By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Time for a regime change at Radar Station! The Saller administration -- which assumed power a little more than two years ago, upon the abdication of our distinguished predecessor, Randall Roberts -- is relinquishing this forum to Jordan Harper, a regular contributor to the RFT music pages over the past year or so. In such situations, it's customary to impart some final nuggets of wisdom; quite frankly, we're not sure we have any, but such trifles have never stopped our mighty torrent of pontification in the past, so here goes:
1. Predictions are dangerous, unless you actually want to look stupid. Two years ago Nelly was a huge star, with his début, Country Grammar, still lingering in the Billboard Top 40 almost a year after its release. Flash back to the 2001 RFT Music Awards, then known by the much more euphonious moniker "the Slammies" (Damn you litigious Grammy bastards!), in which Nelly snagged three awards, for Artist of the Year, Recording of the Year and Best Rap Artist. Still smarting from several failed attempts to land an interview with the dreamy bubble-thug, we acknowledged his victory with characteristic bitchiness: "Given the short attention span of his audience, it'll probably be quite easy to get an interview with Nelly two or three years down the line, after his fickle fans have moved on to the next flavor of the month." Well, needless to say, they didn't move on -- or haven't yet, in any case. At press time, Nelly still reigns supreme: "Shake Ya Tailfeather," his catchy new collabo-joint, has shot the Bad Boys II soundtrack straight to the top of the album charts. In what was surely a first for the local music scene, Nelly and fellow Lunatic Murphy Lee (and that other guy, the one who makes slacks for a living) knocked another St. Louisan, Chingy, from the No. 1 slot. If you'd told us two years ago that something like this would happen, we would have gently informed you that you were high. To quote another brown-eyed handsome man, it goes to show you never can tell.
2. No matter how many times we have delineated the roles and responsibilities of the professional music critic, most St. Louisans stubbornly insist that the job boils down to one thing: Support the local scene! In other words, if you can't say anything nice, lie -- or, better yet, delegate the task to some dumbsock who likes everything because, hey, at least these hardworking band dudes are following their dream. According to this Special Olympics perspective, hard work -- no matter how tragically misdirected -- should be rewarded with praise, if not a little rah-rah dance of ecstasy. But Radar Station never tried out for the cheerleading squad, and we've long maintained that such indiscriminate boosterism helps no one, not even the sucky bands who finally have some clips for their press kits. Why? Because the critic serves the reader, not the artist. How can you believe the Playback critics when they swear up and down that Band X is all that -- haven't they made similar claims about well-known shitmongers? If everything is just hunky-dory all the live-long day, how in the name of Lester Bangs are you supposed to distinguish the truly worthy from the mediocre? If you're looking for honest-to-god opinions -- the cruel, the cutting, the simply honest -- you'll find it on listservs and message boards, but you're not gonna see much of it in print. All the decent 'zines of yore are defunct, leaving nothing but namby-pamby blandishments, the inarticulate fawning of would-be groupies and dorky hangers-on.
3. It's impossible to please everyone -- or perhaps anyone -- when creating the RFT Music Awards ballot. People will bitch because they're not nominated; people who are nominated will bitch because they're nominated in the wrong category (most musicians, we've learned, labor under the delusion that they're a genre unto themselves, transcending all existing categories); people in cover bands will feel slighted because they don't get their sacrosanct shot at the coveted plastic trophy. There's no way to create a ballot that doesn't offend someone, and yes, of course it's a popularity contest, and no, we don't think the fact that it's a popularity contest invalidates the results. What do you want, some kind of benevolent dictator telling you who the best acts are? That's what you get the other 51 weeks of the year, when you're bitching about how it's only our opinion. Remember this when Jordan pisses you off, as he's bound to do: He's only doing his job. And you're only doing yours when you tell him he's dead wrong. This exchange of opinions, one subjective truth galvanizing another, is how criticism is supposed to work. Thanks for the memories, party people.