Should We Fear the Hype Machine?

One essential trope of the contemporary music magazine is, “The online hype machine — does it move too fast?” And I’m like, “Do we really need to ask/not-answer this question in every issue?” It reminds me of, “Is our children learning?” I mean, maybe not. But if not, humanity will, as predicted in Idiocracy, slowly sink down to its own level, until finally we water our plants with Brawndo and die of starvation, which represents its own (cruel) equilibrium.

I’ve been disposing of some yellowing periodicals around the house — this is not what was meant by the “yellow press,” by the way — and I found an issue of Spin which I’m pretty sure I acquired for free, probably at SXSW. The cover story, about Vampire Weekend and the dread hype machine, is typical of the whither the hype machine genre: mild thumb-sucking, banal quotes, hearty approval. I’m guessing I’m missing the Bloomian rants to the effect that the hype machine is destroying the integrity of our music and our souls. Anyway, there was a passage in which Ezra Koenig says, semi-astutely:

“I think sometimes people get caught up in the need to feel that by listening to indie rock, they’re separating themselves from something,” he says. “But it was the white kids flipping out to Nelly at the school dance. It wasn’t anything to be diametrically opposed to. Whereas, maybe if you went to high school in the late ’70s and the kids were listening to Toto or something, you’d really feel a tension.”

First of all, let me just say that Toto is one of the greatest bands in history. I say this because “Africa” is probably the greatest song ever made. This is not to mention the entire Dune soundtrack. Africa gave the world humanity (gee, thanks Africa!) and rhythm (thanks — seriously this time); Toto gave Africa “Africa,” which is more than a fair trade. Not in the sense of fair trade coffee beans, however.

Koenig was a middle school teacher in central Brooklyn, which made me think: man, his former students must be going bananas! If one of my middle school teachers were now famous, I’d be thrilled. My 5th grade teacher was quite cool. I had a teacher in the 9th grade with a nose ring who reminds me, very vaguely, of a young person I met recently, and I thought: man, my 9th grade teacher was probably hanging out with some mid-1990s equivalent of Reihan — Shmaihan! Shaihan is very similar to me, but he listened to more Dinosaur Jr. and had a long, filthy mane. He died when a fried drumstick got caught in his throat. I miss that guy.