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Critics: There's a Limit to their Love

"If Tegan and Sara Need Some Hard Dick, Hit Me Up!" Some of you may be familiar with this sentence already. Others may not have encountered this particular outburst before, but may recognise the abrasive and somewhat farcical language that is symptomatic of its source, namely Tyler, the Creator. Posted on Twitter in response to a blog post by one half of the aforementioned (openly gay) duo, Sara Quin - condemning both Tyler's homophobic lyrics and their apparent tolerance by the cultural media - Odd Future's head honcho surprised approximately no-one by reacting in a caustic, childish and misogynistic manner. There are few things that the music press loves more than a good ol' artist-on-artist spat, and this exchange of hostilities was duly seized upon by websites and blogs from here to Mogadishu. Some ROFL-ed in the aisles at Tyler's continuing ability to rub the moralistic world up the wrong way. Others raised their hands to the sky in a gesture of overwrought despair before strapping a cucumber to their forehead and running into the sea naked. Others merely yawned and waved a lazy finger in the direction of the near-identical fuss that surrounded Eminem ten years ago, or 2 Live Crew and Ice T more than a decade before that. A stance that was always going to be of interest was that of Britain's best-known music weekly, the NME. While circulation figures have been dropping at a steady annual rate, the 49-year-old publication still manages to loom large over the modern music scene. And so, shortly after the initial row had flared up and probably with a fanfare provided by a staff writer on a kazoo, NME's verdict dropped online: "Tegan and Sara are right - Tyler, the Creator's homophobia is repellent". There we have it! The bold headline says it all! NME are throwing their weight behind the identical indie twins and saying "NO!" to Odd Future and their hideous homophobic ways. The online post is full of condemnation for the mindless offensiveness of the group's lyrics, anger at other areas of the media for accepting and praising such behaviour, vehement support for Tegan and Sara, and grrr, there he is, the swine! The post is peppered with pictures of Tyler posturing in a top hat and tails while nonchalantly flipping us a pair of his finest middle fingers, Tyler posing in a flat-peak cap with a crown around his neck, a video from Tyler's NME cover shoot... Wait, what? Surely the man who caused such ire and moral outrage from within the ranks of the New Musical Express' staff can't have, you know, graced the cover of the New Musical Express? Oh hang on, he has. Two weeks previously, no less. And what's this at the bottom of the NME.com Odd Future denouncement? A link to the NME review of Tyler's new album, Goblin, giving it a respectable score of 7/10? Oh, right. Sadly this isn't the only example of a distinct lack of long-term memory within the world of the music press. NME afforded indie-rockers White Lies an even shorter ride on their wave-machine of adulation, slapping them on the cover in January earlier this year before waiting roughly twenty pages in to the same issue to deliver their sophomore LP Ritual a pretty duff 6/10 review. The artists who found themselves in the upper echelons of the BBC Sound of 2011 are also having to grapple with the fickle nature of the beast. Despite rather bizarrely landing the cover of Q Magazine for August, critics have reacted indifferently to Jessie J's debut album and her longevity is now looking somewhat dubious. Strange, then, that many of these critics would have comprised the team of "industry insiders" that compiled the list and applauded her so in the first place. Elsewhere in the Beeb's top five, Clare Maguire's record was widely panned by the press (NME? 2/10!), The Vaccines have become human magnets for blank looks, and despite fairly positive critical reception, Jamie Woon hasn't exactly left the musical mainstream quaking in their Hunter wellies. Out of the BBC's soon-to-be-Famous Five, though, James Blake stands out as the man who's endured the biggest backlash from those that once delicately eased him up on to his pedestal. His self-titled debut became widely critically acclaimed, and at the time of writing sits at 8/1 to win this year's Mercury Prize. But in some quarters, the claws began to be sharpened as early as the release of second single 'The Wilhelm Scream'. Or to be precise, the moment that it was revealed that it wasn't Blake who wrote it, but his dad. Hang on, wasn't that first single also a cover, of that Canadian bird outta Broken Social Scene wot woz on Sesame Street? Is this joker just getting huge public recognition through some kind of mumbled bass karaoke? Parts of the music critiquing world began to wonder whether the exact same songs that they'd previously listened to and loved so dearly were really all that, after next-door's 14 year-old daughter added Blake to her iPod alongside Taylor Swift and Mumford & Sons. It now seems to be fashionable if you're a music journo to scoff about James Blake on Twitter, equating him to the very notion of dullness itself. The News of the World weren't the only media outlet to revel in building someone up, only to squeak with glee as they tore them down again. Music publications love nothing more than to take pot-shots at artists they deem to have got too big for their boots, even if it was those same publications that fitted, paid for and praised those boots in the first place. But Then Again, Maybe What All These Critics Need Is Just A Bit Of Hard Dick? )

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