Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About The Meaning Of Life, by Steven Hyden
Although I don’t consider myself someone who participates in a great many feuds, I must admit that I am clearly very aware of them as they relate to the pop music scene . Whether the feud exists because of genuine dislike or because of the feeling that the pop scene isn’t big enough for two people/groups, or because of marketing, or because of fundamental differences in perspective and approach, feuds are a fairly common if lamentable aspect of the world of music. Although the author in almost 300 pages does not manage to get all of the essential feuds in pop music history, he certainly manages to discuss a great many of them and provide a great deal of context about the way that people can be easily pitted against each other, even when they themselves may not want to be hostile to others. The author also digs pretty deeply into the insecurity that drives many musicians to lash out against others, as well as the business side of having to appeal to the prejudices of one’s core audience even when one might want to rise above such matters.
This book basically consists of personal essays about the author’s own taste in music and his own thoughts about various feuds divided into sixteen essays. The author begins with the Oasis vs. Blur feud and then moves on to discuss Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam, Prince vs. Michael Jackson, The White Stripes vs. The Black Keys, Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West, The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton vs. Jimi Hendrix, Sinead O’Connor vs. Miley Cyrus, Roger Waters vs. The Rest of Pink Floyd, Axl Rose vs. Vince Neil (with a lot of cameos concerning unfought celebrity boxing matches), Smashing Pumpkins vs. Pavement, a combo essay (Dr. Dre vs. Eazy-E, Dave Mustaine vs. Metallica, David Lee Roth vs. The Van Halen Brothers), a comment on female feuds (Madonna vs. Cyndi Lauper and Britney Spears vs. Christina Aguilera), Neil Young vs. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Biggie Smalls vs. Tupac Shakur, and Toby Keith vs. The Dixie Chicks. The posts allow the author to demonstrate his own journalistic credibility and to comment on the way that similarity and difference can both lead to conflict as people try to defend their legitimacy and claim turf in the larger popular culture. At times this prickliness can be deadly, as it was for both Biggie and 2Pac.
Overall, this book was a pleasure to read even if some of the author’s comments failed to it the mark. The author seems to imply that Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West is over as an active feud, which doesn’t take into account either Kanye’s “Famous” or Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do,” showing the feud to be as active as ever. Likewise, the author claimed that popular artists today were luckier and so most of them didn’t die too young, but he wrote this without accounting for the deaths of either Chris Cornell of STP or Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, both dead far too soon. The author reminds us, if we needed to be reminded, that rivalry has its consequences and if it can sometimes seem a bit contrived, it has real consequences. Hopefully the author’s optimism that feuds have become less violent in the aftermath of the 1990’s is borne out, because it is one thing if people slag each other in articles or beclown themselves at awards shows that lack legitimacy, but it is an entirely different matter if people suffer violence over the silliness of pop feuds. For those who enjoy the spirit of competition but have no interest in participating in violence, one can always read this book.
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