An Open Letter to Patrick Carney of the Black Keys
Hey, Patrick. It’s Dave. No, we’ve never met, but we’ve got a lot in common. We’re both kind of tall and incredibly nearsighted, and have a habit of saying all kinds of stupid shit. But I’ve got about 10 years on you (although some around here would have you believe it’s more than that), and I like to think I’ve learned a little bit from experience, and would like to pass some of that on to you. Are you ready?
Please shut up.
Yeah, it was kind of dumb for TMZ to ask you about Justin Bieber after your big haul at the Grammys last week, but that’s what they do. And you didn’t do yourself any favors with your answer. A simple, “No comment” would have sufficed, as it should be any time a reporter asks you to comment on something you don’t like. Granted, your answer was kind of innocuous, and hardly the most obnoxious thing you’ve ever said, but come on, what are you trying to prove?
Why go after Bieber? As with Nickelback, another act you’ve unnecessarily slammed, it’s too easy a target. Yeah, he sucks and he’s managed to stay famous for a little longer than most teen stars, but as a student of pop history you should know by now that there’s always been a place – and a need – for his kind on the charts, and that his fame isn’t going to last. Besides, your audiences don’t intersect, so his success hasn’t come at your – or any other “real” rock band’s – expense. So let him have his fun before he inevitably joins the long list of Teen Idols Past.
And what’s with tweeting back at Bieber’s fans? Anybody with a smidgen of knowledge in public relations knows that when you lower yourself to your audience, you lose. Again, what are you trying to prove, that a 32-year old man can outwit a bunch of pre-pubescent girls? Mission accomplished. Mazel Tov.
Look, the reason teen idols lose their audience so quickly is because their audience grows out of that stage with a vengeance. Hell, I remember my older sisters plastering pictures of Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett all over their bedroom walls in the mid-70s, and a year or two later their names were never spoken again. But they didn’t stop listening to music, they just gravitated towards something else.
So, to bring this to the present day, when today’s teenage girls eventually grow out of their Bieber phase, what are they going to want to listen to?
The only problem is that, by being a first-class douchenozzle to them, you’re guaranteeing that they’re not even going to want to check you out. To put that in terms a raging capitalist like yourself can understand, you’re robbing yourself of potential future market share. And you can’t keep being the rock god that you’ve so desperately wanted to be without maintaining a female audience.
When I heard about your feud, the first thing that popped into my mind was this picture of the Black Crowes on the cover of the August 1991 issue of Q magazine. Take a look at the shirt Chris Robinson is wearing.
“New Kids Suck.”
I’m sure Robinson, like you, thought that he was striking a blow for true-blue rock n’ rollers with such a bold declaration against wimpy teenybopper poseurs. But fast-forward 22 years, and both the Black Crowes and New Kids on the Block are basically doing the same thing, milking their nostalgia for all that they can.
One of the things I genuinely admire about you guys is that you’re unapologetic about your desire to be the biggest band around. For the past 20 years or so, rock n’ roll has needed guys who, first and foremost, want to be rich rock stars. It’s been way too long since we’ve had a new, true swaggering rock god, and you and your partner have made no bones about your desire to join the ranks.
And you’ve managed to make it happen even though you look like the best friend from The Wonder Years all grown up. Why? Because you worked your asses off, playing anywhere that would have you. You deserve complete and full credit for that. Oh, and also by whoring out your songs for more than 300 commercials, movies, and video games.
Now, I get that’s how the game’s played these days and, truth be told, I’m fine with that, although there was a time when I wasn’t. But my point is that you’re hardly the model of artistic integrity. Bruce Springsteen, you ain’t. So by saying Bieber’s “rich, right? Grammys are for, like, music, not for money. . . . He’s making a lot of money. He should be happy,” you come across as kind of a hypocrite. Especially if you’re taking potshots at one piece of dimwitted pop culture ephemera one day and being photographed with another the next.
Besides, it’s not even like your music is so special and innovative. I mean, I’ve got a couple of your albums and I like them enough. But when you boil it down, your songs are just some old, familiar blues riffs with a radio-friendly sheen on them. It’s fine, but it’s ultimately disposable. So while you may want to be this generation’s Rolling Stones, the reality is that you’re this generation’s Foghat.
In other words, your feuds are as recycled as your riffs.
You’re in for the slow ride, Patrick. Take it easy.