A Night with the Internet’s Busiest Music Nerd
Another title for this could have been: Brisbane’s Busiest Music Journo Meets the Internet’s Busiest Music Nerd but that’s a bit too long. Anthony Fantano graced an audience in Brisbane last Friday night to give his views towards the ever-changing landscape of music and how the internet affects its trajectory. I’ve been a fan of Fantano ever since he gave Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a light to decent six [out of ten]. I like to think I share a similar view towards Tame Impala as well, but that’s neither here nor there. The YouTube star came all the way from America to talk to a crowd of music nerds at QUT Kelvin Grove and I was in awe.
Fantano is known on the interwebs to be a pretty harsh critic to all known walks of music and many people I know scuff whenever Fantano gives a bad score to a beloved artist; Kanye for example. The man has earnt himself some reputable cred in the music industry through YouTube, more specifically the internet, and this is where Fantano begins his mini-lecture. Well, after an appearance from Fantano’s alter ego, Cal Chuchesta, who treated the audience to a tight rap/10.
Though Fantano’s first point revolved around the internet, it was made more explicit as he delved into memes. Yes, memes; the images we all tag our friends in and wish we’d stop getting tagged in simultaneously. Fans of the Needle Drop (Fantano’s YouTube channel) would know that he uses memes throughout his videos, adding cringe-worthy humour that has become a staple of his content. But Fantano wasn’t trying to be funny in his spiel, he made some valid points. For instance, memes have become a part of our internet culture much the same as music. Music travels quicker than it ever has done in its history, thanks to the internet. A song becomes a one hit wonder and is shared on all social media platforms; it’s not just the radio and MTV playing songs anymore. Gangham Style and Rebecca Black’s Friday are examples for this. At the point of writing this, I typed ‘Reb’ into Google to make sure I had the correct spelling and Rebecca Black was the first suggestion in the search. If anything, this emphasizes Fantano’s point. The one hit wonders become a conversation between people, not just those who listen to the radio or watch MTV, not just those who were typically known as musos. The meme is a part of the conversation too. The latest would have to be Hotline Bling. It’s a catchy song, but the music video has cemented itself in meme culture too. Fantano embraces this in his reviews, he even dressed in “meme-chic” as he gave the lecture. Dressed in a purple unicorn shirt, American flag pants, white socks and aviator sunnies; the dude was a fucking meme.
Fantano swiftly transitioned to his next point: indie rock. I’m glad he brought this up in front of a crowd, because it’s a topic that tends to frustrate me. Indie isn’t a sound, if anything it’s a label. Fantano deconstructed indie rock, taking us back to its origins, tracing back to post-punk and new wave. He explained that indie was used to describe the way in which the music was made. It was very DIY and low-budget, the bands were churning out music at little cost. At that time there could have been blues or jazz bands labelled as indie because of the way they went about their production. Fantano later explained that as more and more indie bands were getting airtime on the radio, labels started putting money into these DIY bands. This is sort of the birth of what we know today as indie. Fantano projected an image on the screen of ‘classic indie albums’ consisting of Arcade Fire’s Funeral, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In an Aeroplane Over the Sea and Of Montreal’s Cherry Peal: all of which have a completely different sound. If you were to list the classic punk albums, even blues, they would all have a similar tone or sound. Indie isn’t a sound, it originally was a way of production which has now turned into a label for bands to be lumped into. If you search Spotify’s top indie bands you’ll find the Shins, the Black Keys, Florence and the Machine and the Killers. They don’t all scream indie to me, but whatever Spotify.
To help emphasise Fantano’s first point, he went on to state that the internet helped shape indie into what it is today. Back when we all used Myspace and pretended to know how to use HTML, we would share indie music that we found. Well at least I did. Now we’ve got the likes of Bandcamp and Soundcloud that allows the ‘indie’ DIY bands to record low-budget takes of their songs and upload them to share with the world. All thanks to the internet. But Fantano also went on to say that the internet can hinder how we intake music as we lend more and more towards specific program’s algorithms. For instance Spotify and Apple Music generate a recommended list on what you’ve previously listened to. It’s the program telling you what to listen to, we aren’t actively going out and looking for new music.
Fantano finished the evening with a Q&A with his Brisbane fans before heading out to an after party in the valley. I didn’t quite catch the address for that after party but I’m sure it was a ten out of ten. I don’t know about anyone else, but Fantano is at a height that so many aspire to reach. It was a pleasure to have him in Brisbane, maybe one day an Australian music critic will grace a crowd in the States.