360° Coverage : Why Middle Class America Loves The Black Keys

2 Updates

Why Middle Class America Loves The Black Keys

May 17 2014, 12:36pm CDT | by

Last week, while brunching at a Brooklyn eatery—the kind of Locavor encampment offering “provisions” rather than “food”—a friend of mine remarked that he was looking forward to the musical...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

18 weeks ago

Why Middle Class America Loves The Black Keys

May 17 2014, 12:36pm CDT | by

Last week, while brunching at a Brooklyn eatery—the kind of Locavor encampment offering “provisions” rather than “food”—a friend of mine remarked that he was looking forward to the musical selections of the following week.

“Why?” I asked.

He answered, “Because the Black Keys are dropping their new album.”

“Why do you care so much?” I replied.

“Because they’re like the most credible mainstream rock band out there right now.”

I mulled over what he had said and realized that if he wasn’t right—that if Black Keys aren’t the most credible mainstream rock band out there right now—they’ve definitely convinced a lot of people that they, in fact, are.

Indeed, the twin concepts of “credibility” and “authenticity” often come up in the literature surrounding the Black Keys. Such sentiments have also permeated behind-the-scenes audio circles as well: when I find myself talking with mixing engineers, mastering engineers, producers, software engineers, or marketers, the Black Keys invariably comes up to prove coolness—to illustrate dedication to an authentically eclectic taste. It’s boils down to, “I may have to mix so and so’s insufferable dance record, but in my spare time, I listen to the Black Keys.”

More than credibility, the Black keys carry the distinction—along with Coldplay (whose latest album you can find reviewed here)—of being one of the last “bands” whose name we bandy about in the same breath as the much more prevalent “artists” of our day, the performers of only one name (and, some would argue, zero personality).

Not only that, but they sell records, and do so in good numbers: their previous outing debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and moved over two hundred thousand copies in its first week. Not shabby at all, considering the nature of our current marketplace.

Here is where I must come clean about my own tastes: personally, I have always been wary to dive into their catalogue, in the same way an old curmudgeon might look at the trailer of a feel-good movie and guffaw at the prospect of having to sit through the film; I must admit I’ve made the snotty decision to reject their music, sound unheard, because it has come so heavily lauded and loaded with authenticity and credibility.

However, the function of this column dictates that I must reverse that decision, listen to the record, and offer a theory as to why this band—and perhaps, this record, already reviewed favorably in many circles—is popular; I must offer something beyond “because they rock” or “because mainstream tastes are shallow,” (neither of which I believe to be true) and instead, look for some kind of corollary, metaphor, or pattern of events to serve as explanation of the trend.

All of this requires listening to the record as objectively as possible, trying to overcome the kind of snotty predisposition I had previously evinced.

I have attempted to do so, and I bring you the following report:

The record is good, a deliciously warm and overblown confection of drums, guitars, fluttery vocals, and the odd synthetic noise here or there—in short, the sound that I had already associated with this band after hearing so many Black Keys profiles on NPR (But never mind that; preconceived notions must be eschewed).

The beginning of the record evokes the somber tone and chord progression of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe,” a song I happen to love. In quick succession the song moves past the idea of “Breathe” and implements other dynamics, doing something a band like Coldplay has never quite managed: owning someone else’s sound, rather than merely leasing it./>/>

By the time the cooing falsetto melodies came in I was sold—I had my “stank” face on, shaking my nose at the swing and swagger this band puts forth.

Tracks two, three, and four followed, and this white guy continued to dance in his chair.

But by the time I got to track five—“Year In Review”—I started to grow weary of the vibe: so many songs open with these warmly crushed drums; so many of the harmonic progressions—while different from the four chords pop music is currently exhausting—mine the same emotional terrain; so much of the guitar texture is woozy in exactly the same way; so many of the vocals accomplish the same effect again and again and again.

It’s all delicious. It’s all lavishly constructed. But it’s so rich in texture, so buttery in sound, that it led me to wonder: how much of it of it can one actually take in a single sitting?

It was then, in my digestion of the album, that I thought anew of the Brooklyn Brunch I had taken part in last week: it too was buttery, delicious, caloric, rich, and ultimately unsustainable; to eat the whole plate would have been to sacrifice the rest of the day to malaise and intestinal misery.

This, I believe, is a fitting metaphor for explaining the popularity of the Black Keys: there is, in the highbrow echelons of our culture—in what remains of the middle class—a yearning for a rarified, farm-to-table, organic, roof-grown, hand-raised, fair-trade, artisanal cuisine. Likewise, there is a similar longing for the by-now platonic ideals of a previous music.

Let’s delve deeper into the comparison:

This food movement, whatever you wish to call it, seeks to comport itself as “healthy” and “eco-friendly”, but the truth is essentially a darker one: a slow-roasted pork belly, candied in its own fat and consumed at regular intervals, is just as hard on the arteries as a Big Mac.

We know the cuisine of which I speak to be prevalent primarily in the richer sections of coastal cities and townships, yet the trend extends into middle America: I’ve had such meals in Iowa, Minnesota, Arizona, and other non-coastal US environs. Indeed, from my table, the market for such fare seems to be only growing—be it in Brooklyn or Des Moines, such restaurants often themselves packed; after ingesting their richly caloric food, so, I suspect, do their customers.

So it is, at least for me, with the Black Keys. They carry a credible air of authenticity, but the truth is likewise a darker one: this kind of music, engorged in its own ear-candy and consumed at regular intervals, is just as hard on the musical stomach as mainlining an entire album of Lana Del Ray—novelty masquerading as genre, the sum total of which is gluttony.

And as the Locavor movement garnered popularity in a spindly fashion—trickling inward from the richer coastal beds of our country—so to did the Black Keys arrive at their own acclaim, chugging along as part of the garage-rock explosion of fifteen years ago, the one spearheaded by that oft-mentioned yin to the Black Keys’ yang, the White Stripes.

Such music spread along a more “elite”–for lack of a better word–corroder before it ever hit the mainstream, picking up traction with a subset of hip, predominantly wealthier individuals before it ever hit any kind of chart.

Indeed, Dan Auberbach will tell you as much, when he describes leaving one echelon of fame and arriving at another: “There’s this weird thing that happened with being a successful band,” he told Billboard.com, “and it has to do with rich, private-college kids who rule the indie rock world—kids who never really have to worry about anything because they always have some sort of backup plan that they can safely fall into.”

The corollaries are there. Unfortunately, the intrinsic nature of these corollaries are problematic: that which is supposed to be globally sustainable—in the case of the Black Keys, rock music in a somewhat recognizable guise, in the case of food, the farm-to-table movement—quickly becomes personally unsustainable if ingested in large quantities; it’s just too rich. Halfway into the savoring, it sinks to the pit of your stomach where it should linger on the palette. So it is with the food, so it is with the record.

Yet the trends continue, both in cuisine and music: the consumption of victuals in multi-hyphenated organic restaurants, the consumption of the “credible” and “authentic” music of the Black Keys.

To my mind, they continue for the same reason: a seemingly righteous impulse to preserve a faraway manner of life, one that becomes more and more ridiculous—and indeed, harder to keep down—the deeper it moves into the distant past of our cumulative digestive tract./>/>

 
Update
2

3 weeks ago

Khazanah throws MAS RM6b lifeline

Aug 29 2014 5:01pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 30, 2014 1:15 AMKHAZANAH Nasional will inject RM6 billion (SS$2.4 billion) over three years to resuscitate loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) under a recovery plan that includes even an Act of Parliament. Other key moves are migrating its operations, assets and liabilities to a new company (NewCo) and slashing the ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 
Update
1

3 weeks ago

MAS posts loss of RM307m for Q2

Aug 28 2014 5:00pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 29, 2014 1:13 AMMALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) registered a loss of RM307 million (S$122 million) for the second quarter to end-June, but warned of worse to come in the second half when the "full financial impact of th ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Israel approves rebuilding plan for communities near Gaza
Jerusalem, Sep 21 (IANS) The Israeli cabinet Sunday approved a $360 million development initiative for the communities in the country's south, near the Gaza border, who were hit hard in the recent bloody conflict between Israel and the Hamas.
 
 
High-level Indian ministerial visits to London next month
London, Sep 21 (IANS/RAY) India's Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley is scheduled to visit London Oct 13-14 for an interface with financial institutions to persuade them to invest in India.
 
 
Expressway to link Vietnam and China opens
Hanoi, Sep 21 (IANS) Vietnam's longest expressway connecting Noi Bai in capital Hanoi and the north-western Lao Cai province, bordering China, with a total length of 245 km, officially opened to traffic Sunday.
 
 
G20 deal on sharing bank data to help India battle black money
Cairns (Australia) Sep 21 (IANS) In a major step that will aid India track and recover black money stashed abroad, G20 finance ministers Sunday agreed on allowing automatic sharing of all bank information with tax authorities at the end of each year, starting 2017.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Israel approves rebuilding plan for communities near Gaza
Jerusalem, Sep 21 (IANS) The Israeli cabinet Sunday approved a $360 million development initiative for the communities in the country's south, near the Gaza border, who were hit hard in the recent bloody conflict...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Shuttlers end India's long wait, Jitu leads team to bronze (Roundup)
Incheon, Sep 21 (IANS) Two bronze medals -- and the assurance of at least two more medals from squash -- summed up India's showing on the second day of the 17th Asian Games in Incheon. Jitu Rai failed to add a second...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Mariah Carey turns to Brett Ratner for support after split
Mariah Carey has reportedly turned to Brett Ratner for support following her split from Nick Cannon. The 44-year-old singer has allegedly been spending a lot of time with the film director, 45, to help take her mind off...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Russell Brand splits from Jemima Khan?
Russell Brand has allegedly split from Jemima Khan. The 40-year-old heiress reportedly dumped the 39-year-old comedian, who is known as a notorious lothario, last month following just a year of dating. A source told...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Iggy Azalea throws panties away after gig
Iggy Azalea throws her panties away after one wear. The 'Fancy' hitmaker, 24, treats herself to some new lingerie before every show, but she admits she doesn't get much use out of them as she bins them after the gig...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Nick Jonas and Patrick Schwarzenegger celebrate birthday at same venue
Nick Jonas and Patrick Schwarzenegger celebrated their birthday at the same venue on Friday (09.19.14). The 22-year-old singer and the 21-year-old model marked their annual milestones separately at the celebrity hot...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Yemeni PM resigns amid deadly clashes in capital
Sana'a, Sep 21 (IANS) Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa resigned Sunday amid week-long deadly clashes between the army and Shia rebels here in the capital, a government official said. Basindawa has informed the...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Modi confident India, US can develop a genuinely strategic alliance
Washington, Sep 21 (IANS) With the mood in Delhi and Washington in harmony, India and the US can develop a genuinely strategic alliance, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared ahead of his first summit meeting...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Denzel Washington: I've no Bond campaign
Denzel Washington isn't campaigning to play James Bond. The 'Training Day' star has quashed rumours he is keen to take over the secret agent role from current 007 Daniel Craig and insists his joke about starting a...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
Six soldiers killed in Egypt plane crash
Cairo, Sep 21 (IANS) Six soldiers were killed and one was wounded Sunday when a military cargo plane crashed near an airport in Egypt, a media report said. The reconnaissance aircraft crashed near the military airport...
Read more on Politics Balla