In Defense of Hype, Sorta

10/14/2009 4:00 AM |

Make no mistake about it: At this year’s CMJ Music Marathon, you will without question learn the proper way to pronounce the name of the xx, a much talked-about British band consisting of four extremely mopey-looking 20-year-olds. As of this writing, they’re scheduled to play four shows during the five-day festival, and it won’t be at all surprising if, when all is said and done, they’ve played twice that amount, all of which will be filled to capacity with a crowd that’s equal parts attractive young people and decidedly less attractive old industry nerds. And bloggers, of course. They’re somewhere in the middle. It might seem like a lot of fuss to be made over a bunch of kids who can’t even legally drink on these shores just yet, but… sure, maybe it is.

You’d think we would have learned by now.

And for a little while there, it looked like we had–pecifically, in the weeks and months following the CMJ Music Marathon way back in 2007, when you couldn’t go ten minutes without hearing someone ordaining Black Kids saviors of rock and roll. The band had formed just a little over a year earlier and rarely played shows outside their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. In August of 2007, they self-released their debut EP, Wizard of Ahhhs, for free via their MySpace page. It would eventually earn the Best New Music tag and an 8.4 from Pitchfork, and by the time CMJ rolled around in October, they’d secured a glowing endorsement from the New York Times. Their shows were selling out like crazy, and they’d even joined the festival circuit: Coachella, Glastonbury, Reading, etc.

All of this on the merit of one EP. Four songs. Fifteen minutes and six seconds worth of music.

When the time came for Black Kids to release their debut full-length, Partie Traumatic, in July of 2008, the music press already seemed to have recognized that it had made a mistake, that things were moving just a little too fast, and that its credibility was very much on the line. So, with its back against the wall, it lashed out at the band, dragging them down as quickly and with as much vigor as they’d built them up just months earlier. The whole thing culminated with the now famous Pitchfork “review” that read, simply, “Sorry :-/”.

It was disrespectful and childish, but it also captured exactly how a lot of us felt about what had happened to our profession and about how we were treating young bands. That the type of success Black Kids experienced was out there as even a remote possibility for other young bands could only be a bad thing, and we knew it, and it was mostly our fault. So for the next little while, you got the sense that people were being a bit more careful about who they declared important or messianic or whatever. It didn’t last, though, and it’s probably high time we acknowledge that it never will.

3 Comment

  • “The onus is on us, now more than ever, to be diligent about making sure our opinions are fully formed before we share them.”

    Take your own advice! Please, for the love of all that is good and true in the world!

  • It’s not fair to compare The xx to Black Kids. At all. Even in a down time for music, this band has made an incredible record with incredible timing.

    You couldn’t have been more spot on with your other assessment of hyping bands. Congrats.

  • So on point. You inspired me to write this: