Another burning question of our age addressed.
While Donald Trump has become famous for railing on about “Fake News,” the media have become quick to defend their integrity. However, the depth of the media’s lies is apparent and may be deeper than most imagine.
Let’s start with what is probably one of the greatest cultural frauds in recent history, though it is mostly unknown today: Saturday Night Fever.
The movie, and the disco fad, were based on an article, “Inside the Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” that appeared in New York Magazine in June 1976.
Over the past few months, much of my time has been spent in watching this new generation. Moving from neighborhood to neighborhood, from disco to disco, an explorer out of my depth, I have tried to learn the patterns, the old/new tribal rites.
The problem was that the story was mostly made up.
Twenty years later came a bombshell. In December 1997 New York magazine published an article in which Cohn confessed that there never was a Vincent. There was no “Lisa”, “Billy”, “John James”, “Lorraine” or “Donna” either. While 2001 Odyssey existed, it wasn’t the way the writer described it in 1976. The whole scene of disco-loving Italians, as mythologised in Saturday Night Fever, was exaggerated. The most bizarre detail was that his disco protagonists were in fact based on mods Cohn had known in London.
So what? you might ask.
To those who remember, that fraud led to the glorification of a disco culture. But it was never as organic as the media portrayed it. It could be propped up for only so long. In 1979, the straw man was easily toppled.
It seems that Nik Cohn, the magazine writer who penned the purported true story of a Brooklyn dancer named “Vincent”– the basis for Travolta’s Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever – for New York magazine, admitted this week in New York that he made the whole thing up.
Up to that point, disco had existed, to be sure, but it was a sideline. Occasionally, it could break through to the top, as with “The Hustle,” but it never would have become the cultural imperative it became without media lies. It was foisted on us.
Well, thanks a friggin’ pantload for that, assholes.
Actually, it’s reminiscent of another genre heavily influenced by disco: rap. Despite its seeming ubiquity in everything from the music press to movies to even TV commercials, it never did sell all that well, only in the last couple of years even beginning to approach rock and roll or…uhh, country? Nevertheless, it was pimped heavily from the start by music journalists gushing that it would be the death-knell for tired, sad old rock and roll:
Rap is the rock ‘n’ roll of the day. Rock ‘n’ roll was about attitude, rebellion, a big beat, sex and, sometimes, social comment. If that’s what you’re looking for now, you’re going to find it here.
— Bill Adler, Time, 1990
So how’d that work out for ya, Bill?
With the decline in recorded-music sales reaching something of a turning point in a number of markets, it seemed like a good time to analyze the retail sales of several music genres to see whether the downturn and subsequent stabilization have been equally divided across genres or whether some genres have suffered more than others. The analysis shows that pop and rock have strengthened their hold on music sales, while rap/hip-hop, the darling of the 1990s, has suffered a decline.
The results are, in part, not totally surprising, with pop and rock music tightening their grip on retail sales in the 2000s. But rap/hip-hop, which surged in the 1990s, slipped as public criticism mounted. Sales of jazz, classical and other smaller genres also fell off.
With pop and rock accounting for a combined retail-sales share of 55% in 2009, other genres have clearly underperformed when compared with the global sales decline. Music & Copyright has found that the retail value of rap/hip-hop sales dropped almost 50% between 2000 and 2009.
And it wasn’t all that high even in the 90s; rap’s cultural reach has always exceeded its sales grasp. Back to Konrad for our hy-larious conclusion:
That disco fell so fast in 1979 is evidence that it was artificial to begin with.
What is scary is that this admitted lie still holds a grip on the culture, especially in Brooklyn, where the image is still lauded, parodied, and beloved. Well, good luck with Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where Tony Manero lived, ever regaining that faded glory. The neighborhood is now heavily Muslim.
Guess the obnoxious and annoying “call to prayer” lauded by His Most Puissant Majesty Barrack Hussein Mohammed Pahlavi Windsor Habsberg Ferdinand Winton Oblahblah as “the most beautiful sound in the world” is gonna be the Next Big Thing crammed down our throats by force and/or fraud.