Regarding the August 18 issue’s cover “America’s Next Musical Genius”: have you all lost your souls? What kind of Faustian bargain is being made with the “multi-million dollar” button producers and studio wham wizards that you herald Paris Hilton as a “musical genius?” I’d be happy to be declared the Madame Defarge of this era, steadfastly knitting the names of plastic aristocracy princess hustlers into my sweater before their executions. Not that I would have Paris herself die violently, but a slow agonizing death as a would-be artist couldn’t please me more. Look, there is barely anyone who can’t make a pop-manifesto record of some kind, especially living a “large life,” on that kind of dough. Her hiring tactics, patience, and “bitch slap” image/voice do not make her a genius. I might give Madonna that status at this point in her career — and she’s someone I’ve nearly risked my life defending to drunken ignorant men who were convinced she was a stupid blonde ho. She came up through the Lower East Side with a real band, from a broken home, and she persisted through a scene rampant with fast money, drugs, and fame seeking. Read her eulogy to Jean Michel Basquiat (America’s premier surrealist painter who died of a heroin overdose in the ’80s) and you will realize how much Madonna, at an early stage, valued art. That is a far cry from a to-the-manor-born socialite who belongs, at best, on the pages of Vanity Fair, at worst, the National Enquirer.
Just so you understand in one sense where I’m coming from: I’ve made two solo CDs — both with fair critical acclaim and both for artistic reasons — on virtually no bread. Let’s say under $5000, with the support and grace of fellow musicians who love to play and trusted my vision. I was mentored by and have played with some of the finest jazz and avant-pop people in New York, some of whom in their 50s and 60s still teach music to financially supplement their careers. They know how to make brilliant, if not genius records on practically nothing. We are, in relative terms, in the trenches of the music industry; the bruised and vivid packages on cdBaby.com and the bios on MySpace pages with downloadable tracks. You are looking in the wrong direction for genius, and to qualify Paris Hilton as one — given how little she has suffered through anything most of us would call real — is misguided, disgusting, and dangerous.
Editor’s note: A wonderful letter. The cover was conceived in the spirit of provocative fun. Maybe too provocative? Or not funny enough?
John Bonifaz, the talented challenger to our current secretary of state, is not the only one who can’t get Galvin’s attention (see “Incumbency”). Unfortunately, citizens who care about voting in Massachusetts have been wondering where Galvin is for a much longer time. After 12 years in office, Galvin seems to be content to run elections the way he always has, in spite of changes going on around him. Common Cause has rated our state at “moderate risk” for “malfeasance and malfunction” during our next elections because we do not have a law requiring paper ballots; Galvin never audits our optical-scan machines to make sure they’re accurate, and two of the three voting machines he is considering for people with disabilities have touch screens (the worst of the current electronic machines). We need someone who is willing to listen to citizens and make the changes needed to protect our vote. Since Galvin has failed us, that person has to be John Bonifaz.