Are Blog Writers Incapable of Writing in Plain English?

An article in today’s Guardian lightly skims the surface of the idea that music bloggers have developed an almost indecipherable way of writing. Here’s an excerpt:

“So, I could now sit down for coffee with a friend and, quoting liberally from New York’s Village Voice blog Status Ain’t Hood, written by Tom Breihan, opine: ‘Pillowy drama-nerd indie-rock is nothing new. And another thing: the Decemberists don’t always sound like coffee-table NPR fare. The first song they played at Webster Hall was a Crampsian swamp-gurgle, something maybe approaching the same neighbourhood as metal.’ I’d sound pretty cool, but would either of us have a clue what I’d meant?

The answer to the question would probably be “no.” I can’t tell you exactly where this proliferation of bombastic writing really stems from. It’s probably a combination of a good number of bloggers having lax editing practices (especially if you’re someone who writes and publishes your own blog with no support staff), no formal training in writing or reporting, the desire to create an elitist, TrackBacking society, and being a victim of having the unfortunate disposition of being an asshole.

I do believe there is such a thing as being artfully creative in your writing, but I do get a headache when I end up reading 10 multi-hyphenated adjectives in the course of only 2 sentences. A lot of the times I have no f-cking clue what people are talking about…as if it even makes a difference. I have to agree with a salient argument of article my friend Mediaeater pointed out to me: “It’s as though it doesn’t matter what’s being said about the act, as long as the act is mentioned constantly and in favorable, if nigh-on indecipherable, terms.”

It’s a shame that so many of the people vehemently championing up-and-coming bands via their blogs are using this self-referential way of writing. A lot of times I think the vague, overly descriptive writing results in reviews and articles that are no longer about music, but more about the writer showing the reader how they are so hip and happening. It’s as if they don’t even care about telling you whether or not a band is good as they care about telling you that they were the first person to write about them. Sometimes I can’t even figure out if someone even likes a band based on their descriptions, or if they really just want to make sure they are keeping up with the Jones Joneses (this is a perfect example of the aforementioned “lax editing practices”).

MORE: You know what? Who knows, maybe the majority of blog writers are genuinely interested and excited about the music which they are discussing. Sasha Frere-Jones does dish out a very smart comment about the free-form nature of Web writing, “Nobody’s paid to read my blog…so if I sometimes write in an unfiltered way, it isn’t likely aimed at other critics, but is simply a reflection of how I think when no one is watching.” But I think we all know by now that not everyone’s intentions are quite as pure as the one Sasha stated. For better or for worse, blogging has become a money maker for many people, or a launching pad to some greater goal. Writing about every single crappy band that has a mild amount of notoriety results in the possibility of more web hits, more ad impressions, more dollars in the pockets of the blogerati, and more invites to “secret” shows marketing peeps organize to “create buzz.” This brings me to the whole “are you keeping it real” argument. Which gives me a headache because I can understand the justification for “selling out” or “working for the man” as I can for “staying street.”

I’ll leave it up for you to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. I can’t wait to get crucified in the comments to this post. Hah!

29 thoughts on “Are Blog Writers Incapable of Writing in Plain English?”

  1. There are other things that I have noticed about bloggers. In terms of politics, many of the bloggers are democrats. The republican population is usually outnumbered and if a blogger is a republican, they tend to be into extreme-right politics.

  2. i know, i should totally stop having opinions. the problem with having opinions is that you run the risk of hurting people’s feelings and sparking some conversation.

  3. Hurt away. Bring about much pain and conversation, but not both at the same time. Opinions that end with “What do you think?” are also nice. And at least I can understand what you are saying.

  4. I think you’re treading in dangerous water here Laura. Don’t you know that the “we’re soo hip” music bloggers union is an uber exclusive circle jerk consisting of like 12 people who share the exact same opinion about everything?

  5. The phrase is “keeping up with the Joneses”, you idiot.

    Don’t whine about the writing of others just because you can’t write.

  6. Hey Anonymous, you do realize, the “keeping up with the Jones” was a reference to Sasha Frere-Jones, godfather of incomprehensible, pretensious interweb mucis wanking, whom the Guardian article in question cites? Dumb fuck.

  7. haha. you got me, i’m a really bad speller. sorry! also, i don’t think you should read my rant about bloggers as exclusively pointing the finger at others, i’m just as guilty as anyone else of being an a**hole and overusing adjectives. it takes one to know one, you know? i would think anyone else who is a writer is constantly going through this love-hate relationship with their own writing as well as other people’s writing.

  8. exactly when did music journalism of any sort not involve a string of vague self referential crap?

    not in my lifetime…

  9. Nice article. Most music writers (and I use the term loosely) know little about music and even less about criticism and that is why the are unable to make a single coherent statement about the music they are supposedly reviewing. Bloggers especially.

    Seems like they have no respect for music and people who actually create it

  10. Nice article. Most music writers (and I use the term loosely) know little about music and even less about criticism and that is why the are unable to make a single coherent statement about the music they are supposedly reviewing. Bloggers especially.

    Seems like they have no respect for music and people who actually create it.

  11. “By Anonymous, at 10:09 AM

    Hey Anonymous, you do realize, the “keeping up with the Jones” was a reference to Sasha Frere-Jones, godfather of incomprehensible, pretensious interweb mucis wanking, whom the Guardian article in question cites? Dumb fuck.”

    Nope, she fucked it up, just like I said. You’re more of a fucking idiot than she is. Quite a feat.

  12. Anon says:
    “exactly when did music journalism of any sort not involve a string of vague self referential crap?
    not in my lifetime…”

    Well there has been some pretty wonderful music journalism. I happen to have been the intern in the Calendar section of the LA Times a few years ago, where I befirended Bob Hilburn, one of the people who practically invented “serious music journalism” as a genre back in the rarly ’70s when he was the first critic to begin reviewing rock & roll music in the pages of a major newspaper of national circulation. You know what? People like Bob—to this day—have amazing clout, amazing impact because of their reputation and their track record. When I was the intern there still Bob published a big trend piece in the Sunday section of the LA Times about the “rock is back” bands (this was the spring I guess of 2002??), focusing on the Hives and the White Stripes.Llater when he interviewed Jack White, Jack told him that the article turned out to be enormously influential in convincing V2 to sign his band. I am not sure there are any music blogs that live exclusively online that approach that kind of impact…not sure even Pitchfork.com qualifies. I think what most music bloggers lack is NOT a facility to write well but rather (as Laura wrote in her note here) a kind of journalistic rigor…a trained news reporter’s healthy skepticism…an ability to see the big picture, to contextualize bands and trends, and not just to the extent of “he sounds like Robert Plant being chased by a hungry dog in a corn field.”
    I guess what I’m trying to say here (besides being self-referential and name-dropping) is that quote unquote serious music journalists DO HAVE to this day an enormous impact on the lives of artists…on the people in the position to sign them onto majors and make their musical widely available…and if you stretch this thought far enough, on the lives of us all because they impact the music that soundtracks our lives.
    PS: Also the fact that most bloggers don’t have an editor is really bad. ANYBODY (and I really mean anybody) benefits enormously from editing. Worrrrrd!

  13. i think MOJO puts out some pretty great rock writing pieces. and Careless Talk Costs Lives was pretty good when they were in print…even if Jack White hates Everett True. The difference between Lester Bangs’s retarded rants was that if you could get past all of the gibberish you would be able to understand that he had a opinion and a specific IDEA about the music he was writing about. Even though Jon Pareles hates Coldplay (and made some incorrect statements in his piece in the NY TImes), at least he has a point.

  14. Sorry to let you down PP, but to those of us that aren’t personal friends with him, Robert Hilburn is an irrelevant hack and has been for the past 20 years. He’s been chasing the bloggers’ dust for the last few years. See his recent Franz, Arcade Fire and Bloc Party pieces which only recycle what the blogs said months earlier. If he really thinks he had anything to do with getting the Stripes signed, that only confirms how of his mind he is. And do you think that if Hilby broke the first word on a band like Clap Your Hands in the pages of one newspaper they would have sold as many CDs nationally as they have to date? Get real.

  15. I completely agree with this. I know a lot about current music, not as much about past music, but I am incapable of declaring that a band sounds like band x in their band y phase. I’ve made fun of myself in my own blog for that. I say what I think in simple terms, and I am mostly skeptical of everything.

Comments are closed.