Under The Skin: Springsteen, Jonas and the click-bait culture

Springsteen 2014

I must have been feeling grumpy over the weekend, because it seemed that every music-related web-link that I clicked on managed to boil my piss. Everything from mistake-laden copy to cynical click-bait bullshit had my pulse racing and my hands reaching for a computer like a professional keyboard warrior.

After counting to 10 I usually stepped away from what I perceived to be crass, flimsy and pointlessly spiteful content, but the fact that I’m still thinking about it and writing it all down here proves that it has stuck in my craw.

What was the target of my ire? The full list would be long and tedious, but it ranged from articles full of simple spelling and grammatical errors, through to opinion pieces that seemed to exist for no other reason than to cynically drive traffic to a website without actually adding anything to any given debate, or that sought to spitefully take the piss out of unfortunate individuals who really had no place in the publication in the first place.

There were many examples that I stumbled upon over the weekend, but two from Team Rock illustrate my point.

The first was BP Perry’s piece headlined “Why is Bruce Springsteen punishing his fans for something their politicians did?”, shared across Team Rock’s social media pages with the line “Why Bruce Springsteen cancelling his gig in protest over an anti-LGBT law is not right-on, it’s ridiculous.”

The article stems from Springsteen and his band cancelling a North Carolina show in protest over the US state passing the “HB2” law. As The Boss himself explains on his own website: “HB2 — known officially as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act — dictates which bathrooms transgender people are permitted to use. Just as important, the law also attacks the rights of LGBT citizens to sue when their human rights are violated in the workplace. No other group of North Carolinians faces such a burden. To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress.”

You could argue – as some people did when I mentioned this to them – that it is legitimate to ask why Springsteen cancelled the show altogether, potentially putting numerous fans out of pocket, rather than going ahead with the gig and speaking out on stage. And you know what? I wouldn’t have felt angry about the article if it had sought to have that dialogue in a constructive manner. As it is, I got no sense that it set out to do that at all.

Quite apart from the fact that all Springteen’s fans who bought tickets to the cancelled gig are getting a refund, just look at the tone and language of the piece: “This knee-jerk reaction to something he doesn’t like makes absolutely no sense. Had Springsteen rocked up to his concert, made a little speech about his opposition to the new law and invited those who didn’t agree with him to leave with a full refund, then fair enough. But no. Bruce decided that the best way to show his displeasure was to say to hell with the whole damn lot of them.”

“That’s to hell with his own audience. His fans. The people who like him so much, they’re willing to pay him quite a substantial amount of money to see the Boss and his band play live. And he’s just given them all the finger because of something their state government has done. He’s pretty much saying his own fans have colluded with their legislators to come up with a law he doesn’t like, and now they must be punished for it.”

What an ill thought through, selfish and cynical crock.

As Springsteen made clear in his statement about the cancellation, “No other group of North Carolinians faces such a burden.” Quite.

“…made a little speech about his opposition to the new law…” How patronising.

“Knee-jerk reaction”? Not bloomin’ likely.

Those who pay any proper attention to Springsteen and his work know that he has always been politically engaged. They know that he dresses his politics to the left, and they know that he seeks to support the people of the world who are most in need.

Saying that his fans have colluded with their legislators? Saying to hell with his audience and giving them the finger? Absolute rubbish. This isn’t Springsteen abandoning his audience, this is Springsteen supporting people who are misunderstood, stigmatised and oppressed in ways that other people aren’t. This is Springsteen helping people to have their voice heard, using his celebrity in the way he knows how. This is Springsteen doing what he can to make a difference.

The suggestion that this is anything else comes from a hardened, cynical place; a place that has no awareness of Springsteen and what he stands for; a place that has little care or consideration for minority communities. It’s made that much worse because – let’s not forget – this piece has been published by Team Rock, the outlet which took such a strong stand against Phil Anselmo’s racist behaviour earlier this year, accusing other publications of “editorial weakness” in the process.

I’m calling BS on this article and all pieces like it. I don’t want to read such articles from any publication, Team Rock or otherwise.

The second piece, again published via Team Rock, was an article that sought to ridicule pop star Nick Jonas for playing a poor guitar solo at the Country Music Awards.

My thoughts here are essentially “Who cares?!” Nick Jonas and his music are irrelevant to the world of rock and metal. He is not trying to be part of the rock and metal community. He didn’t get up on stage and tell everyone that he was the best guitar player since Randy Rhoads. He played the solo at THE COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS for goodness sake.

But even if Jonas had been trying to make an impact on the heavy metal scene, why bother writing this waste of everyone’s time? It is essentially nothing more than flimsy piece of spiteful trolling; the worst kind of internet click-bait. All it exists to do is make someone feel bad and others feel better by laughing at them.

No thanks, Team Rock, or any other music publication for that matter. I know you’re better than this. Start showing it.

So, over to you. I would genuinely like to hear your thoughts on this kind of journalism, on the Team Rock pieces specifically and any other such articles that you have comes across whilst browsing. Do you like the kind of articles referenced here? Or would you prefer that music outlets didn’t publish such pieces? Do articles such as these exist because the public genuinely want to read them, or are they published to draw an unsuspecting public in? Get in touch and let me know.

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