A Blast From the Ghetto? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
A Blast From the Ghetto?

Steve Salerno–interviewed a few months back by yours truly here–has stirred a bit of controversy with this blog post, wherein he surveys R&B music in the era of American Idol and Dreamgirls and concludes, “Screaming unintelligible lyrics at a constant decibel level that would probably be too loud even for civil-defense purposes is not singing.” Hence, what he sees as the modern criteria for “good singing”:

* No sense of dynamics or nuance.
* No particular emphasis given to tone quality.
* No seeming consciousness of the way specific sections of the lyrics might call for a different vocal delivery.
* A numbing rhythmic predictability as well.
* All of it topped off by a tendency to mix in those grating "runs" (wherein every note is an excuse to surround it with 14 other notes that aren't in the basic song) that have characterized just about every Idol performance this season.

This, to Salerno, indicates a new era of “ghetto blasting” is upon us, referencing a term once used to refer to portable stereos that sacrificed sound quality for volume; a term that, Salerno notes, “fell out of favor in part for PC reasons and in part because ghetto-blasters began showing up in the dorm rooms of pimply faced suburban kids named Irv.” Despite several disclaimers, including a promise that “this isn’t about race; it’s about music,” calling out the multitude of white offenders and copping to an admiration for rap music, Salerno is nevertheless in hot water for invoking the “g”-word. To wit, one commenter offers:

You can use as many discalimers as you want, this sounds like racism to me. You're attack an aspect of AFrican American culture, and a deeply entrenched one at that, that goes back hundreds of years to slave songs and joyous refrains that looked forward to a day when freedom would come. This is not just a style, man, but a cultural voice. Get with it.

It's an interesting theory: Criticize modern pop R&B artists' technique and suddenly you're an apologist for the slave trade. So the question we all need to ask ourselves is…Do you love Dreamgirls? Or are you just another closet wannabe slave master?

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