This week, Esquire harshly rebuked the massively popular and massively polarizing Chainsmokers. Matt Miller thoroughly deconstructed the duo’s music and off-stage persona by crowning them heir apparent to Nickelback. In doing so, the magazine took their stance several steps further than Billboard’s unflattering interview of the artists, THUMP’s investigative assessment of whether they were truly “frat bros”, or Rolling Stone’s portrayal of the duo as irreverent rockstars.
Fair enough. The author did his homework. And it was pretty funny, too.
Not to be outdone, however, New Orleans music publication OffBeat Magazine eagerly jumped on the bandwagon by bemoaning the Chainsmokers’ upcoming New Orleans gig. With an arsenal of hyperbole and an aversion to research, the author of the piece delivered some scathing remarks. Their due diligence? A few hyperlinks to other articles peppered between the zingers. I had great difficulty discerning whether the piece was an angry tirade or just bad satire. Either way, a golf clap and a pat on the back goes to OffBeat for riding Esquire’s wave.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m no Chainsmokers apologist. I don’t care for their music and most certainly am not a fan of their off-stage antics. Drew Taggart and Alex Pall are no golden boys; the two gleefully embrace the supervillain-like portrayals. But this self-identification as “frat bros” and the penchant for making irreverent comments seems more facetious than earnest. Ultimately, it boils down to this astute observation – the Chainsmokers are a pop electronic music duo that loves to party, and they waste no time pretending to be anything more than that.
This piece isn’t a rebuttal to criticisms levied against the controversial duo. Instead, this is an indictment of New Orleans music journalism and its pastime of ignoring, mischaracterizing, and disparaging electronic music.
OffBeat’s maligned contribution to the discourse in New Orleans is merely a symptom of a greater problem. It’s the sort of irresponsible journalism that only serves as ammunition for poorly informed armchair critics who believe jazz, rock, and blues are the only valid forms of music in a city that has room for much more.
Everyone loves to be a critic, especially when it comes to the easy targets. On this occasion, OffBeat waited patiently for its turn, joining the back of the line for a popular activity: hating on the Chainsmokers. But for a publication that claims to be “your guide to the New Orleans music scene”, this self-coronated emperor wears no clothes. Nor does it have the mandate from fans of an ever-expanding, diverse genre of music.
New Orleans is undergoing an electronic music revival. From million-dollar headliners at Metropolitan Nightclub to underground track selectors at Pi Lounge, the city offers quality productions that appeal to all levels. Local media seems to have missed the memo – some quick keyword searches reveal a degree of coverage I’d describe as dismal. And dismal is a generous assessment. Outside of major events and festivals, coverage at the national (and international) level largely ignores electronic music in New Orleans. Coverage at the local level seems to have followed suit.
Not for a lack of opportunity, either. In early 2016, River Beats burst into the local scene out of a necessity to cover these “millennial fad markets”. Prior to River Beats’ foray, none of New Orleans’ top journalism brass made efforts to prioritize electronic music. Instead, booking and talent management companies improvised by forming their own circuit of local press. BASSIK, a subsidiary of Winter Circle Productions, serves as a success story for this strategy. But again, local media have missed their cue.
It’s no wonder there’s a generational gap between the revolving door of college students and the veteran presence of older fans. And it’s no wonder that the rebirth of house and techno music in this city has been a painstaking process. Local publications have little respect for the rich history of electronic music in New Orleans, a city that was once the dance music capital of the South.
Living legends such as Tiesto and Carl Cox played sets here without even a lukewarm reception from local publications. As a result, similar big-name artists began to shy away from playing in New Orleans. After Katrina, stories of the State Palace raves, Disco Donnie, Brunet brothers, and Audubon Hotel parties became nothing more than afterthoughts washed away by the storm.
Sure; let’s give local media a free pass for ignoring the past. What about the present? What about Church*, a weekly staple that evolved over the course of 6 years to host all varieties of electronic artists? What of Techno Club, another high-quality weekly production put together by veteran mixer Javier Drada? Surely, there must be some attention towards the Metropolitan Nightclub and Republic NOLA, both of which have hosted sellout crowds for artists such as Jai Wolf, Bonobo, Eric Prydz, or Dash Berlin? Any mention of Fred Everything or of Josh Wink, a few of the 20+ year pioneers of dance music that have stopped to play in New Orleans?
OffBeat, you can do better. Don’t alienate fans of electronic music when there’s little to no discussion of the genre otherwise. And instead of dragging down massively popular artists, just ignore them. After all, you seem to have no trouble ignoring the local ones.
River Beats will gladly carry the torch.
The Chainsmokers Memories Tour 2017 Go on Sale February 3, 2017 at 10:00 am