Separation (Due To) Anxiety?



Chris lives in Austin, TX, where he once shook Willie Nelson's hand.

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66 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I love Shea for precisely this reason, for what it’s worth…Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      For choosing Jones even though his wasn’t even close to the best song, or closer to the best than the worst song, of that year? Or for the strip club story? Because I can see both.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Because, much like I tend to, he looks beyond just the art and at the context. Does Mike Jones suck? Yea. And Shea admits as much. But he gets why Mike Jones was “important” and why his work that year couldn’t be ignored.

        Sort of like why I put stuff I might not like or which are objectively bad on my old Mount Rushmores. Just because they are bad doesn’t mean they are not important. He’s simply using a different definition of “best”.

        I think he sums it up here:

        “The best song of 2004 was Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks,” a song so perfectly constructed I have to assume it is, and will remain forever, the high point of Jesus’s rap career. But it gets nixed, too, because while it was/is/will remain truly magnificent, it (mostly) didn’t accomplish anything broader than its own success.”

        “Jesus Walks” was great. But “Still Tippin'” mattered. At least according to Shea.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          Also, Shea does things like this:

          And writes things like this:

          “Every time I get mad at someone under 25 years old for anything, I have to stop and take a step back and remember that I grew up with Ginuwine and this person grew up with Trey Songz. What a tragedy.”

          And it allows me to post one of my favorite clips ever:

          His reaction later in that episode when she responds to his “Minimum acceptable thread count level for sheets” question with “I just sleep on cotton t-shirt sheets” destroys me every time.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            That chart has Prince and Chris Brown literally off the charts, in opposite directions. That seems about right.

            I thought this was a funny line from the Mike Jones piece: “T-Pain, a large top hat with an R&B singer underneath it”. But I’ve kind of had a beef with comically-oversized hats on pop stars since the ’90’s.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Haha… last March, we went to a SXSW show that had as their last act of the night a “surprise guest.” Rumors were flying: It’s Kanye! It’s Kendrick! It’s Beyonce! There was a really long delay between the penultimate show and the “surprise guest,” and people were getting really hyped, convinced that someone huge was coming. Then music started, not particularly recognizable, and out came T-Pain. You could hear a groan make its way through the crowd.

              People got excited once the show really got going, because it’s a free show with free booze, so who cares who’s playing ultimately, right? But I thought it was hilarious that people actually groaned.

              Coincidentally, the next day we were walking down 6th Street when we ran into T-Pain. I had my picture taken with him. He seemed very nice. He wasn’t wearing a hat.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Yeah, I get it. I just can’t hear that damn song (lord knows I heard it enough in 2004 to last me a lifetime).

          Relatedly, I think one of the biggest influences on hip hop in the last 15 years was Hurricane Katrina. Within weeks of Katrina, I started hearing New Orleans hip hop and seeing New Orleans line dancing in Austin (ah, New Orleans line dancing), and within a year or so I started hearing that New Orleans style hip hop (which is not dissimilar from the Houston style, unsurprisingly given their proximity) that’s still big today (Li’l Wayne!) on the radio and everywhere else.

          In other words, spreading an entire city around the country spread its culture really really fast, and this had a big impact in the hip hop world.

          Am I saying that Jones is as bad as a devastating hurricane? No. I’m just saying that I can see including something not necessarily good (or in Katrina’s case, absolutely terrible) as impactful and therefore important and worth mentioning.

          Still, Jones sucks.

          Also, as the inclusion of the Snoop song indicates, he understands really catchy songs can actually be good.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            It took me a while to get on board with the Snoop song. In a way, it’s catchiness… the way it burrowed through your ear into your brain… seemed to work against it. “If it’s this catchy, it can’t be good… can it?” But it was!

            Yea, Jones sucks.

            When Wale hit it big a few years back, I remember remarking to a friend who is an unabashed Mike Jones fan that Wale was setting records for using his own name in his songs. He then reminded me that Mike Jones existed and I stood corrected.

            You comparing Mike Jones to Hurricane Katrina and concluding that the former — at least in terms of its impact on hip hop — was far more devastating might be the best thing this site produces that never gets seen by 99% of our people here. Bravo, sir.


  2. Avatar Kazzy says:


    I meant to email you about this but since it is, as I note above, related, I’ll post it here.

    I was in a bar the other night packed with young, wealthy, white 20-somethings. Three songs came on that I could hear and recognize. They were by Nas, Kendrick Lamar, and Juvenile. Guess which one got the biggest response? Hint: It was Juvenile. And the song was probably older than half the people in the bar. And yet…Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    It is strange there isn’t more promiscuous cross-marketing. Motorhead did bring out their own vibrator recently and I can think of a few bands that contributed songs to porno films, but that’s about it.Report

  4. Avatar Maribou says:

    Many years ago Jaybird and I decided that if we won the lottery we would move to Alaska and start a combination strip club / radio station. I’m not quite sure why we decided that. Inebriation may have been a factor, though I think it also stemmed out of a conversation about how both strippers and radio DJs didn’t have enough autonomy and their bosses ought to let them make the decisions. (As for why we were having that conversation in the first place, well, I think that’s where the inebriation comes in.)

    I don’t think we have the energy to even contemplate such a venture these days.

    But it still strikes me as a deeply underexploited niche.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      “The dancing gets really weird during the free jazz hour.”

      I’d invest.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I wonder from time to time about business models for different kinds of businesses. The strip club provides a business model that has some very distinctive features — the proliferation of so much cash, and the intentionally dim lighting making it difficult to track and follow it, seems to require, simultaneously, a very high level of trust in the people handling the cash, and a very high degree of managerial control over it. Combine that with the fact that the dancers typically pay the club for the opportunity to dance and then split the take with the club afterwards, and it looks to me like there’s a whole lot of opportunity and incentive for them to cheat on the rake, or cheat to subvert the people who track the rake. My preliminary conclusion is that the owner pretty much has to be there personally to track it all, but that doesn’t square up with the existence of club chains (e.g., Spearmint Rhino), because the owner can only be in one club on any given night. Does the Rhino just have exceptionally strong trust relationships with its managers?Report

      • Avatar Francis says:

        I’ll bet that all the cash goes directly into a cage. And given the attire (or, rather, the lack thereof) of those handling the cash, there appear to be limited opportunities to divert the cash elsewhere.

        casinos, after all, also work on a model of minimum wage workers handling large amounts of currency and they seem to make it work ok.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Hmm… there are plenty of opportunities, but the clubs make much of their money on the cover charges and drink minimums, which, while they both take place in relative dark, aren’t that different from the way a lot of regular shot bars and dance clubs, along with pretty much every comedy club, makes money. Plus the dancers are making enough money (it’s definitely not minimum wage) that they have an incentive not to lose the job by getting caught stealing.

          I imagine plenty of them have their purses searched before they leave after a shift, though.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        I think there is a fair deal of tax-dodging in any cash based businesses. Cash only dinners/restaurants are another example. There is a gas station near me that is cash only. The benefit to the consumer is that their gas seems to be priced thirty cents less than the nearby competition.

        I also recall hearing a lot about exploitation at the clubs (surprise surprise) and that the least exploitive ones tend to be employee-owned coops/collectives. The paradox here is that those clubs are also the ones that tend to fold the quickest because they turn stripping into some kind of performance art with a neo-burlesque and alt.flavor that strip club attendees don’t seem to want.Report

        • Avatar Don Zeko says:

          When I worked as a waiter at Cracker Barrel, my coworkers told me I was a total chump for honestly reporting my income. Tax evasion is absolutely endemic in the restaurant industry.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            My son works as a waiter, and they report tips as follows:

            Sum up the total bill for the tables waited by the waiter. Calculate 15% of that. Decide that’s the tip for the shift. Pay taxes on that 15% plus the base waiter salary (that 2 bucks an hour).

            Honestly, it’s pretty simple and I suspect it averages out fairly accurately. There’s always big tippers, but then there’s always teenagers.

            He gets a lot of paychecks for 0 dollars though (they take the tax out of the 2 bucks an hour salary).Report

  5. Avatar SaulDegraw says:

    Some thoughts.

    Rock and its various genres still believe in authenticity and often try to avoid the blatant marketing of hip-hop. Indie rock often seems to associate authenticity with a kind of shabby chic. You sing about used book stores, coffee houses, etc. You don’t sing about strippers. Usually. Belle and Sebastian have some mentions to sex work. But in a very different way than hip-hop

    Do you know that Onion article about Autumn Man? I think a lot of indie pop wants to be the non-satirical version of that article. The desired result is whimsy and sincerity.

    In NYC and SF, I see guys out on the street all the time trying to sell their rap albums. I don’t see indie rockers doing the same. Are the rap guys ever discovered from this? Do indie musicians find it distasteful?

    TEal deer, I think indie rock has a complicated relationship with bombast, capitalism, and marketing. hip-hop does not. I suppose an indie rocker could write songs for used bookstores and coffee shops but those places have less money than strip clubs.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      And yet, we constantly hear indie rock in commercials. It’s gotten to the point that when I hear one of those songs on the radio I start doing the voice over in my head “When you’ve found a bank that fits your life, you just know…”Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Indeed. A piece of my soul died when I heard “How Soon Is Now” used to sell the Nissan Maxima.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          How about an Iggy Pop song about doing drugs used to sell cruises. Or Johny Lydon doing his abrasive “i’m so punk” act to sell some other crap.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            To be fair to Lydon, he turned right around and used that butter money to restart PIL. And to be fair to Pop et al, depending on the contracts and deals made when they were young, they may have very little say or control in how their music is used now.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Never been a Lydon fan myself; to heavy on the image and act. But i can see how people with lesser taste than myself could dig him. ( insert self-aware faux smug slyly winking emoji here).

              I don’t begrudge Pop his money. He was very lucky to survive being himself so he can use a little jingle in his jeans to get some body fat and be comfy. Doesn’t make the song any less odd for a cruise line commercial though.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

          See, I don’t understand how this makes sense, That song is about alienation and depression with lyrics like “I am human and need to be loved, just like everyone else does” also but going to clubs on your own, leaving on your own, crying and dying.

          Is it kind of anti-marketing? Do most people just not pay attention to the lyrics? Same with Lust for Life, that ode to Heroin, being used for cruises.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            The one I actually liked quite a bit and have never been able to find on Youtube was a Miller Genuine Draft ad that was quite nice aesthetically and used The Cramps’ song New Kind of Kick, which is about doing every drug imaginable.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              I think Golden Shower of Hits by The Circle Jerks would make a better beer commercial but maybe that is just me.Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

              That one at least makes thematic sense and a beer company tries to market rebel images. Cruises tended to be about squeaky clean family fun from what I’ve seen.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Cruises are not just family fun. It depends on the line and the route. Some cruises are serious party boats. There are tons of short cruises out places like LA or Fla that are all young people trying to be drunk enough not to remember the cruise at all. There are usually older perma drunks on longer cruises.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

                The cruise ads that are mentioned above are certainly all about family fun if I am recalling them correctly.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Well they dont’ make many ads about 50 year olds getting drunk and trying to have sex on the railing of the ship. Or 20 year old peeps for that matter, but it happens.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                But aren’t they just trying to tap into the target demo’s pop culture world? They don’t want young people to think cruises are full of drugs. They want 50-year-olds who associate that song with their fun-filled youth to hear it and think, “FUN!” and then see images of swans made out of towels and think, “FUN!” and then they go buy tickets.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        I don’t watch too much TV but I remember being floored a bit when a pet food company used “I think I need a new heart” by the Magnetic Fields. They didn’t use the lyrics because the lyrics are about a breakup but they did use the music and it is pretty recognizable.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      How much of this may be a function of the economic class the artists populating the different genres tend to come from?Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Tori Amos sang about strippers.Report

  6. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    Kinda sorta related, Beats Antique is both a world fusion / bass music group and a tribal fusion belly dancer, each of their pieces being fairly inseparably both the music and the dance.

    Unlike Mike Jones (apparently – I’m not familiar with his music), they are very good indeed – both the musicianship and dancing skill, and the compositions and choreography.


    • Avatar Chris says:

      We saw them live last month.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Meant to add that they were quite fun.

        I suppose there’s a difference between sexiness and sex. People in the adult world would definitely see Beats Antique as part of the “vanilla” world (the adult name for the non-adult world), but they’re definitely utilizing sexiness, as does a lot of music. Perhaps the distinction might be labeled sexiness vs. sex.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          This reminds me of one of those weird “I just don’t get it” things (or maybe – and related to this post – it’s easily-explicable, once you accept that all cultures try to keep a bright boundary between “sex/not-sex”, that doesn’t always make a lot of objective sense) .

          I’ve seen commentary from women from ethnic backgrounds where belly-dancing is an indigenous artform, expressing dismay at the way many Westerners see/utilize it; essentially saying that bellydancing is not really meant to be sexual (or sexy, whatever that distinction may be?)

          But – and maybe I’m just a dumb guy, or conditioned by my own culture – I fail to see how a form of dance and its dress that is specifically designed around emphasizing certain muscle groups (and strategically-placing jangly/shiny things on hips/bellies, the better to draw attention to their nimble and vigorous movement) could NOT be sex/sexualized (particularly since said cultures often tend to otherwise encourage women to cover up and be more demure – bellydancing seems to me like the “sexy Halloween costume” of the ME, a more-or-less socially-acceptable way for women to openly get a little risque).

          I feel like it doesn’t take Dr. Freud to see what certain styles of dancing are really “about” (“Twerking is an ancient and venerable mode of artistic expression, with no sexual component!”) – and to be clear, I don’t CARE that that’s what they are “about”, and I appreciate the effort and ability that goes into it – expressing eroticism artistically, is no less valid than expressing human state [X] artistically.

          But DENYING that’s what it’s (at least partly) about seems…disingenuous.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            Hmm.. Yeah, I dated a woman long ago who taught belly dancing classes, which she saw as teaching exercise basically. She swore up and down that it wasn’t sexual, but I’m pretty sure I know what every person in the room was thinking when they saw her belly dancing.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              Right. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I understand that something can stick around long enough so it has become a tradition that is somewhat divorced from its origins in practitioners’ minds (like Easter and ancient fertility rites); but the links here seem pretty…direct and obvious.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            Is this the “appropriation” schtick, or something else?Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              Well, the appropriation complaint is often mixed in there too, but I wasn’t addressing that so much as this strange (to me) idea that bellydancing isn’t meant to be sexual or arousing to observers, that that is a misunderstanding of what it’s about.

              Again, I could just be conditioned in a certain way, but it seems to me that it’s pretty expressly-designed to be sexually-suggestive.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            This goes along with my pet theory that social partner dancing declined in the West because of the Sexual Revolution. Partner dancing was the only way unmarried couples could engage in any sort of romantic or sexual touching for centuries. Once pre-marital sex or at least making out become more socially acceptable and common, the need for partner dancing declined fast and only survived in communities that couldn’t be affectionate in public, LGBT people, or in pre-Sexual Revolution places like Hispanic communities.

            I can understand why Middle Easterners would complain about belly dancing being overly sexual even if they come across as protesting too much. The overt sexuality of belly dancing in the West as a tendency to make the Middle East into an overly exotic place for Western fantasy. I’m not in complete agreement with Edward Said on most issues but you don’t need to fully buy into anti-colonial thought to realize why this would be aggravating to people from the Middle East.Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

            I suspect that this comes from a wide variance of what the phase “sexual/sexualized” means to various people. One one level, all dancing is sexual. But I believe if you told someone who was a professional ballerina that what she was really doing was going onstage and acting all sexual, especially in those tight outfits, that she would reject that, and likely believe you had no idea what the hell you were talking about.

            I suspect belly dancing is the same way.

            And now I am remembering reading once that when it was first a thang, waltzing was considered scandalous and was even banned in some quarters because it was so overtly sexual. Now it’s what we teach our kids in elementary school (when we do bother to teach kids dance).Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              Sure, “on one level” all dancing is sexual.

              But clearly, some styles of dancing are several levels closer to sex than others.

              And belly-dancing (again, especially given that the costumes for it are significantly more revealing than other modes of traditional feminine dress in those cultures) seems closer than most, to this clueless male Westerner.Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog says:

          Oh, cool! I have not seen them, but I’ve seen other groups’ tribal fusion pieces to their music.

          Other examples placed a little differently along a presumed sex / sexiness axis – Big John Bates and the Voodoo Dolls (rockabilly and burlesque), and the Dirty Gramophones (swing-hop and burlesque).

          Modern burlesque is a funny one to me – it’s pretty centrally about the American late 19th Century striptease part, with the other periods and parts of the various variety show mostly downplayed. And yet it gets stripping at least halfway past the respectability filter, so the bands above, and probably others like them, can be booked for an all-ages festival, with perhaps some eyebrow raising but not a lot of shock-horror

          There may be similar things going on now with non-respectable-ized striptease that I don’t know about – because it seems it would be harder to turn that into mainstream / vanilla success, or at least to carry it with you into mainstream success.Report

          • Avatar dragonfrog says:

            Oh, I guess I dropped this in editing the above – presumably, when 19th C American burlesque was current rather than retro, every such club and theatre with burlesque shows had a house band, or at least a piano player. The house musicians’ ongoing professional success was inevitably based in part on how good they were at music for stripping to.Report

  7. Avatar dhex says:

    It seems like that this is precisely the sort of innovation that markets should produce over and over again, doesn’t it? But they don’t.

    what. i love this essay (not as much as the grantland r+b laid-ness chart) but this part is not loveable.

    let’s start with:

    1) you need a large population of strip club regulars and enough critical mass for dilettantes and infrequent flyers
    1a) this population must also be people who are likely to also be into your music, or at least accept it.
    1b) the artist must be connected to this world enough to understand what makes for both good and bad stripping songs

    2) you need a style of music that lends itself aesthetically to strip clubbing, that speaks to the strippiness of it all.

    3) you need something worth dancing to and appropriate for being danced at.
    3a) can’t be too fast, and probably not too slow either.

    4) it requires a world where everyone can’t immediately stream everything whenever they feel like it. that world was beginning in 2004 but was not there yet. it is no longer here.

    5) becoming the brian eno of jigglies isn’t necessarily a gateway to musical success sans jigglies. it worked in this context, but i’m thinking it was a one trick pony because of the difficulties of lining up all the prerequisites. the minecraft music guy isn’t opening for skrillex, after all. wrong product for that kind of platform.

    6) ultimately this was just another way of getting the right demo in the right hands.
    6a) e.g. if you’re watain, you make sure to have severed goat heads at every show. same diff.

    so in my view the question should be more “why did lightning strike here?” rather than “why aren’t more bands making music for pornos?”Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      All of this is true, and you’re probably right that this is less generalizable than I initially thought. However, the 80s and 90s were filled with rock that was played in strip clubs, and bands that wanted to create rock that would some day be played in strip clubs (even if that’s not how they thought about it, but I suppose that’s sort of the point), so I think it could have struck multiple times before. And of course, everyone and his sister has a hip hop mixtape. But yeah, it’s probably not something most musicians could do, at least not in strip clubs psecifically. Iron & Wine just ain’t gonna work at Deja Vu.Report

  8. Avatar Glyph says:

    This is somewhat tangential, but since sex, and Prince, and contracts/control and marketing all came up in comments, P4k had a pretty interesting piece.

    When Prince signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1977 at age 19, his contract not only called for an unusual degree of creative control—he was to write, produce, and play every instrument on his recordings, à la Stevie Wonder—but also explicitly stated that he be part of the label’s pop roster, not its R&B one. This distinction would shape the entirety of his career to come.


    Prince was well acquainted with the reality of race in the record business. Crossing over from the commercial exile of R&B—a genre acutely feeling the aftereffects of disco’s backlash—to rock’s mainstream was vital to anyone in his situation, especially as a native of lily-white Minneapolis. Writer Steve Perry quoted Jimmy Jam as saying, “Black musicians [in Minneapolis in the ‘70s] were going, ‘We can’t get a job, we better make a demo tape or something and try to get up out of here.’ … Not that we had more talent [than the white musicians]; nothing like that. We just had more initiative, because there was nothing here for us.”

    That situation was writ large at the dawn of the ‘80s—which is to say, Prince knew precisely how fucked he would be if he didn’t stipulate that he be treated as a pop act. This was the dark ages of R&B crossover. Billboard’s year-end 1981 singles list featured only eight black records in the Top 40; in 1979, there had been 16 (and seven black records in the Top 10). The number had halved in two years.

    “The record industry provides probably the strangest example of segregation since South African apartheid—a frequent, unspoken separation of blacks and whites that subtly and insidiously damages our industry,” Prince’s publicist Howard Bloom wrote in an August 1981 commentary piece for Billboard. “If a black act’s record is rock & roll and belongs on AOR radio, that’s too bad. The black special markets department drops the record because it’s not appropriate to black radio. And the white AOR and pop departments generally refuse to touch the record because of the color of the artist who made it.” This also worked in reverse, as Bloom pointed out: Devo’s “Whip It” got little play on AOR, Devo’s so-called “natural” constituency, but went gold in part because the record had broken on black radio thanks to black radio legend and Detroit techno forefather The Electrifying Mojo, who was also the first DJ to broadcast Prince’s music to the Motor City.


    • Avatar Chris says:

      That is really interesting. Clearly, Prince was a visionary, though if the music career hadn’t worked out, he probably could have been the first NBA player under 5′ tall:


      • Avatar Glyph says:

        The funniest bit in the whole piece has to be this:

        The reason for all this was Dirty Mind, which Jean Williams—Billboard’s founding R&B editor—tut-tutted over: “The front cover has Prince standing donned in an open jacket with a handkerchief around his neck and in a pair of black briefs. Maybe it’s meant to be sexy. The back cover gets better (or worse). Prince is lying down with the same ‘outfit,’ however, this time you get a look at his legs and what is he wearing? A pair of thigh high stockings. The effect is one of a nude man dressed in a pair of thigh high stockings.”

        Why, yes…now that you mention it, “the effect” is indeed pretty much what the picture is!Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Hehe… I imagine that for many people at that time, Prince made very little sense, even in an industry that had just gone through its disco phase.Report

  9. Avatar Kim says:

    So, there was once a musician with a very dirty mind…
    He asked himself if there was a way of creating music to make a girl feel good.
    Now it’s a whole genre.

    But drugs have created far more designer brands of music than sex ever will. Because drugs alter ones ability to perceive…Report

  10. Avatar Jaybird says:

    It was Mike Jones who introduced me to Big Moe.

    Rest in Peace, Big Moe. I’m sorry you never released a gospel album.Report