Ole' Andy Rooney talks new music

New York magazine picked up a YouTube clip of Andy Rooney discussing newfangled artists atop the Billboard charts on a recent “60 Minutes” episode:

[youtubevid id=”KGCg6EO-sr4″]

Well, Rooney got something right about why he doesn’t recognize any musicians in the Billboard 200: Age. His sincere grasp on reality is refreshing: His understanding that he’s no longer with it and his comfort with that fact is ultimately endearing. There isn’t a whiff of Rooney trying to force his own music down the throats of others, even though he brings up Ella Fitzgerald as a “free pass” for not caring about today’s artists. One has to wonder: Does re-enforced ignorance of the culture of today or yesterday really make a situation ok? If Rooney is looking to music as a form of connecting Americans across generations, how can this kind of response seem reasonable?

New York magazine had an interesting take on the issue. Rather than, say, making fun of Rooney for not knowing who Usher is, writer Willa Paskin looked past Rooney’s stodgy caricature and noticed the real message:

Rooney’s larger point should not be lost in all his adorable old man–ness. That point is, go to the Billboard 200 and take a look around. There will be some names you do not know there! Sure, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Usher are not the names you do not know, but there will be others! In short, Andy Rooney was talking about the fragmentation of the music business…

Sure, this is something that’s been discussed. But, Rooney’s suggestion of other things all Americans can agree on is something of a fallacy.

Does everyone really like ice cream? How about those who are lactose intolerant?

And there must be someone out there who prefers a snowflake to a little sunshine.

And, when it comes to “a win for our favorite team,” well it’s not much of a revelation to discover that not everyone likes sports, or even cares for it.

While Rooney’s suggestion that music once provided a common thread for all Americans, it’s not like it’s the only piece of the quilt that’s coming undone. There’s a reason why kids today are being taught about multiculturalism instead of the melting pot theory: We’re not some conglomerate mass, and our differences make us just as Americans as our similarities. It just turns out we have a lot more differences than Rooney, or probably most folks, originally thought.


15 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. brianwood #

    Pre-teens and teens love music–tribal bonding. Later people love the music they loved as pre-teens and teens. That seems to be the “normal.”

    As an old fogey, I like music I can whistle, so I’m a melody guy.

  2. dherkes #

    Surely you are not insinuating that a cheap shot like some of these rappers are in the same league as Ella Fitzgerald. Tell you what, lets wait ten years and see if anyone still listens to the past ‘work’ of .50 Only time will tell . . .

    As far as the melting pot. As opposed to some systems, it worked after a fashion. The latest operational fairy-tale have no purchase on permanence either. We’ll wait and see.

  3. Leor Galil #

    Well, you’ve clearly displayed your self-enforced ignorance of pop music fairly well. And what’s funny is you seem to use the “see if anyone still listens to [x] act in [y] years” as a reason for your inability to understand “these rappers,” when Rooney made it fairly clear that music listening habits tend to be generational.

    But, yes, some rappers are on par with Fitzgerald. I think of the work that acts like Public Enemy, with their aural assault and smartly-focused political prose, or perhaps NWA, a gangsta rap act that understood the trials and tribulations of the “rebel” character in American culture. Even Kanye West, a rapper whose work – for the most part – I still have trouble getting into, touched upon something in the general culture in America and took it to some really odd places. Including 50 Cent as your primary example would be like me saying Kenny G. is representative of all jazz. It doesn’t work.

  4. dherkes #

    Which rappers should I become more aware of? Guide me, please. I cannot, for the life of me, listen to some random cretin chanting drivel more than ten minutes a day. I need guidance.

    I suppose you are right about .5 though. Negative musical performances, and their kith and kin videos will continue to be under appreciated until the lyrics become comprehensible.

  5. Leor Galil #

    There’s plenty of folks out there that are making hip-hop that’s worth listening to. P.O.S. does a great job with punk-infected, positive jams; Atmosphere has been barking up the storytelling method of songwriting as of late; Das Racist makes ingenious and downright hilarious tunes poking fun of pop culture and societal values; Wale’s mixtapes askew “Seinfeld” and “Back to the Future” for a hit parade of whimsically-constructed songs; Why? puts an esoteric spin on all-things-normal in the hip-hop game; Mos Def, Talib Kweli, The Roots, Common and many others deride the gangsterisms you think are the rule but certainly aren’t; OutKast deftly mixes funk, soul and hyper-club blasts for some mind-bending hip-hop. There’s folks like Jay-Electronica, Lupe Fiasco, BBU, Kid Static, Dizzee Rascal… The list goes on…

    However, I’m not entirely sure any of this matters. Because you appear to think of hip-hop in near-racist terms:

    “I cannot, for the life of me, listen to some random cretin chanting drivel more than ten minutes a day.”

    If you go in with such a strong minded attitude, I doubt you will walk away with any different opinion. And as far as finding comprehensible lyrics… well, they already are. There’s a common trope in all of pop music – not just hip-hop – of people singing song lyrics incorrectly (actually, that archetype informs one of the best Das Racist tunes, where the duo purposefully stumbles over a sampled lyric of Billy Joel.) With many tunes, it takes more than a single lesson to really hone in on the lyrics. And it can take an even longer time to truly understand the relevance and intelligence of lyrics, be it hip-hop or something else.

    Still, even if you walk away from all of this without a care for hip-hop, it doesn’t negate the fact that hip-hop is, and has been, a relevant form of cultural output for decades. Just because you can’t comprehend it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a genre of music that’s spread like wildfire across the world and has been the foundation for some fantastic cultural expression.

    Had Ella Fitzgerald been born sometime during the last three decades, she would be more of a “Missy Elliott” than a jazz singer.

  6. gregcurts #

    There is not one, not one Rapper on par with Ella Fitzgerald when you say that you show your youthful ignorance.

    Had Ella Fitzgerald been born sometime during the last three decades, she would be more of a “Missy Elliott” than a jazz singer.


    Diana Krall according to that logic should be more like Lady GaGa.

  7. gregcurts #

    A PE comparison to Ella Fitzgerald….Man you are a fool.

  8. dherkes #

    The only mention of racism was made by you. I defy your examination of my statements. For shame.

  9. Leor Galil #

    And you are an absolute idiot. Last time I checked, jazz had fallen by the wayside as a method of representing American culture today. How is it insipid to point out that someone who was the cream of the jazz crop during the time when jazz was the dominant force in American musical culture would more than likely take to hip-hop?

    It’s this kind of a reaction to rap and hip-hop that keeps generations apart musically. There has been no worldwide force in music as strong as hip-hop in the last three-plus decades, with the exception of electronic music. But guess what, neither are jazz.

    You, sir, are the epitome of ineptitude when it comes to discussing music in any sort of creative way. You clearly don’t understand the relationship between cultural relevancy and music, and would rather sit on moth ball-tainted jazz LPs than discuss current music in any sort of positive light.

    I believe it was Allen Ginsberg, the epitomal beat poet, one of the many forces behind jazz music in America, who took to Public Enemy with a sense of force and rabidity. He understood the great force they had in American culture when they burst on the scene, and he did not hold them down with previous engagements of what American music was.

    So, please, if you want to spout off whatever garbage you have, learn a thing or two about the things you’re talking about. According to Andy Rooney, I apparently don’t know about jazz because of my age, but then that would negate my Charlie Parker and Nina Simone collections. Hmm… It doesn’t sound so much like ignorance as the fact that I’m engaging cultural norms through a different light. Sorry you’re left by the wayside.

  10. Leor Galil #

    Hardly. First of all, I said “near-racist.” And second, my questioning of thus isn’t terribly unfound when you practically labeled all rappers as “stupid,” unless I’m completely misinterpreting your use of the word “cretin.” And let’s not forget what a dominant force hip-hop is in many minority communities, and that although there are a number of white rappers with successful careers, hip-hop speaks more to our multi-cultural society than most other genres. So it’s not that hard to see your despicable and ignorant statements about hip-hop as a whole as something bordering on racism. Not racism absolute, but, seriously, you could have picked a better choice of words in trying to describe what turns you off about hip-hop.

  11. dherkes #

    The only garbage I read today was your very silly blog. Like you I’ll spout off whenever I please. And you , sir, are a pompous windbag.

  12. Leor Galil #

    Pompous would imply an elitist, self-important attitude, which is just the type of thing you’re bringing to the table. I’m trying to engage in an objective conversation about genres as a cultural phenomenon. You’re the one using a straw-man argument closely related to your taste in music, and avoiding the entire conversation at hand: A bag of wind to a T.

    True, you can spout of whenever you please, which is the great democratizing aspect of the Internet. But because your scope of culture is so stuck in the past, I was under the impression the Internet is completely foreign to you. Say, what’s the broadband connection like on your typewriter? Or do your elitist tendencies and inability to consider the state of culture in the present day lead you to use the good ‘ole quill and inkwell?

    Have fun being stuck in the ’50s, but watch out for that McCarthy character… Actually, McCarthyism would be just your style: Irrational, close-minded and unknowledgeable.

  13. jaylikebird #

    You people’s traditional music has such a short lifespan and is so based around the charismatic performer/leader model I have a hard time taking any of this seriously. That kid sure called out that dherkes guy pretty good, though. Der’ks got MAD, too! But couldn’t really defend his words, just spat and ran away. So sad.
    My guess, too, is that Ella would have fought to the top of the most popular/profitable music style that was around. There is some brilliant, beautiful hip-hop music out there, folks, although NWA would not be my first choice, as fun as it is. Anyway, there’s no jazz/hip-hop rivalry, except among dilettente outsiders with overpriced audio cables. Go to New Orleans and see Galactic ferfucksake.

  14. 14

    You are a child.

  15. Leor Galil #


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