Sweary’s Jaw: A Lowe Blow
Well, holy rolling eyeballs, but didn’t we get very angsty about Zane Lowe’s response to Lauren Laverne’s response to Beyoncé’s… er, beyonse? Twitter lit up with the indignation of it, friends fell out over it, otherwise rational people called for Lowe’s head on a platter, delivered to Ms. Knowles’/Mrs. Z’s feet so she could shimmy some sweet rage all over his lolling jawbone… It was all very exciting, really, and just the job to get our Monday morning moving.
If you’ve spent the last day and a half in a cave, you may be gratified to learn that this controversy stems from Lowe’s seeming less than orgasmic when asked what he thought about Beyoncé’s headlining Glastonbury performance. After co-host Laverne near buzzed right through the ceiling on delight and pop-epiphany, telling us that she felt that Beyoncé’s performance epitomised pop music and was an extraordinary reimagining of the ideal Glastonbury headline act, Lowe burst out laughing, shrugged and said he’d missed Beyoncé for equally important act Queens Of The Stone Age. That was pretty much it. He didn’t diss Beyoncé. He didn’t sneer at Laverne. He didn’t set a small chinchilla on fire and parade about with it on his head. See for yourself.
Now, we’ve split into cúpla different camps on this issue. One camp is furious at Lowe’s perceived arrogance, his dismissal of a seminal performance because he doesn’t rate pop artists. Another has formed a high-fiving circle jerk, based on the belief that Lowe was dead right, that Beyoncé is an over-buffed blight upon the earth and really doesn’t belong at Glasto. Another – and this is the camp that I’m in – thinks that Lowe has been misinterpreted, that he couldn’t stop himself from laughing at Laverne’s over-excited monologue, especially given that she’d left him only a couple of seconds to make the link to Kool and The Gang’s piece. And on top of that, is it really the end of the world that he went to see another band instead? Fuck me, I would have gone to see QOTSA too. Beyoncé is all very well, but Tangled Up In Plaid is forever, man.
Anyway, however you interpreted Lowe’s fit of the giggles and Laverne’s raised eyebrows, the ensuing debate was fascinating because of the religious lather Bey’s fans worked themselves into. It seemed a disproportionate response to a very minor slight, if indeed there was a slight at all, and it got me to ponderin’ and ruminatin’. Why so rabid, Bey fans? And we’re not even talking about die-hard fanatics, here – people who’ve been hanging on Bey’s every word since she was but a nipper in Destiny’s Child, who’ve bought all the merch, who’ve carved her initials onto their wrists – equally strong reactions came from usually moderate corners. What was it about Lowe’s howls of laughter that upset us so much?
The more I think about it, the more I wonder whether there isn’t still a sense of shame for many pop fans – a niggling worry that we’ll be judged for listening to frothier tones on our iPods, or sneered at for Liking Abba on Facebook. And of course, there shouldn’t be, but music snobbery is a tough ole beast, very, very hard to put down. You can’t deny that there are plenty of smug fuckers out there who’ll judge the intellectual worth of a complete stranger based solely on the contents of their music libraries (guilty as charged – I’m horribly prejudiced about Cascada fans). And so, if we think that someone’s having a go at us for liking someone as popular as Beyoncé, or Take That, or the Chilis, or whatever, we get prickly and defensive and suddenly scary. I myself am constantly poised for violent argument on Green Day’s behalf – I’ve been listening to them since I was thirteen, they’ve been around for two decades, they’ve constantly suffered put downs just because they outgrew their local scene, et cetera, et cetera. The fact is, I like Green Day. I think Basket Case is a classic and I know every fucking word of Jesus Of Suburbia and I refuse to feel ashamed… but the thing is, I do feel ashamed. I feel bad for liking a pop-punk band. I worry it makes me look like an idiot. I shouldn’t, and it shouldn’t, but there you go.
I’m not suggesting that every Beyoncé fan is in secret turmoil over their admiration for the immaculately coiffed yodel-pants, but I do wonder whether some of this over-exuberant Lowe-hate stemmed from people being just too damn defensive about their musical tastes. It wasn’t that Lowe was seen to have had a pop at Bey. It was that he was seen to have had a pop at pop. I genuinely don’t think he did – he even said that “a lot of heart and soul” went into Beyoncé’s piece – but in a sense, whether he did or didn’t is beside the point. Pop fans are sick of being taken to task simply for liking pop music. The question is whether that’s a valid reaction, or a symptom of a mental hump still needing a good old clamber-over.
A good friend of mine is fond of saying that when it comes to music there are no guilty pleasures, just pleasures. Maybe it’s time we all calmed down a bit, and accepted that.
Unless you’re a Cascada fan.