl Jam becomes about hero-worship, Dixie Chicks v. Toby Keith becomes about the unfair ways we perceive others, and, in my personal favorite essay, Black Keys v. White Stripes becomes about the pissing contest inherent in all male friendships. So I guess if you're looking for a mostly informational run-down on what exactly happened with these rivalries and their impact on the parties involved, you'll likely be disappointed (although plenty of background on each rivalry is provided). This is really more about fandom than it is anything else, and about how music fans make sense of the world they live in through their relationships with bands/songs/albums/etc. I've also noticed the other reviews here on Goodreads have called these essays meandering or unfocused, but they're actually way more tightly controlled than they seem. There were a few times when I thought to myself in the middle of a chapter, "Wait, how did he get here?" So I'd go back and re-trace his steps. And the thing that kind of bowled me over about it all is every seeming digression ties in just about perfectly with the larger point he's trying to make. And he just sort of trusts his reader to make those connections because to point them out might ruin the overall chatting-about-music-over-a-beer feel of the book. So, highly recommended to all the High Fidelity-loving music nerds out there, and recommended to anyone else who's looking for a fun, funny book on pop culture that's smart and thoughtful without even pretending to take itself too seriously.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I wanted to like this more than I did. Music rivalries are an interesting topic to me, although I don't quite get that mentality. I'm kind of all-inclusive when it comes to music and I don't think you have to pick one when it comes to artists. The age-old question is Beatles vs Stones (a chapter is devoted to that one). I'm a Stones girl but that doesn't mean that I don't love the Beatles, too, and understand their impact on music. For that matter, I love the Kinks, as well! Criminally under-app I wanted to like this more than I did. Music rivalries are an interesting topic to me, although I don't quite get that mentality. I'm kind of all-inclusive when it comes to music and I don't think you have to pick one when it comes to artists. The age-old question is Beatles vs Stones (a chapter is devoted to that one). I'm a Stones girl but that doesn't mean that I don't love the Beatles, too, and understand their impact on music. For that matter, I love the Kinks, as well! Criminally under-appreciated band. But I digress. And that's the major problem I had with this book. He meanders all over the place. While I understand that music colors all aspects of life for many of us, he went on tangents about movies, politics, TV shows, his high school experience, you name it. I kept thinking, "Focus, man! Music rivalries, remember?" There are a few passages that delighted me, however. When it comes to Kanye West's famous interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech ("Imma let you finish," remember?) he says that as Kanye got up onstage and approached her, Swift looked like "Carrie before the pig's blood hits." Man, that made me laugh! I also loved this, about the Beatles vs Stones thing: "I'm just more attracted to the Stones. The Beatles are the person you want to marry, and the Stones are the person you want to fuck. If I could marry a band, I would be a Beatles person. But our society has not yet recognized person-rock band marriage rights. I guess you can't have sex with a band, either, but 'Sticky Fingers' is the closest that rock music gets to sex, so I'm a Stones guy." I think that is about the best take on the matter I've read. I would definitely recommend this to a music fan, but not so much to a casual fan. It was kind of heartbreaking to read the Prince vs Michael Jackson chapter because at the time of publication, Prince was still alive. (I'm a Prince girl, by the way...but again, MJ was truly the King of Pop for a while.)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Peter Colclasure

    Blur vs. Oasis: he writes about how this was primarily a British feud based on class rivalries that didn't translate well in America, where most people only knew Blur for "Song No. 2." The author is a huge Oasis fan and therefore abstained from listening to Blur or any of Damon Albarn's other side projects. He finally sits down and listens to Albarn's first solo album, and decides it's okay. He concedes an argument made by the Blur faithful — that Blur's overall discography was more consistent t Blur vs. Oasis: he writes about how this was primarily a British feud based on class rivalries that didn't translate well in America, where most people only knew Blur for "Song No. 2." The author is a huge Oasis fan and therefore abstained from listening to Blur or any of Damon Albarn's other side projects. He finally sits down and listens to Albarn's first solo album, and decides it's okay. He concedes an argument made by the Blur faithful — that Blur's overall discography was more consistent that Oasis, who put out two great albums and subsequently devolved into over-compressed imitations of their earlier work. But he still sides with Oasis cause those two albums were better than anything Blur ever did. Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam: Hyden reminds us that in spite of the revisionist history claiming Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain were secretly mutual admirers, Cobain hated Pearl Jam when he was alive, and it was only his premature death that allowed Pearl Jam to retroactively frame themselves as a band that Cobain was sympathetic to. Hyden compares Vedder's unrequited hero worship of Cobain to New Jersey governor Chris Christie's unrequited hero worship of Bruce Springsteen. Prince vs. Michael Jackson: in the 80's, Jackson the undisputed king of pop. But he got weird as he aged, so Prince emerged as the more beloved. White Stripes vs. Black Keys: Jack White's disdain for the Black keys is kind of irrational, and the relationship between the two bands serves as a metaphor for the difficulty American men have in forming close friendships in adulthood. "The Black Keys are successful, but the White Stripes are legendary." Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West: pretty much what you'd expect, here. Beatles vs. Stones: the inter-band rivalries pale in comparison to the intra-band rivalries. Mick vs. Keith and Lennon vs. McCartney is more interesting than Beatles vs. Stones. If forced to choose Hyden would declare himself a Stones guy. "The Beatles are so perfect they can be a little boring." Eric Clapton vs. Jimi Hendrix: is it better to burn out or fade away? Sinead O'Connor vs. Miley Cyrus: Sinead ruined her career making an overtly political and sincere gesture on SNL that offended viewers. Miley launched her career making overtly sexual and inauthentic lewd gestures that offended viewers. Sinead writes Miley an open letter warning her about prostituting herself, but only comes across like a stodgy finger-wagging grandma and inadvertently helps Miley's career. Roger Waters vs. the rest of Pink Floyd: how are bands like sports teams? Smashing Pumpkins vs. Pavement: California self-confidence vs. an inherent Midwestern insecurity. Why it's not cool to appear like you're trying, even if your trying yields awesome arena-rock anthems. Neil Young vs. Lynyrd Skynyrd: the two artists actually respected each other and the rivalry between the two acts was largely creating by fans as a stand-in for American regional rivalries between the conservative south and liberal north/coasts. Biggies vs. Tupac: served as a warning for other hip-hop acts, as well as pop stars in general, to dial back the rancor a bit. Toby Keith vs. Dixie Chicks: my favorite essay. "Being a patriot means that I believe in a version of American that's basically imaginary, but I hope one day will become real." If you like Chuck Klosterman, you'll probably like this book. It's almost as funny, brainy, and well-written as Klosterman, but every bit as knowledgeable and fun. Hyden himself directly cites a Klosterman essay at one point, and there were other points where I noticed he was aping an argument that I've previously encountered in Klosterman's books. But I don't care. In recent years, Klosterman himself has graduated from writing about pop music to being more of an armchair sociologist, so this book is a welcome substitute if you miss reading stuff like Fargo Rock City and Killing Yourself to Live.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matt Lohr

    With "Your Favorite Band is Killing Me," regular AV Club contributing writer Steven Hyden has written a better Chuck Klosterman book than Klosterman himself did this year (and he might possibly agree, given that he provides one of the blurbs for the book's back cover). Hyden's book digs deep into several of the signal music rivalries of the last half century of music, and though he does work some well-trod territory (do we really need ANOTHER Beatles vs. Stones piece?), he nevertheless lives up With "Your Favorite Band is Killing Me," regular AV Club contributing writer Steven Hyden has written a better Chuck Klosterman book than Klosterman himself did this year (and he might possibly agree, given that he provides one of the blurbs for the book's back cover). Hyden's book digs deep into several of the signal music rivalries of the last half century of music, and though he does work some well-trod territory (do we really need ANOTHER Beatles vs. Stones piece?), he nevertheless lives up to his book's title by providing insights into his subject matter that extend beyond the relative musical merits of the bands in question. Highlights of the book include Hyden's anatomization of the one-sided connection between New Jersey governor Chris Christie and his having-none-of-it musical idol Bruce Springsteen; an examination of Jack White's hatred of the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach as an emblem of the difficulty of forming homosocial friendships in midlife; a look at the careers of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton as a model of the question "Is it better to burn out or fade away?"; and the 9/11-spurred ideological rivalry between the Dixie Chicks and Toby Keith, and how it allowed Hyden to grapple with his own mixed feelings about America. His examination of the neurosis of Smashing Pumpkins' lead ghoul Billy Corgan is uncommonly insightful ("His insecurity over cool people believing that he's awful has made him awful"); I got a huge kick out of both his personal breakup-album connection to Ween's bizarre "lo-fi scuzz" experiment "The Pod", and his designation of identities for both the Beatles and the Stones (Paul's the most musical, Mick's the smartest, and Keith's the one he'd save first if both bands were trapped in a burning building). And the book is entirely worth reading if only for Hyden's genuinely heartbreaking chronicle of Biggie Vs. Tupac, the rivalry that reminds both author and reader that "it stops being fun once you realize that taking this stuff too seriously can result in people getting killed." Hyden does tread some well-worn territory that has been covered better elsewhere. David Konow's "Bang Your Head" makes more interesting use of the Kurt Cobain / Axl Rose backstage showdown at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, and though Hyden's linkage of Pink Floyd to Conan O'Brien's ill-fated gig as host of "The Tonight Show" is intriguing, nothing else needs to be written about those events after Bill Carter's seminal "The War for Late Night." And a few ideas, such as Hyden's linkage of the Taylor Swift - Kanye West boondoggle with "Crash"'s win for best picture at the Oscars in 2006, never quite thematically gel. But "Your Favorite Band is Killing Me" is swift, bottomlessly entertaining reading. Chuck thinks it's worth your time. And that usually means it probably is. Finally, a question: Why is it that everyone who ever writes about Beatles Vs. Stones, when they opt to pick sides, is inevitably a Stones fan?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    don't get me wrong, i thoroughly enjoyed this book. and i actually learned a lot from it, particularly in the chapter on neil young v. lynyrd skynyrd. i had no idea skynyrd was from florida???? the thing is, it's a fun piece of ephemera. i enjoyed it, i learned some stuff, but ultimately there was no point to most of what he was writing. he was reaching quite a bit on some of the larger themes he was trying to draw upon. some of his references were too self-congratulatory. also, considering that t don't get me wrong, i thoroughly enjoyed this book. and i actually learned a lot from it, particularly in the chapter on neil young v. lynyrd skynyrd. i had no idea skynyrd was from florida???? the thing is, it's a fun piece of ephemera. i enjoyed it, i learned some stuff, but ultimately there was no point to most of what he was writing. he was reaching quite a bit on some of the larger themes he was trying to draw upon. some of his references were too self-congratulatory. also, considering that the main thesis of his Prince v. Michael Jackson chapter was that prince won by virtue of surviving, i would think the publishers would have made some effort to correct the manuscript in the weeks after Prince's death. i get that the first run was probably already printed, but when his survival is tantamount to your thesis, the chapter falls apart. it was released after his death, so it's no longer pertinent. it's fun and quotable. but it's not revelatory in any way.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cail

    A more off-the-cuff Chuck Klosterman with an amazing record collection, Steven Hyden captures the meaning of deep fandom - of loving a band and hating their rival and how that is important, on a significant level that it normally wouldn't be. His writing is incredibly fun; the chapter on Pink Floyd sucked me in and I'm indifferent to that band. A worthwhile read that satisfied my music criticism itch.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    I don't know when, but at some point Steven Hyden started recording my thoughts and conversations. That seems the only plausible reason why a majority of ideas about music (including hyper specific references and examples) end up in his writing. It's either that or we grew up with so many freaking things in common that our shared (but not shared at all) life experiences created the same understandings of music and pop culture. In all seriousness, Hyden finds easy and coherent ways of stating thi I don't know when, but at some point Steven Hyden started recording my thoughts and conversations. That seems the only plausible reason why a majority of ideas about music (including hyper specific references and examples) end up in his writing. It's either that or we grew up with so many freaking things in common that our shared (but not shared at all) life experiences created the same understandings of music and pop culture. In all seriousness, Hyden finds easy and coherent ways of stating things I have tried to drunkenly describe to Eric Olson for years. Somewhere in the past few weeks I read a line saying, "The world needs more readers, not writers." So long as funny, intelligent, well meaning, and dedicated people like Steven Hyden keep producing works, I will be happy to consume instead of produce. Hyden does a wonderful job tying non music related ideas and examples into the text to bring about as full of a picture as possible. It helps that I am probably in his demographic sweet spot to understand and know these pop culture references. Last thought, this is another author (along with Shea Serrano and, to a less extent, J. Abrams) who has used social media to connect to eager readers and early adopters. In particular, I got a sweet ass Axl Rose book mark autographed by Hyden just for showing my pre-order confirmation. It's cool that these writers and finding innovative ways for us to feel like we are a part of something, even when we're not. It's similar to what loving a band used to feel like.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    Steven Hyden has a brilliant way to tie in all things awesome with popular music. I'm talking about the NFL, Saturday Night Live, the 1992 VMAs, politics, and more. It made me nostalgic at times and has led me to dusting off old CDs that I haven't listened to in years. This book has also inspired me to make a mix CD of strictly Kanye West and Taylor Swift songs... It made me laugh (Jack White's pettiness in the White Stripes vs. the black Keys), it made me cry (the Michael Jackson vs. Prince chap Steven Hyden has a brilliant way to tie in all things awesome with popular music. I'm talking about the NFL, Saturday Night Live, the 1992 VMAs, politics, and more. It made me nostalgic at times and has led me to dusting off old CDs that I haven't listened to in years. This book has also inspired me to make a mix CD of strictly Kanye West and Taylor Swift songs... It made me laugh (Jack White's pettiness in the White Stripes vs. the black Keys), it made me cry (the Michael Jackson vs. Prince chapter...written before the death of Prince), and it made me remember so much that I had forgotten. My favorite chapters were Roger Waters vs. Pink Floyd, Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West, Miley Vs. Sinead 'O Connor and of course the Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones. In a future book I would love to see Billy Joel vs. Elton John, Katy Perry vs. Lady Gaga or Backstreet Boys vs. 'N Sync. I cannot wait for the next book!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    I really enjoyed this book, probably because I share very similar views on music with Steven Hyden. He's also very funny. His fundamental premise is that music rivalries (real or perceived) are interesting because what people think about music has less to do with actual music than it does with how they see themselves and the world. The best and most surprisingly poignant example of this concept is an anecdote about NJ governor Chris Christie. Christie is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, and as two I really enjoyed this book, probably because I share very similar views on music with Steven Hyden. He's also very funny. His fundamental premise is that music rivalries (real or perceived) are interesting because what people think about music has less to do with actual music than it does with how they see themselves and the world. The best and most surprisingly poignant example of this concept is an anecdote about NJ governor Chris Christie. Christie is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, and as two of the most famous New Jersyans, they have plenty of changes to interact. However, Bruce does not like Chris Christie and avoids him whenever possible. This prompts Christie to make public pleas to Bruce and suggest that Bruce's message and that of the Republican Party are not that different. This statement might seem crazy to most Springsteen fans, but Christie clearly believes it. As Hyden observes, people love music and they want it to love them back.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brett Rohlwing

    This was a fun read. My only problem is that it had me thinking of all of the pop music rivalries I wish he had covered. Here is my list of rivalries Hayden should have covered that I could think of off the top of my head (in no particular order): 1. Yes vs. Genesis 2. Adele vs. Amy Winehouse 3. Beach Boys vs. Jan & Dean 4. Bob Dylan vs. the Byrds 5. The Smiths vs. The Cure 6. The Replacements vs. Husker Du 7. John Lennon vs. Paul McCartney But I suppose he had an editor... Still, Go! Read!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    I really enjoyed reading this book for two main reasons: 1. I love the subject matter - popular music is very important to me, and 2. Hyden is genuinely funny. So funny, in fact, that he kept me interested even when talking about musicians and bands that I either don't like or haven't listened too.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Beatles or Stones? Michael Jackson or Prince? Tupac or Biggie? Oasis or Blur? The Who or Led Zeppelin? One of the pleasures of musical obsession, and which applies to fans of any art form, is arguing about which band is better. The possibilities opened up by musical rivalries are endless, wide ranging, and can lead to fights or epiphanies, depending on the company you keep. I have friends, for example, who swear by the unsurpassable excellence of The Who but find Zeppelin to be unlistenable gar Beatles or Stones? Michael Jackson or Prince? Tupac or Biggie? Oasis or Blur? The Who or Led Zeppelin? One of the pleasures of musical obsession, and which applies to fans of any art form, is arguing about which band is better. The possibilities opened up by musical rivalries are endless, wide ranging, and can lead to fights or epiphanies, depending on the company you keep. I have friends, for example, who swear by the unsurpassable excellence of The Who but find Zeppelin to be unlistenable garbage and vice versa, but I also know plenty of others who find that they must search their very souls before awarding the laurel. (In case you’re wondering, my picks in each of the matchups listed above are all the second options.) This is the topic veteran music journalist Steven Hyden tackles in Your Favorite Band is Killing Me, which examines the larger meaning of classic pop music rivalries throughout the years. As you follow the tour through popular music’s back pages it becomes more and more apparent that musical rivalries are about more than just artistic excellence or street cred; it’s also about identity. It’s political, in a certain sense- more on this later. In the pop world, the self-made artists usually have it in for those who had the machinery of fame on their side. The need for exposure is a major source of anxiety for any artist, given the whims of the marketplace. Michael Jackson and Prince were fiercely competitive because Prince was the underdog, an orphaned weirdo from Minnesota who used every bit of his talent and genius for self-presentation to make it. Jackson, incredibly talented himself, was also undeniably the beneficiary of family publicity, considering his prodigious and traumatic star turn as the lead of the Jackson 5 when he was barely out of diapers. Evidently the self-created Prince took this contrast to heart and challenged Jackson to a private table tennis match, wherein he triumphantly spiked the ball into the self-proclaimed King of Pop’s groin. This was long before the gross details of Jackson’s private life were made known, but it foreshadowed the fact that as far as reputation and cunning was concerned Prince was the one who knew how to play the game. Madonna and Cyndi Lauper is another example. We all know Lauper’s infectious hits like “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” but her star rose high and fell hard in the early eighties, while the Material Girl’s “run from the early 80’s up through the mid-aughts is amazingly consistent for an artist courting mass acceptance and achieving it more often than not.” I tend to agree with Hyden’s assessment that Madonna did her best work in the Clinton era, and that there are quite a few pop singers following in her wake who were never able to even approach what she was able to mean artistically or culturally. Think of the extravagant failures of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera to survive being teenybopper sex symbols with their sanity intact. So long as we’re talking pop provocateurs, there’s also the interesting feud between Sinead O’Connor and Miley Cyrus. When O’Connor wrote an open letter to Miley Cyrus warning her of the perils of her sexualized music videos, it didn’t go well. Hyden argues convincingly that this is indicative of a generational divide; what O’Connor’s unprecedented and still spine- chilling Pope-shredding live protest once did to an outraged public (and her own career) isn’t remotely what Miley’s gleeful eroticism of her own youth does to a millennial generation saturated with media and rhetoric of empowerment by sex appeal. Socially speaking, there’s a tendency for musical rivalries to become quite political. Pop stars often become stand-ins for social groups and represent the dreams and aspirations of their fan base. It’s only natural that the ideologies they represent will butt heads in a big way. There’s the classic example of the clean-cut Beatles vs. the sleazy Stones, or whether Nirvana or Pearl Jam truly represented the alternative underground, or consider the Britpop feud between so-called working class hooligans Oasis and art school snobs Blur, cutting a swathe through a social fault line that has always existed in British culture but came to a head when each band’s records went head to head by being released on the same day. Hyden doesn’t really pick a side in these fights- even though he’s got his favorites he’s broad minded enough to know and enjoy every artist’s work. Instead, he engagingly lays out the facts and shows where both sides were misinterpreted. The granddaddy of this kind of rivalry is the classic case of Lynyrd Skynryd vs. Neil Young, considering the prickly criticisms of “Sweet Home Alabama.” Is it about heritage or hate? Young’s “Southern Man” certainly takes Dixie hypocrisies to task, but who wouldn’t? According to Ronnie Van Zant, it was written as “more of a joke than anything else” and on close inspection “Sweet Home Alabama” actually has more anti-racism in it than you notice at first, booing George Wallace and giving a shout-out to the Montgomery boycott. And it’s worth noting that Ronnie Van Zant was a huge Neil Young fan, as Young was of him, even playing the song at his funeral. Is the controversy really more of a case in point of how the pubic read what they wanted into the song rather than the artist’s intended meaning- a rock version of the good old intentional fallacy? It’s over ten years old now, but I still remember the nationwide fracas caused by The Dixie Chicks publicly dissing George W Bush as an embarrassing fellow Texan and Toby Keith’s Iraq War- era promise to “put a boot in your ass.” With the fresh hell of the Iraq war in the news and patriotic fervor everywhere, The Dixie Chicks had their records burned and Toby Keith became the symbol of macho boorishness for liberals everywhere, turning up the heat on national obsession with red state/blue state tensions that are sadly still relevant today. But what’s important to remember is that the social media hysteria that attached itself to the controversy overwhelmed the fact that Toby Keith was a Democrat whose songs generally landed on the goofy side and the millions of records the Dixie Chicks had sold proved that their country cred had been solid for years. As Hyden wisely notes: “Sometimes what you actually feel matters less than what your actions signify to the public…Because it’s not about what you said but rather about what people believe (or want to believe) you said.” Hyden’s voice on the page is lively and engaging. I enjoyed his informed and resolutely chatty prose so much I found myself reading the book over several times. Reading it often feels like a conversation with an informed and passionate friend. The many jokes work as a way of enhancing the argument while entertaining, as in a chapter contrasting Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix about the virtues of accepting the inevitability of age’s mediocrity or burning out with your legend intact: “life is what happens after you leave Cream.” Unfortunately, one of the strengths of the book is also its biggest weakness. There’s a line where eagerness becomes ingratiating. A born enthusiast, Hyden is sometimes prone to awkward over-sharing. We find out what life was like as a gawky, dateless teenager (not fun), what he does when his wife is away (gobbling junk food and blaring his Strokes records), and what the preferred record of his weed-hazed twenties, Ween’s The Pod, sounded like (don’t ask). There’s no doubt that personal anecdotes have a role to play in criticism, especially in writing about pop culture, but sometimes critical distance is better. But the many insights Hyden offers are quite brilliant. As a longtime Smashing Pumpkins fan, I never understood what the famous beef with Pavement was all about until Hyden unpacked it. Already notorious for their sarcastic hipper-than-thou nonchalance, Pavement casually brushed off the Pumpkins in song, only to exacerbate Billy Corgan’s already Nixon-like seething paranoia and insecurity. I never quite made the connection between Corgan and tricky Dick before, but once I did I couldn’t stop noticing it. It definitely changed the way I thought about Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, a grandiose double album I worshipped when I was half as old as I am now. Hyden perceptively claims that the 1992 MTV Video Music awards were indeed a harbinger for the form the musical mainstream would take in the decade to come. Ultra-liberal Seattle grunge was poised to take the place of the self-indulgent machismo of Guns N Roses, and it turns out that these incompatible worldviews came to a head verbally backstage between Cobain and Rose before the show even began. If you were a musically curious teenager in the nineties and looking for a band to call your own, and by extension an identity of your own, the philosophical implications of this squabble was no small thing. Choosing one’s declared artistic heroes can be a means of self-expression, even self-realization, considering the many issues of aesthetic, philosophical, and cultural value that come with it. Part of the fun of reading Hyden’s take on pop culture is in finding out how the music you love means as much to you as it does to him, and discovering the reasons why.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    Although I don't consider myself someone who participates in a great many feuds, I must admit that I am clearly very aware of them as they relate to the pop music scene [1].  Whether the feud exists because of genuine dislike or because of the feeling that the pop scene isn't big enough for two people/groups, or because of marketing, or because of fundamental differences in perspective and approach, feuds are a fairly common if lamentable aspect of the world of music.  Although the author in alm Although I don't consider myself someone who participates in a great many feuds, I must admit that I am clearly very aware of them as they relate to the pop music scene [1].  Whether the feud exists because of genuine dislike or because of the feeling that the pop scene isn't big enough for two people/groups, or because of marketing, or because of fundamental differences in perspective and approach, feuds are a fairly common if lamentable aspect of the world of music.  Although the author in almost 300 pages does not manage to get all of the essential feuds in pop music history, he certainly manages to discuss a great many of them and provide a great deal of context about the way that people can be easily pitted against each other, even when they themselves may not want to be hostile to others.  The author also digs pretty deeply into the insecurity that drives many musicians to lash out against others, as well as the business side of having to appeal to the prejudices of one's core audience even when one might want to rise above such matters. This book basically consists of personal essays about the author's own taste in music and his own thoughts about various feuds divided into sixteen essays.  The author begins with the Oasis vs. Blur feud and then moves on to discuss Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam, Prince vs. Michael Jackson, The White Stripes vs. The Black Keys, Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West, The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton vs. Jimi Hendrix, Sinead O'Connor vs. Miley Cyrus, Roger Waters vs. The Rest of Pink Floyd, Axl Rose vs. Vince Neil (with a lot of cameos concerning unfought celebrity boxing matches), Smashing Pumpkins vs. Pavement, a combo essay (Dr. Dre vs. Eazy-E, Dave Mustaine vs. Metallica, David Lee Roth vs. The Van Halen Brothers), a comment on female feuds (Madonna vs. Cyndi Lauper and Britney Spears vs. Christina Aguilera), Neil Young vs. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Biggie Smalls vs. Tupac Shakur, and Toby Keith vs. The Dixie Chicks.  The posts allow the author to demonstrate his own journalistic credibility and to comment on the way that similarity and difference can both lead to conflict as people try to defend their legitimacy and claim turf in the larger popular culture.  At times this prickliness can be deadly, as it was for both Biggie and 2Pac. Overall, this book was a pleasure to read even if some of the author's comments failed to it the mark.  The author seems to imply that Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West is over as an active feud, which doesn't take into account either Kanye's "Famous" or Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do," showing the feud to be as active as ever.  Likewise, the author claimed that popular artists today were luckier and so most of them didn't die too young, but he wrote this without accounting for the deaths of either Chris Cornell of STP or Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, both dead far too soon.  The author reminds us, if we needed to be reminded, that rivalry has its consequences and if it can sometimes seem a bit contrived, it has real consequences.  Hopefully the author's optimism that feuds have become less violent in the aftermath of the 1990's is borne out, because it is one thing if people slag each other in articles or beclown themselves at awards shows that lack legitimacy, but it is an entirely different matter if people suffer violence over the silliness of pop feuds.  For those who enjoy the spirit of competition but have no interest in participating in violence, one can always read this book. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013... https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Buhs

    Is Steven Hyden, author of “Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me,” friends with Chuck Klosterman—or are they rivals? Klosterman blurbs the book, and Hyden thanks him in the acknowledgments. But then, in one of this collection’s essays, Hyden says he doesn’t really have any guy friends. Are they secretly enemies? Frenemies? I’m not saying they are, but there’s a case to be made: both about the same age, both from the Midwest, both wrote for the late, lamented Grantland, both obsessed with pop culture Is Steven Hyden, author of “Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me,” friends with Chuck Klosterman—or are they rivals? Klosterman blurbs the book, and Hyden thanks him in the acknowledgments. But then, in one of this collection’s essays, Hyden says he doesn’t really have any guy friends. Are they secretly enemies? Frenemies? I’m not saying they are, but there’s a case to be made: both about the same age, both from the Midwest, both wrote for the late, lamented Grantland, both obsessed with pop culture and ringing from it the meaning of life. The title is reminiscent of one of Klosterman’s books, “Killing Yourself to Live,” and the structure suggestive of something Klosterman would do. Plus, they both look like Muppets. The book purports to be a collection of essays, each chapter considering a particularly rivalry in popular music—the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Biggie and Tupac being the ideal types, but there are fourteen others. Not all of these are, strictly speaking, rivalries, and certainly not musical ones. Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix didn’t antagonize each other. The spat between Miley Cyrus and Sinead O’Connor was not about music. Taylor Swift and Kanye West—another pairing—shared an awkward moment, but didn’t feud. (The book came out before the recent brouhaha between Swift and Kim Kardashian-West.) A couple chapters try to shoehorn in several different groupings. The real service of this conceit is to give Hyden a loose enough structure that he can inject lots of personal stories, and his musings as a one-time stoner, now a new father entering his forties. Can his interests be redeemed? Are they more than just teenage self-definition—the way he hewed to Nirvana and Oasis over Blur and Pearl Jam when he was young? What does it mean to have been raised on (radio and) pop culture and now be expected to shepherd another generation into maturity? Are there theories one can find? Because Hyden really, really likes theories. He likes inventing them based on his interpretation of popular culture. And make no mistake—this is book about what it means to live within popular culture, and not see beyond it, except only occasionally. As it happens, I saw Cynid Lauper performing last night, just a few days after I finished this book, and its chapter on Madonna versus Cyndi Lauper. She even mentioned Madonna, calling her “my evil cousin.” So there is a rivalry there! But what Hyden sees in the rivalry is that he doesn’t see Lauper anymore. Madonna managed to make herself relevant for years, while Lauper is tied to a specific cultural moment. Haden has little truck with he idea that Madonna survived because she reinvented herself—he thinks it’s the songs: she’s simply a better musician. The point he arrives at is, there is value in being tied to a particularly moment, just as there is value to remaining relevant. But the fact of the matter is, Lauper has continued to produce and perform new music, to expand herself. She’s made a living, even if she is not so intensely famous anymore. But when you’re inside the pop culture world, fame is what matters. Haden also takes the Dixie Chicks to task, because of their spat with Toby Keith and criticizing George Bush. He’s not so sure about the wisdom of sloughing off fans. Fame is really important—it may be the most important thing, though, in the end, it’s only the second most important thing in what emerges as Hyden’s hierarchy. The real most important thing is what he tries to run away and hide from in the first chapters: authenticity. He loved Nirvana more than Pearl Jam because Nirvana seemed authentic, real, not in it just for the money, the bombast. Haden chides himself for this, recognizes its limitations. But it still structures his values. Toby Keith is admirable because he’s just a beer-drinking lunkhead. Eric Clapton may not have been the incendiary talent of Jimi Hendrix, but he survived: he just kept working hard and doing his thing. Smashing Pumpkin’s Billy Corgan is a Midwestern boy trying hard, not like those too-smart-for-its-own-good Pavement. Liberal values, progressive politics—these are the things Hyden says he subscribes to, but the actual liberals and progressives—the Dixie Chicks, Neil Young—they don’t seem authentic to him. Neil Young was no different than the re-made Lynyrd Skynyrd that politicked for George W. Bush: both were trapped by their own images, but Lynyrd Skynyrd seemed more admirable. I remember this line of thought from the early aughts: it was why all the good liberals hated the hippies and, sadly but necessarily, support the War. It’s why we laugh at Gonzo, but admire Kermit. One gets claustrophobic, at times, with this theater criticism from the stage—and it can lead Hyden astray. He’s not phoning it in, as late period Klosterman has done, all speculation. His musings on some musicians being tied to a particular time owes something to Klosterman’s theory of nostalgia—which is rooted in the particular forms in which music is packaged, CDs and vinyl more likley to promote nostalgia than iTunes; he is concerned about remaining cool and plugged in, but willing to let it go, too, unlike Klosterman who mourns the passing of his coolness before he can even decide whether he likes something or not. Hyden’s writing is rooted in detail, thickly remembered and re-lived prior to writing—even if that detail is always within the area circumscribed by popular culture. Which is what causes the claustrophobia, and leads to the most unfortunate part of the book. In the chapter on the Biggie-Tupac rivalry, Hyden essays the theory that because this rivalry ended in real death, it chastened other musicians, made their rivalries and behaviors less intense. Which leads him to counting up the number of famous musicians who have died since Tupac, and then listing those he is surprised haven’t died. He admits it’s a little off-putting—but not so off-putting he doesn’t stop himself. I’d say its straight up nauseating, and the redeeming factor is . . . nothing really. Support for a half-baked theory. Hyden is at his best when he breaks free from the theories he offers, and tries to see the cultural world from the outside. In the chapter on Prince and Michael Jackson—and I have to say that it is incredibly weird to be reading about Prince, in a book published in 2016, as though he is alive—Hyden brings up the theory that those who were considered quirky in high school go on to become successful, while the popular kids often flame out. But then he rejects this as too simplistic, noting that in real life everyone is high school is an amalgam of quirky and popular, depending upon group dynamics. Which leads him to think that Prince did better than Michael Jackson by surviving—again, weird!—but also that Prince made a kind of peace with the real world, while Jackson became increasingly sequestered. Similarly, the memoirist-ic portions of the book are some of the most engaging, and probably would have worked well without the focus on rivalries; obviously, popular culture was intensely important to Hyden’s growth and development, so the story could not be told without them, but there was no need to force chapters on enmities-that-weren’t. Hyden is a talented writer. His jokes sometimes flop—they call them dad jokes for a reason, as Fonzie Bear learned avant-la-lettre—but his vocabulary is both wide and precise, his structure loose but dialectical—it’s odd at first, with Hyden seemingly interrupting himself for a tangent but pulls the threads back together at the end. He’s a creative thinker, too, putting together some unusual connections. He’s not afraid to be silly, either—the chapter on missed celebrity boxing matches is funny! His best attribute is the skepticism he has toward his own easy answers. This can be taken too far—as with the bits on Young, the Dixie Chicks, and his sympathy for Richard Nixon—but it serves him well. He challenges his own love for Oasis because it was so rooted in his self-image, and was less about the music, per se. He knows the bad reputation of the movie “Crash” and so forces himself to re-watch it. He recognizes his sympathy for Sinead O’Connor, in her “rivalry” with Cyrus, is based on his age, and that he’s now a father. He’s unwilling to play the old-white-guy card and dismiss out of hand Taylor and Britney and Xtina. The approach opens the book up and keeps Hyden from tripping over his own quest to be cool and insightful, bringing in a ragged, truthful realism. It’s fun to be Waldorf and Statler, sitting in the balcony, throwing slings and arrows and quips. But, in the end, everyone has to leave the theater and go home. Even the Muppets.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tom Quinn

    Armchair psychoanalysis of collective pop culture criticism, pitting one band's fandom against another's? Yes, please. Here's the review I want to write: It's a fun bit of mental masturbation that was recommended to me because I adore Chuck Klosterman's pop culture analyses, but it lacks the oomph of grand-daddy Klosterman's work. It is Klosterman-like, though. Call it Klosterman-lite. Hyden is a touch less witty and reveals less personality in his writing, so while Klosterman's pieces often shine Armchair psychoanalysis of collective pop culture criticism, pitting one band's fandom against another's? Yes, please. Here's the review I want to write: It's a fun bit of mental masturbation that was recommended to me because I adore Chuck Klosterman's pop culture analyses, but it lacks the oomph of grand-daddy Klosterman's work. It is Klosterman-like, though. Call it Klosterman-lite. Hyden is a touch less witty and reveals less personality in his writing, so while Klosterman's pieces often shine brightest as a window into his own mind through the context of pop culture this work tends to read more like an academic paper comparing and contrasting subsets of music fans (albeit a casual one built on personal anecdotes with some jokey asides). And Klosterman usually declared his (often outlandish) thesis and developed it with a more thorough examination of a single thread of thought, while Hyden meanders and shifts across a broader range within each section. Here's the honest truth: If you showed me an excerpt from this book alongside an excerpt from Klosterman (something newer of his, not a page out of "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs" which I've read and re-read over and over) with the authors' names removed, I would be hard pressed to tell which was which. Hyden takes a little bit more time to get rolling but his pop criticism is on par with anybody else's out there. Consider the gloriously pretentious craftwork: "Eric Clapton makes me contemplate the inevitable decline of my own life, and this makes me uncomfortable...When I put on Journeyman, what I hear are the gears that keep my own life grinding monotonously forward. Eric Clapton is not my hero, but he is my avatar." Ah! To be a music critic! To toss out such declarations, to spin opinion as fact with unbridled confidence! It's cheeky verging on smug and simply delightful. The only reason I like Klosterman more is I found him first and I'm not terribly familiar with the music of at least half the bands Hyden examines here. But examining middle school awkwardness in the context of Prince vs. Michael Jackson or the difficulty of making new friends as a grown-up in the middle of a White Strips/Black Keys rivalry just feels so right. 4 stars out of 5. (Read in 2017, the twenty-fifth book in my Alphabetical Reading Challenge)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Wray F

    Things I took away from this book: Pearl Jam was music for frat boys? Didn't realize it at the time. Thought they were mountainy, lumberjack hard rockers. Maybe it's because I was raised in the mountains and cut down a tree once. I'm on the fence with the Oasis/Blur thing, but lean toward working-class Oasis even though they are probably tools. Blur have their moments, but they pretty much speak for England. "Park Life" will never resonate in California. I appreciate artists who are experimental Things I took away from this book: Pearl Jam was music for frat boys? Didn't realize it at the time. Thought they were mountainy, lumberjack hard rockers. Maybe it's because I was raised in the mountains and cut down a tree once. I'm on the fence with the Oasis/Blur thing, but lean toward working-class Oasis even though they are probably tools. Blur have their moments, but they pretty much speak for England. "Park Life" will never resonate in California. I appreciate artists who are experimental and weird and basically say "Piss off" to their audience and do what they want from album to album, as demonstrated by Prince chapter. Even though some albums really suck. Radiohead is further confirmation of this. I started playing guitar three and a half years ago. I never really paid a huge amount of attention to the blues, unless it was more contemporary artists like the White Stripes, Zeppelin, Black Keys, etc. I learned that as a male in my mid-40's, it is obligatory to start appreciating the blues. Part of a social contract of some kind. Can't be avoided. I play the blues now. I have to rewatch the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. Apparently, it's incredible bouillibaisse of a heavy metal culture on the way down and a grunge/punk culture on the way up. With Bryan Adams, for god knows what reason! The conflict between Jack White vs. Dan Auerbach explains why it's so tough for middle-aged guys to maintain friendships. We instinctively create rivals instead of friends. Competitiveness and self-sufficiency make our lives much less social than they otherwise could be. I didn't care much about half the artists in here, but it was still a fun enough read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Petty Lisbon

    This was a nice read. I guess you'll get more out of it if you're more trivia inclined but I feel like even if you don't actively know most of these people's backstories, you can get something out of it. There are enough snort worthy moments where you don't feel like it takes itself too seriously. Although sometimes when he would compare something to something else, I would lose the analogy for a second and forget we're in a music book, I think he generally proved his points. While I wouldn't mi This was a nice read. I guess you'll get more out of it if you're more trivia inclined but I feel like even if you don't actively know most of these people's backstories, you can get something out of it. There are enough snort worthy moments where you don't feel like it takes itself too seriously. Although sometimes when he would compare something to something else, I would lose the analogy for a second and forget we're in a music book, I think he generally proved his points. While I wouldn't mind a liiiiiiiittle bit more variety, he still covered a good amount of ground for being a white man born in the 70's (Gwen Stefani vs Courtney Love? Courtney Love vs Tori Amos vs Trent Reznor vs Marilyn Manson? T Boz and Chili of TLC vs Left Eye? Okay, so I'm just picking at straws here but I read the last half of the book today and there were too many interchangable male lead bands that I didn't Wikipedia while I was reading). I guess in terms of essay books, it's worth reading every chapter of this book instead of picking your favorites, because sometimes there are callbacks to other chapters.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anton Iokov

    Funny and unpretentious longread-turned-into-book. Listened in a single day.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leigh R

    Funny, thoughtful essays about perceived rivalries in the music world. Sometimes the point got off track in the essays, but they were still pretty interesting.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gin Jenny (Reading the End)

    Okay, I know we have The Ringer now, and The Ringer has brought us Actual National Treasure Sam Donsky. Is it wrong that I still miss Grantland, though? They had an incredible stable of writers with a particular gift for writing about important things through the lens of seemingly unimportant things. Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me, from Grantland alum and UpRoxx writer Steven Hyden, reminded me of what was so special about Grantland’s glory days. And yes, okay, the subtitle is a little grandios Okay, I know we have The Ringer now, and The Ringer has brought us Actual National Treasure Sam Donsky. Is it wrong that I still miss Grantland, though? They had an incredible stable of writers with a particular gift for writing about important things through the lens of seemingly unimportant things. Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me, from Grantland alum and UpRoxx writer Steven Hyden, reminded me of what was so special about Grantland’s glory days. And yes, okay, the subtitle is a little grandiose. The meaning of life isn’t on offer here, but Hyden gets into a lot of questions about identity and the ways that we define ourselves by defining against something, or someone, else. Hyden admits that he likes the work of the Beatles as much as he likes the work of the Rolling Stones, but that he defines himself as a Stones person rather than a Beatles person because a Stones person is more in line with his understanding of his own personality. While it would be easy to differentiate each side of a rivalry in a simplistic way — cool versus not cool — Hyden is self-consciously suspicious of easy answers. Here he is on the trendy, near-universal dislike of Crash among all the people I have ever followed on Twitter: Hating Crash has become what I like to call a Default Smart Opinion. A Default Smart Opinion is an opinion that’s generally considered to be inarguable because it’s repeated ad nauseam by seemingly intelligent individuals. . . . The usual formula for a regular smart opinion — research plus careful consideration plus nuanced analysis — doesn’t apply. You needn’t actually listen to a Nickelback album or watch The Big Bang Theory or study Kim Kardashian’s collected philosophical scrolls. You merely have to recite recycled bits of conventional wisdom. As a Despiser of Popular Things Cause They’re Popular manqué (I was saved from this fate by the indisputable greatness of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), I sometimes have to remind myself of the danger of Default Smart Opinions. They’re a fun and easy way to differentiate yourself from an imagined mass of dumb people, but they only work until you encounter someone who likes that thing and actually have to contend with the complex ways real human persons interact with their faves. In other words, they work best when you are only talking to people exactly like you, and that’s a risky type of opinion to espouse. If Hyden doesn’t quite manage to get at the meaning of life, he does do an incredible job of writing about music in a way that’s accessible to those of us who are music-stupid. Talking to music people can be the explainiest motherfucking thing in this life, but with Hyden, you just feel like he truly wants to share his knowledge and enthusiasm. I wrote down approximately a kajillion albums to check out after reading this book, and I felt stupid exactly 0 times. I’d also like to say that it is unendingly lovely to hear people say any iteration of this, a sentiment I could not agree with more even though I had a near-picture-perfect happy childhood and parents who loved me and an unflinching expectation of stability and support. Nor am I minimizing the hell that it is being a teenager. I have no sentimentality for childhood. I hated being a kid — all I wanted was to be older, and when I was older, I found that I was right all along about adulthood being way better. Plus: I think we can all agree that Prince is one of the five coolest people on the planet. (The others are LeBron James, Beyonce, Bill Clinton, and Jennifer Lawrence. If you don’t like this list, I’m sorry, but these are the people that everybody else on earth signed off on.) LeBron James? That’s who you choose from the world of sports? I’m generally on board with this list, but, LeBron James?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tim Trewartha

    (3 and a half stars) Another entertaining and witty read from American Music critic, Steven Hyden. This book looks at famous pop and rock rivalries. I have to admit he almost lost me in the first chapter (Blur vs Oasis). Hyden is an Oasis man, and I am on team Blur. But i stuck with it, and despite a few chapters that held no interest to me at all (Dixie Chicks vs some guy, Tupac vs Biggy), I enjoyed the book a lot. It's a shame he didn't check out the rivalries between Skyhooks and Sherbet, two (3 and a half stars) Another entertaining and witty read from American Music critic, Steven Hyden. This book looks at famous pop and rock rivalries. I have to admit he almost lost me in the first chapter (Blur vs Oasis). Hyden is an Oasis man, and I am on team Blur. But i stuck with it, and despite a few chapters that held no interest to me at all (Dixie Chicks vs some guy, Tupac vs Biggy), I enjoyed the book a lot. It's a shame he didn't check out the rivalries between Skyhooks and Sherbet, two massive bands here in Australia in the mid 1970s. But then again, why bother?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Caveat: I'm probably not the intended audience for this book. I read it for the pop culture commentary, which means that the music stuff was ho-hum to me. But I read it because in every Hyden review I've come across in the past, I've appreciated the context put in - the connections made between the work and what's going on in the world, or what has gone on - and it's a personal approach that feels oddly universal, and like the only way to approach music, or art in general. Anyway, there are some Caveat: I'm probably not the intended audience for this book. I read it for the pop culture commentary, which means that the music stuff was ho-hum to me. But I read it because in every Hyden review I've come across in the past, I've appreciated the context put in - the connections made between the work and what's going on in the world, or what has gone on - and it's a personal approach that feels oddly universal, and like the only way to approach music, or art in general. Anyway, there are some paragraphs on music criticism I really like: ...This music elevated the raw materials of your life to the heights of art and poetry. It made you feel as if your personal experience was grander and more meaningful than it might otherwise have been. And, naturally, you attributed whatever that music was doing to your heart and brain to the people who made the music, and you came to believe that the qualities of the music were also true of the music's creators. "If this music understands me, then the people behind the music must also understand me," goes this line of thought... Even after working as a music journalist for more than fifteen years and interviewing hundreds of musicians, I still have romantic notions of what my heroes are "really" like and steadfastly believe that if we ever had a chance to meet, they would like me... But I also understand that wanting to be liked by my favorite artists has nothing to do with the artists. It's not that I believe that I would be good for them, it's that for some weird reason I'm looking for them to validate all the thoughts and feelings I've put into my version of them.And there were some transcendent paragraphs I really, really liked: The catch-22 of online communication is that we're more connected than ever yet also more alienated. I know that sounds trite, but only because it's intuitively understood by everybody who uses the internet on a daily basis. The average person is capable of putting out as many words into the world as a media professional is. And this has created a glut of personal expression that's seemingly made it impossible for anyone to get a point across. Everyone is so busy forcing their points of view into the public sphere that taking a moment to listen to another person seems like an indulgence. Instead we're talking to each other in partially received fragments, which are then subsequently decontextualized by aggregators and reinterpreted in new and often misleading ways. Ultimately, a million different misunderstandings end up collectively shaping how we view the world.This book also has a refreshing openness, even empathy, toward various points of view (even ones the author doesn't agree with, which he clearly states in an impressively non-aggressive way). There's a fantastic paragraph on patriotism - a section on Crash - and a bunch on how music defines you. Or not. Ultimately, I found some of what I was looking for. I just had to go through 275+ pages to find it. *** Updating to add this paragraph, with no commentary, because I've referred to it twice in the last two days: Being an American requires wrestling with a central contradiction: we are the best, and we are the worst. We make dreams come true, and many of those dreams turn out to be nightmares. It is impossible to feel just one way about all this. I marvel at and am disgusted by the United States of America on a daily basis. As an American, I hope for us to be better and own the times when we're not. I own it all. I guess you could call me a patriot, though I prefer to say I'm a long-suffering fan who enjoys the songs everybody knows (democracy, the Bill of Rights, defeating the Nazis) but finds the overall catalog to be maddeningly inconsistent. (The Emancipation Proclamation is one humdinger of a single, but the four hundred years of slavery in the deep cuts is an irredeemable slog.) But fine: if it is easier from a semantic perspective to call me a patriot, I'll own that, too. Being a patriot means that I believe in a version of America that's basically imaginary, but I hope one day it will become real.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sean Courtney

    I love books about rock music...especially rock music gossip. I can't help myself. Naturally, I loved this book. It takes a very light (think ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY level depth) look at some of rock & pop's greatest and dumbest feuds and beefs and mixes in all manner of pop-culture and personal experience. It's like reading Chuck Klosterman's little brother's essay collection. A guilty pleasure, if you're into using that phrase. Nothing new under the sun...but fun.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Spencer Olsson

    This book is a bit of an anthology - sixteen essays that can stand alone, on sixteen different, notable rivalries from the last fifty years of pop music. As a result, the reader can shrug off a lesser chapter without losing faith in the whole; on the flipside, Hyden isn't able to advance some grand argument that reaches a satisfying conclusion near book's end (though avoid an overly-forced, overarching argument might, of course, be a good thing). Rather than a multi-course meal, this is sixteen This book is a bit of an anthology - sixteen essays that can stand alone, on sixteen different, notable rivalries from the last fifty years of pop music. As a result, the reader can shrug off a lesser chapter without losing faith in the whole; on the flipside, Hyden isn't able to advance some grand argument that reaches a satisfying conclusion near book's end (though avoid an overly-forced, overarching argument might, of course, be a good thing). Rather than a multi-course meal, this is sixteen different cookies; it's still very enjoyable to stick your hand in the cookie jar. As you might expect from the 'sixteen quasi-independent essays' structure, the quality is not perfectly consistent throughout. It is very likely that a reader will find certain chapters more to their taste. I found, unfortunately, the opening several to be among the weaker in the book - I'm glad I continued reading, as I'd have otherwise sorely missed out. I find Hyden's best chapters to be those where he clearly had a point in mind from the beginning, and is able to successfully filter the rivalry in question through the prism he has in mind. I thought the chapter about Roger Waiters vs. the Rest of Pink Floyd (for which the thesis is: a rock band is a rock band because it's able to sell a distinctive experience; Pink Floyd has a very distinctive associated experience, and so has been able to survive membership fluctuations extremely well) was an excellent example of successful narrative framing. Some of the weaker chapters are those without that sort of framing, or those which rely too much on Hyden's person experience (personal experience is not always a bad thing, it's simply not always a good thing, either). The very first chapter, on Oasis vs. Blur, is just such an example; though Hyden does a good job explaining the rivalry, to me it never quite gets passed the underlying premise of 'I didn't listen to the music of one of my favorite band's rival for a long time because I was being dumb'. I think a relative neat way of summarizing things is to thus split the chapters into three tiers. Too Personal, or too Basic, or Discursive: Unfought Celebrity Boxing Matches [Ch. 10], Pavement vs. Blur [11] Good Thesis: Lynyrd Skynyrd vs. Neil Young [14], Sinead O'Conner vs. Miley Cyrus [8], MJ vs. Prince [3] Personal *and* Satisfying: Kanye vs. Taylor [5], Beatles vs. Stones [6] Overall, I found Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me to be an enjoyable, easy read, and absolutely worth your time.

  29. 5 out of 5

    John

    So like this book, I'm going to ignore the actual topic and digress into a personal anecdote. I really loved Grantland. In the wake of its closing, I try and support as many of its writers as possible, because I thought they were making something special there. Steven Hyden was one of my least favorite writers on Grantland (I probably only read Rembert Brown's reaction-gif pieces of the latest Kanye West tweet less), but I inevitably read a piece here and there because he talked about bands I ca So like this book, I'm going to ignore the actual topic and digress into a personal anecdote. I really loved Grantland. In the wake of its closing, I try and support as many of its writers as possible, because I thought they were making something special there. Steven Hyden was one of my least favorite writers on Grantland (I probably only read Rembert Brown's reaction-gif pieces of the latest Kanye West tweet less), but I inevitably read a piece here and there because he talked about bands I cared about that didn't get much press elsewhere (besides noisy/Vice, and Vice is a terrible place for Hipsters who hate Buzzfeed to create Buzzfeed-esque lists). I do enjoy his recent podcast though, so it's probably just his writing and not his "takes" that puts me off. Anyways. Your Favorite Band takes famous musical rivalries and uses them as a backdrop for Hyden to talk about his life. It's not all that interesting , and one "side" inevitably dominates the conversation. Hyden is from Minnesota, so Prince vs Michael Jackson just discussed Prince's brilliance for a chapter and rarely mentioned MJ. Oasis vs Blur was a love poem to Oasis with a passing mention that Blur is a band that exists. I don't particularly pay attention to the "meta" that surrounds music. I never read a Jack White interview so I had no idea he despised the Black Keys. Maybe that makes me the wrong audience for his book, or maybe I just have a different view on what a rivalry is. As mentioned in the Beatles-Stones section, those bands liked each other. Most artists really don give a shit that another artist exists in the same space. The Stones were told to look different so people who hated the Beatles had someone to latch on to (and had records to buy to spite Beatles fans). That's the exact same way sports fans get hyped up (Bears-Packers tickets cost an arm and a leg even if neither team is good because fuck the Packers), and politicians rally the base. It's also why I bought this book (as a middle finger to ESPN). It's all a marketing ploy, and it gives music critics something to talk about (why else would we still write articles about Pavement 20 years after their brief flirtation with relevancy). To me, looking at the branding efforts of labels and artists seems much more honest and telling than analyzing songwriters' attempts to out-genuine each other in Billboard and Rolling Stone interviews.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    Oasis sucks. Okay. I've been a big blur fan for years. AGES. Decades? I was (scarily) obsessed with Damon Albarn. I ordered one of those cakes with his picture on it and I ate it. I ate the whole thing. I took pictures and it was pathetic and amazing, all at once. I can draw Damon Albarn's face from memory. I traveled to London to see blur's reunion performances. I saw Gorillaz and The Good, the Bad, and the Queen. Twice. For one gig I drove from Coachella to San Francisco (about what? 350 miles Oasis sucks. Okay. I've been a big blur fan for years. AGES. Decades? I was (scarily) obsessed with Damon Albarn. I ordered one of those cakes with his picture on it and I ate it. I ate the whole thing. I took pictures and it was pathetic and amazing, all at once. I can draw Damon Albarn's face from memory. I traveled to London to see blur's reunion performances. I saw Gorillaz and The Good, the Bad, and the Queen. Twice. For one gig I drove from Coachella to San Francisco (about what? 350 miles?). There was another time I dragged my mom and my best friend to Las Vegas to see them. We were 5 five away and I still have the shirt I wore that Damon poured water on. I've seen Graham Coxon perform his solo stuff where I basically held his mic for him. Jesus, I studied abroad at Goldsmiths. Christ, I wanted to be a keyboardist in a band and tour England and play in London and holy shit I did that! When I met Damon Albarn he kissed me, OMG. On the lips even. I... am a BIG fan. My cousin sent me a picture of this book because the Blur vs. Oasis made her think of me, so of course I had to borrow this from the library and read it. It begins with him placing himself firmly in the Oasis fan camp. I was like, okay. This dude's a dudebro with Dad opinions. And yup! Never once did that falter. Whole book of Dad opinions and being self-conscious about being a dudebro because it didn't fit his... self-image? of being uh, real? i guess? And how coming to a more mature understanding about authenticity is ah, the Meaning of Life. Anyway, it was fun to argue with him in my head (and I basically argued with him in my head about everything). And he made me put on some old blur for the first time in a long while and it was so good I cried. Update: ugh, Oasis: http://www.nme.com/photos/liam-gallag... how can you possibly...

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