The music business isn’t pretty, but it’s pretty funny.
Humor writer and McSweeney’s contributor Kennedy (Loser Goes First, 2003) recounts his short career as a marketing executive for Atlantic Records in this alternately hilarious and depressing memoir. Anyone who cares about pop music will find much here to inspire disgust and dismay. The toxic egos, office politics, stupidity and sheer corporate cheesiness of the modern music business makes working in rock-’n’-roll seem about as fulfilling as managing a strip-mall discount shoe store. Kennedy, a pop-addled, self-deprecating hipster scribe in the Chuck Klosterman mode, mines this dreary state of affairs for dependable laughs, but the bland, low-intensity awfulness of the milieu eventually begins to grate. An extended account of a transcendent Iggy Pop concert livens things up, as Kennedy, swept up in Pop’s charisma and anti-establishment theatrics, channels Lester Bangs in endearingly direct and emotional prose that contrasts sharply with the low-key, deadpan miserablism that dominates the rest of the text. But Kennedy doesn’t always play fair. After mocking songstress Jewel for selling out her integrity by participating in an advertising campaign for women’s razors, he gives the Great Ig a free pass, declining to mention the punk godfather’s licensing agreement with a cruise-ship line. Throughout, Kennedy displays too much self-congratulatory smugness—cloaked in disingenuous irony—about the foibles of his colleagues to fully engage the reader. However, assignments such as a campaign celebrating 25 years of love songs by Phil Collins do make the sour tone understandable.
A fitfully funny, ultimately sad look at the continuing decay of our popular culture.