KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Music

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Nikki Lusk defends Lowbrow Music

by Nikki Lusk , June 3, 20141 Comment

Last week at the Highbrow vs Lowbrow Cultural Showdown, six of our favourite writers faced off to defend their preferred cultural forms. This week, we’re publishing their speeches in full for your edification. Here, Nikki Lusk defends lowbrow music.

TLC pic

Most people enjoy lowbrow music in the karaoke booth, when they’re belting out Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’, or in a club, when they’re dry-humping to Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’. But these feel-good uses of lowbrow music have unfairly saddled it with labels such as vapid or shallow, dismissing it as lightweight in comparison to the more culturally enriching or intellectually stimulating highbrow music.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: lowbrow music is essential to the survival of the human species. Without pop music, none of us would be capable of finding somebody to love, and as a result, we’d all wither and die. Lowbrow music is the perfect Agony Aunt: she will guide you through bizarre love triangles, and dish out the difficult advice when the going gets tough. Let’s take this step-by-step.

Step 1. You should identify what you’re looking for in a new flame. The pop consensus is that no one likes arrogance or those who consider themselves to be ‘hot stuff’. If you’re searching for a man, TLC will help you sort the men from the scrubs. And if you’re searching for a woman, it’s The Streets who’ll help you to avoid those women who are fit, but my God, don’t they just know it.

Step 2. To snag your desired partner, you’ll need a strategy for seduction. While specific methods will vary, the most popular idea is to turn up the temperature or, to borrow a technical phrase from Nelly, to make it hot in herre. The idea behind this increase in heat is one of bringing sexy back – because everyone knows there’s nothing sexier than a profusely sweating person on the dance floor. Once your crush is dripping wet, it’s about time to don a pair of arseless chaps and make things a little dirrty. A word of warning, however: if you’re trying to snag a literary snob, as I presume many of you reading this may be, to use two Rs in the words ‘dirty’ or ‘here’ is to risk instant rejection.

Step 3. Once you have their attention, and perhaps you’ve shared a little bump ‘n’ grind, you’ll need a manoeuvre that allows you to see them again. Pop songs traditionally prescribe something sweet and modest here. You could try the naive optimism of Carly Rae Jepsen, whose song launched a thousand lip dubs, and simply hand them a note that appends ‘maybe’ to the end of your request so that you don’t seem presumptuous. Another tried-and-true method is that practised by Rihanna, and it’s particularly good in drizzly Melbourne: you can invite them to stand under your umbrella.

Step 4. You’re doing well by this stage: the target of your affections has called you back, you’ve walked together under a protective rain covering, and you’re officially crazy in love. But when the initial bloom of romance fades, you might find things getting a little stale. Thankfully, Mrs Carter has been there before us and is willing to share the secrets of her successful marriage to Jay Z: getting drunk in the kitchen, riding a surfboard, and – this one’s for all the grown women out there – having someone eat your Skittles.

Step 5. Occasionally, Beyoncé’s marital tips may not suffice to see your relationship through. Perhaps someone has come into your life naked atop a wrecking ball, which is not only unforgivable, it’s impossible to unsee. Thankfully, we have a plethora of break-up advice to call on. In the first throes of anger, you can channel Alanis Morissette and remind your ex that their new partner is probably not going to perform oral sex on them at the cinema. Then comes the relief stage, when you dance around the lounge room, screaming along to Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since U Been Gone’ and breathing for the first time. And finally, just to be sure, you should keep Taylor Swift close by as a reminder that you and your ex are never, ever getting back together. Like, ever.

So there we have it: while highbrow music might enrich your soul, it’s not going to show you how to find love or deal with its loss. What would you prefer: to get smart or to get lucky?

Nikki Lusk, aka the Book Tuner, writes a regular column for The Guardian Australia matching classic Australian novels to music.

highbrowvslowbrow




  • Scarlett Harris

    It’s interesting how most of the songs you referenced are hip hop or influenced by black culture. Rapper Questlove recently wrote a six part series for Vulture about the fate of hip hop and rap and how that style of music has infiltrated the pop music market so that these days pop music means “black music” a lot of the time.
    I love me some pop music, but I wouldn’t go as far as to call it “lowbrow”. To me, truly “lowbrow” music is gimmick music: “Who Let the Dogs Out”, “Because I Got High”, “Gangnam Style”… (Again, all non-white examples.)

9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

theartofasking_image

Julia Tulloh

Living on fans: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Rather than enticing people to pay for music through marketing campaigns and radio play, Amanda Palmer is interested in connecting with her fans, becoming friends with them, and creating a system of exchange within the community that is formed. This means that art is not often payed for with money. Read more »

womeninclothes-600

Carody Culver

Closet Concerns: Women in Clothes

Women in Clothes wants to tell a more inclusive story, to reveal the pleasures, hang-ups and complexities that reside in the simple act of dressing ourselves, and to remind us that we don’t perform our style rituals in a vacuum. Read more »

4285342-3x4-700x933

Kylie Maslen

The Harp in the South and other stories I wasn’t taught at school

The classics I studied at school were certainly great works, but how relevant are these books to young Australians? Yes, they were valuable to study as examples of technical skill. But they were all by men, all white and all dead. Read more »

theartofasking_image

Julia Tulloh

Living on fans: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Rather than enticing people to pay for music through marketing campaigns and radio play, Amanda Palmer is interested in connecting with her fans, becoming friends with them, and creating a system of exchange within the community that is formed. This means that art is not often payed for with money. Read more »

Taypic

Julia Tulloh

Lovers, haters, and TaySway’s 1989

TaySway is a polariser: haters really hate her. The issue for many feminists and critics is that they simply don’t like Taylor’s version of authenticity, which happens to be embodied by a blonde, white, straight, American women from a reasonably privileged background. Read more »

15115828030_526f79c515_z

Julia Tulloh

The celebrity spokesperson phenomenon

What should we expect celebrity advocates to deliver? Emma Watson is not a full-time activist, but if she inspires young people to take an interest in gender equality, is that not a good thing? Read more »

Maps to the Stars

Rochelle Siemieonwicz

Monsters in Los Angeles: Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler

Both Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler are peopled by monsters who may look human, but are actually spiritually deformed and morally repugnant creatures of the most loathsome kind. The suggestion implicit in each of these thrillingly creepy stories is that these ‘freaks’ are born out of and adapted to the hellish spiritual landscape of LA. Read more »

WinterSleep-2-poster-450

Rochelle Siemienowicz

A matter of time: very long films

It’s a fatal moment for any film lover: that instant when you look away from the screen and check your watch, holding it up to the light to judge how much time is left before you can escape. A wince of pain as you realise there are still 40 minutes to go. Read more »

Whiplash-Damien-Chazelle

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Whiplash: bloody fingers and broken drumsticks

Whiplash is one of the year’s most exciting and electrically charged films. Admittedly, that’s a large claim to make for a little movie about a New York music student, his abrasive teacher, and a whole lot of banging and yelling in band practice. Read more »

IMG_4309

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Patrons and gamemakers in the shadow of Gamergate

There is a lot to unpack about Gamergate, and a great deal more that isn’t at all worth taking seriously, but what the patronage pseudo-controversy has drawn attention to is the fact that there are potentially huge issues with moving to a model of monetary transactions in which our payments are increasingly networked and ‘social’. Read more »

ST_Ello_600

Connor Tomas O'Brien

The Rise of the High-Minded Startup

Ello’s manifesto is the key to understanding its relative success, and how it has managed to sign up hundreds of thousands of users despite offering a wafer-thin feature set. Read more »

6289302147_38e8035680_z

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Jacqui Lambie and the limits of Remix Culture

The combination of Google Image Search, Photoshop, and Facebook is a powerful one, providing web users with the ability to seek out swaths of copyrighted visual material, rip and manipulate these pictures so the original source is obscured, then share the freshly “remixed” images to a broad audience with no real fear of legal action. Read more »

Anne of Green Gables

Danielle Binks

Books that take you there: YA literary tourism

How has literary tourism taken on new dimensions and greater capitalism, thanks to youth literature – both old and new, book and film? Read more »

9781863956925

Danielle Binks

Mean girls, bullies and private school privilege: Alice Pung’s Laurinda

Alice Pung’s Laurinda is hard-edged satire cloaked in contemporary YA: exploring class dynamics, everyday racism and bullying. Read more »

9780062211194

Danielle Binks

Nepotism, bullying and stalking: When online reviews go bad

The tangible power author Kathleen Hale wields, evinced by her numerous connections and Guardian platform, enabled her continued harassment of her book’s 1-star reviewer. The vocal support and defence put forward by Hale’s influential friends and family appears to be a case of privilege feeding narcissism. Read more »

3827910256_89135334f0_z

Chad Parkhill

Who killed Amanda Palmer fandom?

Fans and consumers tend to avoid music made by people whose actions disagree with their moral compasses, and, conversely, to reward those whose actions align with them. But are they right to do so? Read more »

Taypic

Julia Tulloh

Lovers, haters, and TaySway’s 1989

TaySway is a polariser: haters really hate her. The issue for many feminists and critics is that they simply don’t like Taylor’s version of authenticity, which happens to be embodied by a blonde, white, straight, American women from a reasonably privileged background. Read more »

augie-march-havens-dumb-300x194

Sean Watson

Literal metaphors: Augie March’s Havens Dumb

Glenn Richards’ style of songwriting, which is heavily informed by poetry and history, is what has made Augie March’s work so distinctive. Australian indie music has a long association with literary allusions, but Augie March have never seemed merely referential. Read more »

Marry Me - Season Pilot

Stephanie Van Schilt

Happy Hangovers and False Starts: Happy Endings and Marry Me

Binging rarely ends well. Binge eating is how unwanted food babies happen. Binge drinking is how inhibitions and memories are erased. Binge-watching a TV show can take over your life. Which is exactly what happened a few years ago when I fell in love with Happy Endings. … Read more »

thecode_main-620x349

Stephanie Van Schilt

An obligation to be kind? Australian TV critics and The Code

When Margaret Pomeranz recently spoke out about the obligation of local film critics to support the Australian film industry, she generated an interesting conversation in the critical community. Are critics who discuss the small screen in the public sphere obligated to be critically kind in their local coverage? Read more »

bojack-horseman-exclusive-trailer-debut_bghe

Stephanie Van Schilt

Jerks, antiheroes and failed adulthood in You’re The Worst and BoJack Horseman

In addition to both being really funny, two new US comedies – You’re The Worst and BoJack Horseman – speak to a widely-held fear about what, exactly, constitutes ‘adulthood’. Read more »