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Wreath Lectures

Wreath Lectures 2013: Celebrating A Great Year For Men In Music!
Jude Rogers , December 20th, 2013 07:25

It's been a great year for men in music. Jude Rogers looks at the runners and riders in one of 2013's biggest races...

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10! David Bowie

This year began with the return of a great dame, although we all worried how gravity might have turned his lovely limbs old and saggy. 66 is no age to be chipping away at rock's coalface, let's be honest – surely one should be resting or baking or rearing grandchildren then. David managed to do well nevertheless. Perhaps being happily married for so long has given him the support he always needed?

When not hiding coyly behind that white square on his album cover, however, he was witchily, saucily, playing with his sexuality. He got naughty on 'Dirty Boys' while buying "feather hats", while 'Boss Of Me' saw him succumbing Lolita-ishly to his "small town girl". Long-term collaborator Gail Ann Dorsey being on board was also excellent news, with her usual hefty basslines giving proper authority to proceedings. It was shame that The Next Day's early work on 2013's surprise release agenda was compared so negatively, to Beyoncé's Beyoncé later on, after she released a whole album, not just a single, out of nowhere. Better luck next time, my dear.

9! John Grant

The voluptuous John Grant returned to sing about heartbreak yet again, drinking coffee, vulnerably, on this record's melancholy cover. Pale Green Ghosts made you want to call him round your house, buy in lots of white wine, and stick in a romcom to soothe his little outbursts. Full marks for swearing throughout this album, though, John – that'll show the nasty heartbreaker what for – and give yourself extra bonus points for your choice of single, 'GMF'. Showing no regard for his looks on the video, Grant made the political point of pouring his curves into a cardigan, fearlessly telling us how he is "difficult...I probably talk too much/I overanalyse and overthink things/it's a nasty crutch". At last, gentlemen: here's our new Bridget Jones.

8 & 7! Daft Punk

This French duo did something interesting for men everywhere this year, exploring masculine identity through every gesture on their new album. The masks they wore were a futuristic vision of manhood, of course (although it helped that they didn't have to worry about their hair under such haute couture millinery) while songs like 'Motherboard' gendered the foundations of technology. Random Access Memories was also a strident Y-chromosome manifesto, celebrating the variety of male performers today. The perky Giorgio Moroder and kooky Julian Casablancas did very well for themselves, as did the bubbly Nile Rodgers and the adorable Panda Bear. Lots of guys, together at last: boy power indeed.

6! Justin Timberlake

Using his seductive wiles as always, this knowing hottie launched not one but two albums this year. His first single 'Suit And Tie' also underlined his commitment to fashion. We all debated whether he had dressed himself, or whether his design house had directed the whole operation (surely one man couldn't manage to think up that whole aesthetic by himself). 'Suit And Tie''s video also featured JT in a tuxedo surrounded by women wearing only bras and knickers – a bold and unusual foray into the crushing of gender stereotypes. He continued this project in his promo for 'Tunnel Vision', projecting his face onto the naked bodies of women, which must have been an idea he got from wife Jessica Biel. Relationships are usually the key to men's creative impulses. A courageous career move indeed for this complicated blonde.

5! Kanye West

Coming over in his music like a hip hop Neil Young or an R&B Lou Reed, Kanye had to sit in the shadows of his partner – once again – in 2013. In the video for 'Bound 2', West's assertive fiancee Kim Kardashian was leading the ride, leaving her other half jiggling, demurely, at the madness of it all. West can be fiery at times, that's for sure, but if he feels he has to sing lyrics about wanting to "fuck you hard on the sink" – well, there's a sign of the pressure he's under to be sexualised. At least he showed some refreshing honesty by saying in the same song he "can't remember where we first met", and by premiering that promo, very sweetly, on Ellen Degeneres' US chatshow. Bless.

4! Morrissey

One wonders if Morrissey might be battling the hormonal changes of middle-age. He has always been a headstrong, complicated creature, the poor lamb, but this year's autobiography saw him shake out the curls on his quiff more than ever. We used to love him for being adorably demanding, but expected he would become more empathic, naturally, with age – which is certainly not the case in his bestselling book. Still, good on him for having the confidence and the sassiness to put pen to paper at last. It not his fault that men all over the world are conditioned to be so bitchy towards each other.

3! Alex Turner

This brunette's always been feisty deep down, and had a very difficult love life to boot – if only people would stop going on about how Alexa Chung broke his heart. But this year he's gained new confidence, which is a heartwarming thing for everyone. "Simmer down and pucker up", he says in the middle of Do I Wanna Know, for instance – that's the spirit. It's time at last to channel your inner femme fatale. Saying that, Turner's still sweetly showing us his delicate side too, calling himself a "puppet on a string" and "spilling drinks on your settee". He knows it's important to show us he's not so different from us, to make sure he remains relevant, and relatable to his fans – that's all-important for guys.

2! Pharrell Williams

It's always refreshing to see a pop star being on two of the year's biggest-selling singles, especially when many men find it tough to have such varied careers. Also, how great it is that Pharrell's finally having such huge mainstream success at 40! This year, he's also got married (phew – say goodbye to that shelf you were on, honey) so all those years tinkering away on daft things in the studio must seem irrelevant now. One does worry what his five-year-old son thinks about him being away from home so much, but his nurturing credentials are on the rise again after he wrote a song for kids movie, Despicable Me 2. Phew.

We'll brush over him staring at another woman's buttocks, wrapped in plastic, on the 'Blurred Lines' video for now. That's just showbusiness, boys and girls.

1! Robin Thicke

Finally, a role model to really look up to: a man who has achieved success while being incredibly ordinary, by virtue of a little clever application. Isn't that the dream? This year, he has championed the weak beard, the art of standing-doing-nothing against a white wall, and getting huge amounts of attention and success, while the world – and some women, of course – revolved boldly around him. Robin has also made a lot of money now, with which he can buy lots of trinkets to make him very happy.

It's also great that he's clever too, getting people to focus on one lyric in his big hit ("you know you want it"), while others ("Do it like it hurt"..."I'll tear your ass in two") slipped quietly into the mainstream. All that, and a former child star dressed in nude underwear rubbed herself against his crotch at a video awards ceremony, and everybody talked about her, but not him! That's the way to do it, my boy. Well done everyone... I think... only... one minute... oh.

With thanks to Sophie Coletta

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Dec 20, 2013 12:33pm

There are probably better ways to make your point !

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Dec 20, 2013 12:55pm


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Dec 20, 2013 1:03pm

In reply to :

..but what is the point? i've absolutely no idea what point she is trying to make..

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Dec 20, 2013 1:21pm

Yeah I'm not even sure either. Whatever the point about this year's heinous patriarchal shennanigans was, it's been so blunted by poor use of satire it's lost all meaning to me.
I wish I could have seen a list showcasing the shedloads of genuine female talent out there this year instead

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Bob Turkington
Dec 20, 2013 1:23pm

Meanwhile, R. Kelly has a series of 'alleged' statutory rape charges, child porn charges and out-of-court settlements that are on record for any journalist to investigate yet largely gets a free pass, even a Pitchfork headlining gig, but no let's continue the sheep-like disparaging of Robin Thicke- 'what a horrible man'! Why is that?

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Dec 20, 2013 1:51pm

Surely the Quietus knows that the Bowie record was out of nowhere? Beyonce released a record online with no announcement, but people have been doing that since In Rainbows, and her thing pales in comparison to the release of m b v. Anyway, back to Bowie: his record was out of nowhere because nobody thought he'd ever make another one. Beyonce's album release has nothing on the excitement caused by Where Are We Now? and the telling everyone that the Next Day was coming. Worth noting is that Beyonce's music is terrible.

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Bob Turkington
Dec 20, 2013 1:52pm

I do appreciate the completely valid point this article is making: that many sublime artists who happen to be female are marginalized as a group.

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Dec 20, 2013 2:05pm

Hmmm... Some very strange comments on this article so far.

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Dec 20, 2013 3:42pm

OMG guys!!! 54% of the people on the bus today had a penis. Creepin' up from the normal 52% eh public transport! What an end to 2013 it's been for you!
In other news...Morgan Freeman has refused to change his name to Freeperson, please help the fight against this tragic misconduct*ckinter-sectionality

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Dec 20, 2013 3:58pm

In reply to :

Again, I think a lot of people are missing the point somehow.

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Dec 20, 2013 4:19pm

In reply to CF:

What do you think the point is then?

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bronko palmas
Dec 20, 2013 5:50pm

In reply to :

The point is quite obvious, isn't it:

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Dec 20, 2013 6:32pm

In reply to bronko palmas:

the difference between this and "men ups" is that men ups is actually funny, for people of both sexes, and makes an obvious point, wheras this is a lame attempt at satire, and seems to try to make fifty points simultaneously without making any definitively. A lot of it is just mean digs, for example, no music journalist would write about a woman making indie music the way John Grant is written about here! The whole article is misjudged, and just not funny enough. It feels accusatory, but, since it's on the Quietus, it's like preaching to the choir.

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Dec 20, 2013 10:44pm

In reply to :

The point I was trying to make, which some people seemed to have got: women are often (but not always) written about in the media in reductive ways, regarding their age/size/looks/relationships rather than the content of their work. No, music criticism isn't like this as much any more, which is fantastic, but lots of "online content" culture still is like this. I also found it interesting that when women do things with other women it is taken as a political point, and women are often pigeonholed as role models as men aren't - and women (including me in the past) are as guilty as perpetuating these ideas as others. I thought what I was trying to do is pretty obvious – and no, it wasn't as funny as men-ups, but I thought it'd be fun to try to use language still levelled at women at men instead, and see what happened. MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!

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Dec 21, 2013 10:28am

In a year where Beyonce was written about for her command of pop and stealth marketing; Sia for her songwriting ability and rejection of fame; Lorde for her intellectualism; Chvches for the singer's attack on sexism; and Lady Gaga for combining art with music; just to name a few, reducing all music journalism to sexism shows a clear lack of perception about what is actually happening in music journalism. I simply am not seeing it. Women - particularly those in pop - are being taken seriously to a degree that used to be only happen with male rock stars - and those stars in question are largely being ignored because women are setting the pace and selling the records.

The writer is simply choosing what she wants to see to fit her victim script. I'm guessing the writer is white, wears conspicious glasses and has short hair. Social justice warriors love spreading their toxic negativity to infect the rest of the world with their cynicism and bitterness.

The point being made is 25 years out of date. Time to retire.

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Dec 21, 2013 1:41pm

In reply to AB:

The fact that you are choosing to ignore my post above, which mentions what I think about music journalism today, and makes irrelevant comments about my looks, says exactly why this post is not 25 years too late. I'm not going to guess what you look like as it doesn't matter.

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So Outraged!
Dec 21, 2013 3:30pm

Has Jude Rogers deliberately misread Bowie's 'Boss of Me' or what?? Listen again and study the lyrics! This piece doesn't really work as satire though does it?

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Dec 21, 2013 5:49pm

The article is worth it for the title alone.

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Dec 22, 2013 12:22am

In reply to AB:

ABsolutely. Women are ruling pop and pop-'indie', but when your identity depends upon seeing victimhood and oppression everywhere you look reality has a tendency to go unheeded. That would be ok if this wasn't the worst example of satire of the year though. This is a really terrible article. The sections on Alex Turner and Daft Punk make me wonder if this article was accepted by the editors as a way to get rid of a girl or boyfriend who won't take a hint and g o a w a y

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Dec 22, 2013 2:54pm

A waste of of our time and your energy. Bring back Mr Agreeable!

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Dec 23, 2013 12:09am

In reply to Jude:

I thought the point was pretty clear- art by women is perceived and critiqued in different manner using different terminology to art by men.

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Dec 23, 2013 9:30am

In reply to AB:

I laughed at your bit about Gaga. "Combining art with music" indeed! You'd think from these comments that nobody ever wrote about female musicians this way. How charmingly naïve!

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Dec 23, 2013 11:10am

This was both hilarious and an interesting comment on how female performers are written about in the mainstream media. turn the establishment on it's head, make it clear just how ridiculous and sexist things still are. And for all you jerks who are offended or have to sound off about just how insulting this is...why don't you go have a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are a sexist, homophobic, racist and it's not good enough to say "of course I'm not" cause if you say that..chances are you're an arrogant bigot.

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Dec 24, 2013 3:44am

In reply to R.R:

For what it's worth, I consider myself a feminist yet I constantly try to challenge any latent or subconscious biases I may inadvertently hold, and I thought this piece didn't really succeed politically or comically. It doesn't have to be black and white you know.

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Jan 3, 2014 6:17am

Cute attempt at snark, but really save this shit for your tumblr. This is bad Quietus, Vice magazine bad.

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Phil Ramsden
Jan 9, 2014 11:37pm

*Funnier* than men-ups, for my money.

What is bloody wrong with people? Ignore 'em, JR, this was top stuff.

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Phil Ramsden
Jan 10, 2014 1:24pm

"I'm guessing the writer is white, wears conspicious glasses and has short hair."

What the actual fuck, as they say.

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