Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gorillaz Picking on Gleeks

I admit it.  I'm a Gleek.

Full disclosure.  I'm still working my way through the first season of Glee (with the help of Netflix).  I've still got one more disc left to go to finish out the year, and then I'll be able to catch up with Season Two via Hulu.  My wife and I may be latecomers to the fad, but once we finally saw an episode, we were hooked.  I expect that anyone who's ever struggled with issues of identify and acceptance (and I expect that's anyone) can find something to identify with in this show.

One aspect (of many) that we enjoy about Glee is the variety of music used for the show.  It's not all show tunes, but neither is it all pop music (although these are certainly the two most common genres used), and the music has spanned the past several decades, so it's not just stuff that teens and college students enjoy, but includes music for us "older folks," as well.

As with any show that uses music originally created by other people (which means, for Glee, practically all of it), Glee has to get permission from the rights-holders of the original music to use it.  The producers have expressed surprise that so many artists have granted such permission (in fact, Madonna granted them the rights to her entire catalog for the Madonna-based episode they did last year!), but it shouldn't surprise anyone that a few artists have refused to grant it.

One of those holdouts, apparently, is the "virtual band," Gorillaz.  Lead singer Damon Albarn has apparently gone public about this position despite the fact that the folks at Glee haven't even asked for such permission yet:
[N]ot that they've asked us because they haven't, and now they definitely won't.
I'm not sure I understand the point of this "pre-emptive strike."  If you don't want the show to do your stuff, then don't let them, but no need to bother the rest of the world (which predominately likes the show) about it.

And the Glee-griping doesn't stop there.  Albarn also throws in his two cents at the news that Glee covers have now hit the record for the most appearances on Billboard's Top 100 chart for non-solo acts (a record previously held by the Beatles):
"Those songs won't last like the Beatles by any stretch of their imagination," he says. "They'll be forgotten in a few years' time."
I'm sure he's correct, but so what?  Glee has been created for an entirely different purpose than a pop group.  They don't exist to create music.  Rather, they use existing music as a vehicle to tell a story.  If the music wasn't already known, or already popular, Glee's use of it would be meaningless.  Glee couldn't exist without "real" musicians doing their thing, and I think that pretty much everyone involved is fully aware of that fact.

It seems to be an unfortunate fact of life that stirring up controversy is better publicity than just doing what you do, and doing it well.  Glee knows this fact, and I don't think I'm surprising anyone who's watched it when I acknowledge that the show's not for everyone.  I'm sure the "Religious Right" (for example) is furious that it's doing so well.

Gorillaz has obviously figured this out, as well.  I know I'd never heard of them before reading this article.


  1. Ok, I have to be honest, I think you are being a little hard on the guy here (and while I have enjoyed several of their songs I'm hardly what you would call a Gorillaz fan). The article in question apocryphally references an interview in which the statements were made. The full interview is not provided and we have no context for the comments.

    It appears to me that these statements are direct answers to questions put to him by the AP. I really don't think it was intended as a "preemptive strike" or that he was picking on Glee or it's fans. He was asked what he thought, he answered truthfully much like anyone would. No, he doesn't appear to like Glee, but it's not like he held a press conference to announce this to the world.

    Yes, stirring up controversy makes excellent publicity. However, lifting quotes out of context from an interview which remains unavailable to the reader in order to write a column sure to incite a rabid fan base is also an excellent way to stir up hits. If anyone is a villain here, it's the AP.

  2. I'm have no real objection to having AP be the villain, but I have to say, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when anybody bad-mouths something that's popular and it comes off as... well, bad mouthing the thing that "the unwashed masses" enjoy. It comes off as elitist.

    It's not that the popular thing needs defending, so much as, why did they guy even bother? We don't know that the AP solicited ANY responses re: Glee, specifically. I think it gives Albarn too much credit to assume that they did. I mean, why should AP ask about Glee at all? And even if they did, the bit about the Beatles record seems a low blow, to say nothing of the "poor substitute" comment that I didn't cite, which adds to the "elitist" feel of it all and, again, fails to recognize the utterly different purpose that Glee serves.

    In any event, maybe that sense of elitism wasn't Albarn's intention, but there's no question that's how it sounded. I'll stand by my remarks as they're sourced.



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