Mof Gimmers: white man be listening to Lady Gaga like this, black man be listening to Lady Gaga like this
One of the best message board threads I ever read (and if that’s not a thrilling opening to a piece, I don’t know what is) was on the topic of “racial puppetry in right-wing comics”. It discussed how, in American political cartooning, it’s disturbingly common for white, middle-class reactionary cartoonists to put their conservative viewpoints in the mouths of black characters (see Prickly City, Mallard Fillmore and Day By Day for examples). It’s basically a form of inverted strawmanning: you create a fictitious character that agrees with you, and then you blackface him up in order to demonstrate that you, and your made-up advocate, represent The Other. And, boy, was I ever reminded of this concept when I foolishly decided to look at The Quietus today.
I’d made it through the first 27 years of my life without ever having heard of Mof Gimmers (real name, no gimmicks). Googling reveals the phrase “you may remember Mof Gimmers for his genuinely offensive review of Quizmania”, which has certainly got me excited for this true bastion of writing, but for some reason… for some reason Mof has chosen a really weird way of celebrating Black History Month. He’s marking February by taking up that one true cause that all black people have been downtrodden, disadvantage, and ruined by. Yep, he’s written a 1000 words on why white people don’t like Lady Gaga. What a hero.
I’m warning you now before you click that above link: what Mof Gimmers lacks in terms of writing ability he certainly makes up for in terms of his impersonation of a 17-year-old who read “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung” for the first time the previous week turning in a creative writing piece for the sixth-form newsletter.
It feels like we’re on safer ground just mocking the factual errors that colonise this article like fried chicken shops down Coldharbour Lane. Mof Gimmers has decided that the best way to rail against racism and like Lady Gaga is to mainly talk about Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie, as if in 2010 anyone knows the latter two as anything other than “that racist dude who advertises insurance” and “your man from Labyrinth”.
I mean, take a line like “These artists all struggled and plugged away until Warhol effectively sponsored the Velvets like a football team”. Forgive me if my fag packet calculations are off, but there were less than 100 days between the VU’s first paid gig and Warhol becoming their manager. Summer colds last longer than this alleged lengthy period of “struggle and plugging” in obscurity. And even then, where did Warhol’s patronage get them? Because for this to actually be relevant to Mof Gimmers argument here, they’d have needed to go on top Lady Gaga-esque world-crushing fame. Instead, “Velvet Underground and Nico” spent one week at #171 in the charts before falling out, never to be seen again. This was their commercial peak. To put this in context, the last two artistes we could find to have had an album debut at #171 in America are “Whiskey Falls” and “A Skylit Drive”. No, me neither.
(Also, it’s kinda lol but mostly sad that an argument about “whiteness” and ignorances associated therein is framed within an article whereby The Quietus’s content manager chosen to hyperlink a mention of “forming like Voltron” to, not “Protect Ya Neck”, but rather a Wikipedia page about Transformers).
Before we go any further, we need to explain why any hack could care about Lady Gaga:
a) “Let’s Dance” and “Paparazzi”, whilst being big hits, were heavily slept on by music writers. When “Bad Romance” hit, there was a sudden collective realisation that “oh shit, she’s here to stay”, and critics promptly set about overtating for lost time. Pitchfork, which didn’t actually bother to review “The Fame”, claimed in its “The Fame Monster” write-up that “somebody flicked a switch on Lady Gaga” and “she’d become kind of awesome”, as if there’s any discernable progression between two albums that were actually recorded at the same fucking time
b) Such is the paucity of pop talent in 2010 that heads are more than prepared to anoint Gaga as The Queen of Pop simply by dint of her having one-and-a-half good songs. To put this in perspective…. Amerie had two good songs, Lumidee had two songs, Tweet had two good gons… fuck it, Cake had two good songs. I didn’t see Mof Gimmers queuing up to kiss the rings and place the crown on any of those cats.
The real problem here is that Mof Gimmers is argument a point that doesn’t exist. The critical establishment absolutely adores Lady Gaga, and the collective critical weigh of Bowie, Pop and Reed is probably, currently, the lowest its ever been.
Let’s go with some facts and figures. Let’s take the Pazz and Jop poll: it’s a pretty good indicator of White Cultural Establishment Criticism, and it polls more people than the voices in Mof Gimmers’ head so at least we have a good base to work from. In the 2009 P&J, Lady Gaga had singles place at #7, #11 and #13. This is an unprecedented achievement in recent P&J history (and by “recent P&J history” I mean “as far back as I can be prepared to look in the archives without just going “lol the vines lol the legendary ko”). Not even in the days of Neptunes cultural hegemony did Pharrell and the other one manage to find themselves behind the boards of three top 20 P&J picks, and that was when they were putting out 20, 30, 40 singles a year. Not 4 like Our Steph.
GaGa arrives similarly to her own fanfare with the weirds and everyone dismisses it as cheap, whorish and Rizla-thin
I mean, this is the problem with this whole piece. Where? Where does this happen? At all? Ever? In any way shape or form? Where are these critics who aren’t getting goose-bumps when they see the outline of Gaga’s nutsack? Lady Gaga, and I’ll say this in capitals so Mof Gimmers can twig, IS ON THE FUCKING COVER OF Q MAGAZINE THIS MONTH. That’s really how you’re gonna pick your counter-cultural, dangerous, hated-on by £50 man musical acts now? By seeing who’s on the cover of Q Magazine? Part of me wonders whether or not Mof Gimmers is some sort of direct line descendant of Cecil Rhodes or something, because there has to be a decent reason why he’s created such a ridiculous, retarded argument in order to play off his white guilt against (admittedly, by defending a white artist. Sticking up for a black one would just be silly Mof Gimmers, huh?) The race thing is problematic here, though. For instance:
Pop stars still need to earn their stripes if Whitey is going to start singing their praises.
No, no Mayer, but am I reading Mof Gimmers right here? Mof Gimmers is saying that white people value hard work and graft, whereas black people don’t? Is that really his argument here? Is there any other way to read that sentence that doesn’t show Mof Gimmers to be having a straight-up Modern Parents moment? I mean, presumably Mof Gimmers could ask one of his four black friends (out of 650) that he has on Facebook about this.
At long last, after years of landfill shmindie and anti-pop groups in white suits obediently awaiting the key-change, we have someone who is single-handedly trying to redefine the very notion of what a pop star can be in The Noughties and beyond.
Yeah, this kind of stuff is really important to me, I hate it when a pop musician just makes good songs you can dance to, it’s much more important that they “single-handedly redefine the very notion of what a pop star can be”. Because Mof Gimmers is up on his pop history: to whit
Musos probably collectively sneered at Madonna when she started to aim high with her pointed bra way back
Good research here Mof Gimmers, like it. The “pointed bra” he’s referring to is the one that Mads wore during her Blonde ambition tour, which took place a mere seven years after the release of “Holiday”, so clearly when she was “starting to aim high”. Again: in 1990, “Vogue” and “Justify My Love” were both top 10 placers in the P&J poll. The inlay notes to “The Immaculate Collection” are just a stream of badly written blowjobs from Rolling Stone types. Heck, even inane bullshit like “La Isla Bonita” found itelf in NME year-end lists. Ciccone has never been a woman to want for critical acceptance.
Is Mof Gimmers a racist? No, of course not. Racially dumb, maybe, but fetishing the non-white is a pretty common trait amongst music writers who grew up in a monocultured town (qf: every Guardian writer ever). The problem with this piece is that it’s just the worst kind of “pretending to be railing against punk whilst secretly wishing that Rat Scabies will float into your bedroom at night and touch you down there” that both the NME and Melody Maker used to engage in throughout the 90s when writing about pop (and thus unsurprisingly finding a space in the IPC rest home that is The Quietus). Your Swells or your Booths or your Sinkers or your whoevers would just shit out article after article after article about how “Daphne and Celeste are the real punk” or “All Saints are the true inheritors of The Sex Pistols’ crown, not The Bluetones”. The implication was unwritten but clear: music was perfected by white middle class males in the late 70s, and if the blacks or the lasses or the proles have a shot, they might make something nearly as good as it.
I mean, when you conclude a piece by saying that the Gaga/Beyonce/Rihanna trifecta (a trifecta with absolutely no shared traits whatsoever) could maybe be as good as Bowie/Roxy Music/T-Rex one day (pro-tip Mof Gimmers: when you talk about how black people don’t value hard work as much as white people in an article, you may want to then not go on to praise two whole acts with Nazi sympathies. Just in case people get suspicious), you’re not really going anywhere.
I appreciate that this is 2010, that this is the internet, and resultantly we’re stuck with websites being full of guys doing this half-assed Baby Brooker pastiches on challop subjects in order to increase hit rates while everyone turns up and goes “my god you’re a fucking idiot”, but… can’t we demand better trolls? More coherent dumb arguments? Less racially awkward Mof Gimmers? That’s my dream, man. That’s my dream.