Paste readers get feisty about our MJ cover
By now the Michael Jackson cover has been out long enough for us to receive some reader mail in response. Let’s take a look!
Natalie Trott of Shrewsbury, Mass. writes in with the following rhetorical zinger: “Might I look forward to future issues featuring Britney Spears’ schoolgirl skirt, Buddy Holly’s glasses, Madonna’s cone bra and Elvis’ cape?”
Neil Carver of Miami is thinking along similar lines: “MICHAEL JACKSON’S GLOVE? Puh-leeze! What’s next? Madonna?...The first shock was Kanye West on the September cover, now this.”
And one Don H. of Milwaukee wondered whether our cover was a joke: “I subscribed to Paste to avoid wasting my time on pop-trash artists like Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson personifies what was wrong with mainstream music in the 1980’s. Albums such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Bad, Wham’s Make It Big, Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet and New Kids on the Block’s Hangin’ Tough were all Top 5 albums in their given year. Meanwhile quality bands like Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, Ween, The Cult, Concrete Blonde, Pixies, Cowboy Junkies, Sonic Youth, Husker Du, the Replacements and countless others, were largely ignored. Even bands like R.E.M., Echo and the Bunnyman and the Cure who enjoyed a small measure of mainstream success were given second-class status by the music industry at the time. And now Paste wants to slap these bands in the face by putting Michael Jackson on the cover?”
So then, where to begin?
All three of these letters seem to take issue with Paste choosing a mainstream artist for our cover. And I can see where they’re coming from, since Paste has such a strong history of supporting indie musicians and filmmakers. But as our editor-in-chief says in his forthcoming editorial, Paste is about finding signs of life in the mainstream and independent worlds. They’re not mutually exclusive.
With all due respect Don H., I think it’s possible to enjoy both Sonic Youth and Michael Jackson. To enjoy both MJ and the Pixies. I certainly do. And in a music world where so many music fans play their personal soundtracks on shuffle, I wouldn’t be surprised if tracks from Thriller bump up against songs from Daydream Nation or Doolittle on many of our readers’ iPods.
I assume that, for most art lovers, this paradigm works the same way with movies. I adore Noah Baumbach’s arty, cerebral films. But if I forced myself to only watch indie flicks, I wouldn’t be able to worship The Godfather—and what kind of movie-going life would that be?
To take Natalie Trott’s question seriously: It’s pretty unlikely that we’d do cover stories on Madonna, Britney or Elvis. Then again, if the great Elvis biographer Peter Guralnick wants to pitch us a smart story about The King, I’d be willing to listen. And as for Buddy Holly’s glasses, they seem to me like a natural fit for Paste. After all, where would indie-rock fashion be without them?