Indispensable for anyone who wants to understand popular music in the 21st century.

RIPPED

HOW THE WIRED GENERATION REVOLUTIONIZED MUSIC

Clear, concise and entertaining account of the tectonic shift in the recording industry over the past decade, thanks to technological innovations like the Internet, the MP3 and the iPod.

Music critic for the Chicago Tribune and co-host of NPR’s Sound Opinions, Kot (Wilco: Learning How to Die, 2004, etc.) begins by chronicling the rise and fall of the compact disc, introduced in 1983. It was the recording industry’s cash cow, forcing consumers to replace vinyl albums at exorbitant prices that bore little relation to costs. Beginning in the summer of 1999, however, Napster and other file-sharing applications gave fans the means to acquire music without paying for it. The resulting collapse of the CD market led the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to launch a campaign to sue illegal downloaders—including 12-year-old girls and at least one single mother on welfare—ostensibly to recover lost copyright fees but also to intimidate consumers back into the music-buying habit. Alas, for the RIAA, the downloading genie was out of the bottle, and the music industry would never be the same. Despite the best efforts of corporations to consolidate control over the star-making machinery, Kot shows how increasingly sophisticated musicians and fans found ways to create new standards for assessing what is and is not a hit. Each chapter tells a story about key participants in this revolution, from Napster’s Shawn Fanning and Ryan Schreiber of the influential webzine Pitchfork to unlikely rock gods Death Cab for Cutie, Girl Talk and Arcade Fire. Some artists, like Metallica, who joined the RIAA in going after Napster-using fans, struggled and failed to come to terms with radical change. Others, like Prince and Radiohead, the heroes of this book, led full-frontal assaults in the music revolution, leaping ahead of the record companies—and reaping rich rewards for themselves—by offering fans free music and more choice in the packages they might be willing to pay for.

Indispensable for anyone who wants to understand popular music in the 21st century.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-4727-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A brief but sometimes knotty and earnest set of studies best suited for Shakespeare enthusiasts.

THIS IS SHAKESPEARE

A brisk study of 20 of the Bard’s plays, focused on stripping off four centuries of overcooked analysis and tangled reinterpretations.

“I don’t really care what he might have meant, nor should you,” writes Smith (Shakespeare Studies/Oxford Univ.; Shakespeare’s First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book, 2016, etc.) in the introduction to this collection. Noting the “gappy” quality of many of his plays—i.e., the dearth of stage directions, the odd tonal and plot twists—the author strives to fill those gaps not with psychological analyses but rather historical context for the ambiguities. She’s less concerned, for instance, with whether Hamlet represents the first flower of the modern mind and instead keys into how the melancholy Dane and his father share a name, making it a study of “cumulative nostalgia” and our difficulty in escaping our pasts. Falstaff’s repeated appearances in multiple plays speak to Shakespeare’s crowd-pleasing tendencies. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a bawdier and darker exploration of marriage than its teen-friendly interpretations suggest. Smith’s strict-constructionist analyses of the plays can be illuminating: Her understanding of British mores and theater culture in the Elizabethan era explains why Richard III only half-heartedly abandons its charismatic title character, and she is insightful in her discussion of how Twelfth Night labors to return to heterosexual convention after introducing a host of queer tropes. Smith's Shakespeare is eminently fallible, collaborative, and innovative, deliberately warping play structures and then sorting out how much he needs to un-warp them. Yet the book is neither scholarly nor as patiently introductory as works by experts like Stephen Greenblatt. Attempts to goose the language with hipper references—Much Ado About Nothing highlights the “ ‘bros before hoes’ ethic of the military,” and Falstaff is likened to Homer Simpson—mostly fall flat.

A brief but sometimes knotty and earnest set of studies best suited for Shakespeare enthusiasts.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4854-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more