Finally, a name to describe my ailment. As a lifelong music fan I have been feeling so done with music recently and I couldn't quite describe what I was feeling until reading Ann Powers' article in the LA Times this morning. I have buzz vertigo.
My biggest complaint recently is that nothing is grabbing me and on the rare occasion that something does grab me (Kelly Stoltz, Elvis Perkins, Ferraby Lionheart, Let's Go Sailing), I can't dote on it very long or (literally) 10 other bands fall of my radar.
The best book I read this year was The Long Tail by Wired editor Chris Anderson. One of the many takeaways from the book is how we, as a culture, are changing the way we consume media. With hundreds of cable channels and millions of websites and blogs, we can all literally find something that is suited directly towards us. We don't live in a world anymore where there are 3 networks and one newspaper where everyone gets their news and information. Media can now be tailor made for you. So, now there are millions of sites and journals and magazines and TV channels devoted to these small niches.
Technology is also making it possible for more and more people to create art on their own. People are making stellar movies with home cameras and iMovie and creating beautiful music on their home computer that fits directly into a specific niche market. But, this unbelievable wave of art comes with an unbelievable wave of critics and taste makers.
Today, it's hard to know when buzz is more than just noise. In an age of accelerated connection, the buzz around every art form has intensified, but nowhere as much as in music. The growing ease of music-making and distribution resulted in 60,000 releases (that's in the U.S. alone) last year. Downloadable music multiplies that number like bunnies in spring. And pop's historical embrace of novelty and amateurism means that few heavy gates stop the flow.
The only criterion for buzz today often seems like buzz itself. "To me, 'buzz' was always about, something really great is happening, don't you want to check it out?" said Jay Babcock, editor of the Los Angeles-based magazine Arthur. "That's different than what I hear now, which is, this is going to be big, don't you want to check it out? That kind of industry think has degraded the experience."
Babcock calls what's happening "buzz overload," but the feeling might better be dubbed "buzz vertigo": a balance disorder that makes it hard to proceed confidently through pop's ever-expanding archipelago of websites, blogs, magazines, podcasts and other outlets.
I succumbed to buzz vertigo sometime this last fall. Like most pop geeks I know, I'm a total Web junkie, having broadened my lifelong love affair with the music press to include an ever-growing list of online sources. I grew up loving and trusting Rolling Stone and Village Voice, but it had become apparent that those cultural clearinghouses no longer had the last say on cool.
My daily perusal of MySpace and the blogosphere, not to mention the piles of CDs under my desk, was seriously threatening my ability to focus on any one new release. There were just too many to absorb, all with tags attached declaring them the most downloaded, most discussed and most anticipated hit of the minute. Too often, I'd find myself slamming shut my laptop and stomping off with my DiscMan for a head-clearing walk with something "hot" I could trust, like the seventh album from Mary J. Blige.
I have had many moments of laptop shutting recently. There is too much out there and there is too much buzz out there. It's driving me crazy. I want to listen to music that moves me, regardless of release date and what someone wrote about it. I'm nostalgic for the way I felt when I heard "I Can Hear The Heart Beating as One" and "Bee Thousand" for the first time. Is that too much to ask?
I am not sure what this blog is/was/will ever be, but my thoughts have changed a lot recently on trying to push what's new and hot and buzz worthy on anyone with an Internet connection. Stay tuned with me on this journey.