Top Five Musician/Journalist Feuds
"Like, what is your problem?"
Hell hath no fury like a spurned musician, but a critic's vengeance doesn't lag far behind. This week in the Houston Press, you can read an interview Noah Bailey at our sister paper the Dallas Observer did with Dr. Dog's Scott McMicken, who says he has become accustomed to receiving critical beatdowns in the media - in particular, the consistently oppositional reviews of that indie-rock Puppet Master, Pitchfork Media.
But McMicken takes it with a grain of salt, so although his etiquette is commendable, such good behavior opts him out of Rocks Off's list of the Top 5 Musician/Journalist Feuds.
5. M.I.A. vs. Lynn Hirschberg: Earlier this year, New York Times journalist Lynn Hirschberg wrote a destined-for-controversy cover profile on the London-born, Sri Lanka-raised, politically inclined rapper M.I.A.
Hirschberg shined her journalistic light on many of M.I.A.'s evident inconsistencies - her waxing political about the less fortunate while munching on a "truffle-flavored French fry" and a glass of wine at the posh Beverly Wilshire Hotel, just miles away from her comfy Brentwood mansion. Throughout the interview, M.I.A. steadily attempts to paint herself a rebel refugee icon, but ultimately ends up looking like a naïve, perhaps misinformed caricature of an amateur activist (however genuine her intentions may be).
When the article ran, it unsurprisingly gained negative attention due to the singer's tactless remarks ("I'm tired of pop stars who say, 'Give peace a chance.' I'd rather say, 'Give war a chance'" and "There's this show in England about kids who want to be terrorists. It's brilliant! The kids are buying Ajax to make bombs and trying to think of new ways to do suicide bombings. It's really, really cool."
Feeling her words were taken out of context, M.I.A. took to her Twitter account in attempt to clear the air, tweeting, "Call me if you wanna talk to me about the NYT Truth Issue, I'll be taking calls all day, bitches," and capping it off by publicly posting Hirschberg's phone number. Likely convinced she's had the last laugh, her action seemed to only perpetuate her image of jejune provocateur.
Hirschberg's profile of the songstress timely marked her last piece under contract with the Times magazine; she's now an editor-at-large at W.
4. Billy Corgan vs. Jim DeRogatis: A hometown feud that sparked back in the dwindling days of grunge, the Corgan/DeRo battle of intelligent words began when the Chicago Sun Times music critic denounced Siamese Dream, the 1993 album by Corgan's alt-rockers Smashing Pumpkins.
Feeling betrayed by DeRogatis' renouncement, the saturnine songwriter posed a verbal counter-attack via fax (how '90s of him!), calling DeRogatis a "sniveling, jealous person," and stating, "Some people actually like what we do," before signing off with a surly "See you in hell, best wishes, go f--k yourself, Billy C."
It's hard not to appreciate the heated intellectual banter of erudite men. Hats off to Corgan for defending what history has proved to be his worthiest record, but we shudder to ponder what DeRogatis might think of the songwriter's most recent incarnation of the-little-band-that-could...
3. Lou Reed vs. Lester Bangs: Perhaps the archetype of juicy musician/journalist feuds, this enduring row began when the late Lester Bangs, an admitted Lou Reed superfan, attacked the artist's 1973 album Berlin, calling it "the most depressed album ever made."
The pair's jabby, albeit highly entertaining, interviews are chronicled in the Bangs anthology Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, in which an entire chapter is devoted to the writer's hero/'frenemy. But Bangs picked his battles; he highly praised Reed's almost universally panned Metal Machine Music a few albums later.
Stemming from Bangs' knowledgeable passion for Reed and his cheeky willingness to candidly speak his mind, the feud seems to endure 20-plus years after the writer's death. When asked about his legendary dispute with Bangs, Reed now opts to feign disinterest - ignorance, even - purporting, "Who is Lester Bangs?"
2. Ryan Adams vs. Jim DeRogatis: DeRo again. The journalist and Sound Opinions host has evidently made some enemies in his day. But not all artists cower in the presence of a harsh critique. Combative songwriter and part-time hot mess Ryan Adams defends his music with admirable staunch.
Following a string of negative reviews at the pen of DeRogatis, Adams phoned the outspoken critic and - thankfully, for our listening pleasure - left a fiery message on his answering machine. Adams' voicemail begins with an endearingly sophomoric question, "Like, what is your problem?"
Adams' chief concern seems to lie in DeRogatis' evident preference of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy over him, to which Adams acknowledges, "You think I'll never write anything as heartfelt or whatever as Jeff Tweedy, who, like, could burn holes through his shoes, like, just by staring at them."
After a few minutes of rambling flecked with his Southern drawl, Adams signs off with a simple salutation, "Old man, it's time for you to get out of the business."
1. Kurt Cobain & Courtney Love vs. Lynn Hirschberg, Victoria Clarke and any other journalist who spoke unfavorably about the couple in the '90s: Journalist Lynn Hirschberg penned a shockingly revealing profile of Courtney Love in the September 1992 issue of Vanity Fair. Among other revelations the article exposed, perhaps the only one worth mentioning is her claim that Love had done heroin while pregnant with daughter Frances Bean.
The accusation was enough for child protective services to temporarily take the baby away while they investigated the matter. In response, the King and Queen of Grunge phoned Hirschberg, both leaving ominous messages on her answering machine, Cobain even threatening, "I'll get revenge on her. Before I leave this earth, she's going out with me."
British journalist Victoria Clarke also witnessed the couple's wrath, after they feared what slanderous details she might print about them in her upcoming Nirvana biography. Clearly a fan of verbal abuse via answering machine, Cobain called Clarke, eerily warning her, "If one single solitary, tabloidesque or negative comment in regards to my wife shows up in your book, I will gladly devote every fucking waking hour of my life to make yours unlivable."
Love one-upped her husband even after his death, allegedly whacking Hirschberg with an Academy Award - ahem, not hers - at a 1995 Oscar party.
Dr. Dog plays Saturday at Warehouse Live.
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