I was a charter subscriber of Vibe magazine; Quincy Jones was quite the salesman and saw a budding market for a publication on a music and culture that was becoming ubiquitous. Up until 2000 or so, the writing was fairly sharp although it appeared that the magazine was becoming a forum for a so-called "hip-hop lifestyle". The commercial imperative is keenly felt in the USA. Still at $9 or so to renew, I persevered with the magazine even as I would get increasingly irked (and last year they started an offshoot Vibe Vixens which, other than fulfilling an eye candy and titillation quotient, was similarly vacuous). Quincy incidentally cashed out some time ago (like Berry Gordy, he knew exactly when the gig was up). When we moved to a new apartment last year I allowed the subscription to lapse. For the past few months I've been picking up a copy in bookstores and flipping through in the hope of finding a reason to get back on the bandwagon, $9 is a such a low threshold. Sadly enough this email from my archives is still relevant.
To: email@example.comI was ignored the first time and have no illusions that anyone will even care that they've lost my annual $9 contibution especially when others seem to tolerate 3 pages of marginal music commentary amongst 180 pages of advertisements and "lifestyle" bluster. Still I'm a little saddened.
Subject: September 1999 6th Anniversary issue
Don't start a piece titled "We're on a mission" with a clear error in the second sentence: as we all know "Feels Good" was on Tony Toni Toné's second album (The Revival), not on their first (the aptly named Who?). Or were you over-excited by your sixth "Anniversary" (a song on their third album, Sons of Soul)...
Not to be pedantic though, the appeal of Vibe in its first couple of years was its incisive and informed writing about a fairly wide range of music. I can't help but comment that that aspect of the magazine has been overshadowed of late. A couple of recent issues were clearly devoid of content; I kept turning the page looking for something, anything, and ended at the end of the magazine.
On the other hand, it's obvious that you are a success given the amount of your pages devoted to advertisements, fashion and celebrity eye candy so maybe I should shut up. Or maybe I won't: consider this a plea for you to get back to some sharp writing and keep on your toes; there's still some good music out there. No more puff pieces.
I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, For now.
A concerned subscriber
These are the remnants of my Vibe magazine collection. Curiously enough, this is all that survived my last apartment move (at least these are what are in the boxes that I've opened). As you can see these remnants are all eye candy. You have my word that the music reporting was as interesting as the covers. The Maxwell, D'Angelo and Erykah Badu issues were fabulous as was the Chris Rock piece. As regards eye candy the two Toni Braxton issues are collectors items, Toni, Toni Toni! was the title of the middle one. The Foxy Brown, Eve, J. Lo and the two Mary J. Blige pieces were a mixed bag, the music was not as incisive but there was a focus on the culture. The Beyoncé and TLC issues were elegaic while the R. Kelly and Lil Kim bits were pure scandal showcasing the eternal struggle between the sacred and the profane in the music that I love. But that was then, this is now; now there is only eye candy. Thus my hommage to the end of an era and my boycott of the nine dollar Vibe.
It is apparent that best writing on music is now to be found in blogs or various discussion forums. I am old-fashioned enough to like settling down with a good magazine and the occasional meaty book on music or the arts. There are still interesting magazines on literature and the like, why not music? I guess I'm going to have to write my own books since no one wants to cater to my admittedly intense predilection for music.
In all seriousness, what are people reading these days? And if it's not on paper, who should I be adding to my Bloglines' subscriptions?
This is the first part of the Boycott Day Trinity: The Father.
File under: vibe, music, culture, magazine, commercialization, hustle, decline, fall, writing, rant, black, america, hip-hop, soul, lifestyle, Dark Matter, Small Things, boycott, media, Things Fall Apart, toli