“The White Collar and the ‘Phat Phunk’ of Beck’s First Nadir”

* “White collar got dirt on your face

You got egg in your hair you got spit on your chin
You’re a white collar scared to be bored
Blue collar she’s opening doors”
– Belle and Sebastian


UGH. ACK. LOOGIE. Have ALWAYS had a bone to pick with Midnite Vultures. I just… cannot… stand… that album. And then along the heavens soil us with Modern Guilt and Morning Phase. Every other Beck album than these, with the exception of the early odds and sods collection Stereopathetic Soul Manure, I like.
By the end of The Information, Beck’s third extensive album in something like four years, he’s like, wow, that was an experiment in human turbulence I did not want to be on the receiving end of. And I can think of a song by Beck I like a lot, to be sure. I’m not full of ALL negativity. It’s called “The Horrible Fanfare”, the last song on The Information. And I can’t tell you WHY I like it more than Midnite Vultures, but if you think about it, this should only reinforce my claim that it’s better. I have no semantic angle, only the twig-dry provision that I find Vultures annoying as hell. And then… I stumbled on this Beck interview in Anthony Bozza’s compelling Eminem biography Whatever You Say I Am: The Life and Times of Eminem.
Let me back track a little bit here, and present the concept of something called a “logical fallacy.” This is important stuff, because provided you live in capitalistic America, you will be barraged with these things almost constantly. To say that logical fallacy is the primary vehicle of the advertising industry is not too much of an understatement. One example of a logical fallacy is the “straw man” technique, which is basically an advertising unit’s attempt, by introducing something fake, such as say a competing dandruff shampoo after which your SCALP STILL ITCHES LIKE CRAZY… you know, it doesn’t even have to be a real brand, but the execs can introduce such a thing as if it exists, and it makes you panic, it makes you say, well how can I avoid THAT, I don’t want THAT happening to me, and so you buy their product. Another logical fallacy is “question-begging,” which is basically, just not providing enough information to really complete the discourse, whatever it may be. So a viable, per swindling wizardry, tool of this would be introduction of an arcane word, or foreign term, and presenting such foreignness as if it’s not only desirable, but necessary. So there’s a truncation of the viewer’s, or consumer’s, ability to employ thought process, but again, the idea is to get them panicking, get them thinking that the apocalypse will come if they don’t get this product.
Now, with the case of an artist, the mistake is likening the output — music, poetry, sculpting, whatever — to this sort of dead product, this single-function niche item, which would have a specific OBJECTIVE, or GOAL. This is what ruins music — the so-called artist having a vendetta in mind, a specific objective for achievement other than just survival itself — survival of the senses, survival of the better, discerning thoughts, of patience and other virtues, and perhaps in some extreme cases, of the body itself.
What Beck says in 2002 about Midnite Vultures is that his intention “was to tap into the kind of energy you see at a hip-hop or an R&B show… It came out of a love for music, but people think I’m making fun of it because I’m not afraid of humor” (Bozza 195).
There are a couple problems rearing their ugly heads here, so I’ll say along with his arrogance in thinking he can explain away any deficiency by just insisting that it doesn’t exist, he also breaches what he should see as the duty of the artist: to tell all, within the art itself. Great music, whether it’s rock, rap or electro, should need no interview epilogue. We should already know the artist’s edifying framework, and so any ensuing discussion of one’s own work on the part of the artist should necessarily become an apology, not a scathing at the public, as which Beck’s whiny outcry comes across here.
It’s not surprising to me that after this statement, he suffered relationship heartache, and then made ensuing, inspired albums (three). So with the depiction of this, it becomes clear that Midnite Vultures is his first artistic nadir. It’s a delusional method that drove Beck to the making of this album, the desire to wear two different shoes: inspirational artist and cerebral satirist.
The reason why I say it’s “white collar” is that it reminds me of a privileged person, removed from the sort of strife of culture which would spawn heady urban music, attempting to carry a torch for said music, attempting to be able to see the world through the eyes of those who struggle, but still having luxury to fall back on, which ends up mitigating the person’s ability to derive moxie, whatsoever. And when moxie would otherwise come in the form of “Lost Cause,” “Girl” or “Soldier Jane,” we see why its absence is rendered such a tragedy.
Bozza. Whatever You Say I Am / The Life and Times of Eminem. Crown Publishers: New York, 2003.

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