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.)

9781863957434

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their June picks

Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

lisa-gorton_the-life-of-houses

James Tierney

A Novel of Longer Exhalations: Lisa Gorton’s The Life of Houses

It’s sometimes said that each book teaches you how to read it. That each way of telling a story needs to not only beguile anew but needs to tutor the reader in the ways to best attend its pages. Read more »

9781743316337

Danielle Binks

Finding Books for Young Readers: The Reading Children’s Book Prize

James Patterson once said, ‘There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading and kids who are reading the wrong books.’ So how do we get the right books into the hands of budding bibliophiles? Well, the Readings Children’s Book Prize Shortlist is a great place to start. Read more »

clouds-of-sila-maria-1

Rebecca Shaw

The curse of the ‘gal pals’

As a well-known humourless, angry, hairy arm-pitted, feminist lesbian, I encounter daily issues that I can place on a scale from things that mildly irritate me all the way to things that completely offend me. Read more »

2691149967_01b38304f3_b

Rebecca Shaw

Fuck Yeah: Swearing like a lady

I had been trying to pinpoint exactly why the HBO television show Veep brings me such joy. Yes, it is a very funny, very well-written show with a great cast, but that didn’t quite go far enough in explaining the immense enjoyment it gives me. The eureuka moment finally struck when I stumbled over a compilation video of the best insults from the show. Read more »

AnneEdmonds-300dpi-sml-860x450_c

Alexandra Neill

Curse of the Comedienne: When comedy comes before gender

At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I saw only shows by women. I did this for several reasons: to support great comedians, to force myself to see more shows I knew nothing about, and because I really like comedy by ladies. I also did it because I was curious. I love comedy, but increasingly have been bothered by the obvious gender disparity. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

tom-cruise-jack-reacher-premiere-postponed

Chris Somerville

A lit match in a box of wet dynamite: Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher

I first watched Jack Reacher a few years ago, in a spate of insomnia. The plot is a confused mess, both needlessly intricate and incredibly simple. I’m not going to go into it, mainly because I don’t actually know why the people in this movie do anything. Read more »

Partisan

Joanna Di Mattia

To experience the world with blinkers on: Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan

Partisan beautifully evokes that complex space between childhood and adulthood, when we start to question the worldview we have inherited – when we begin to see the world through our own eyes. It is both a coming-of-age story, and an innocence-coming-undone story. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

OITNB2

Anwen Crawford

Still in Prison: The limitations of Orange is the New Black

No, I haven’t binge-watched the entire new season of Orange Is The New Black in one sleepless, bleary-eyed frenzy. This season, the show’s third, doesn’t lend itself to that kind of viewing. The pace is slower, the cliff-hangers missing. Read more »

kim-kardashian-selfish-cover-main

Brodie Lancaster

We Are All Kardashians

For the past five years, I have loved and been obsessed with the Kardashians. Specifically, the E! reality series that made them famous. I often feel the need to intellectualise why I like these series and the people on them – you know, because I’m not a moron, and these are shows about morons, for morons. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

CrawlMeBlood_20150607_261_LoRes copy

Jane Howard

Adhocracy: Lifting the curtain on the creative process

Every June long weekend I wrap myself up in several extra layers and make my way to the Waterside Worker’s Hall in Port Adelaide for Adhocracy, Vitalstatistix’s annual hothouse that brings together artists from around the country for a weekend of creative development. Read more »

Orlando #2 - THE RABBLE

Jane Howard

This Is a Story of Artistic Excellence

This is a story of the first four plays I saw at Malthouse Theatre. It’s a story that can only continue as long as support for independent artists continues; it’s a story that can only keep growing as long as support for independent artists grows. It’s a story of where artistic excellence comes from, and how we get to see it on our main stages. Read more »

AnneEdmonds-300dpi-sml-860x450_c

Alexandra Neill

Curse of the Comedienne: When comedy comes before gender

At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I saw only shows by women. I did this for several reasons: to support great comedians, to force myself to see more shows I knew nothing about, and because I really like comedy by ladies. I also did it because I was curious. I love comedy, but increasingly have been bothered by the obvious gender disparity. Read more »