Coincidentally, I've recently renewed my fandom of the band Rush, just as the band was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In another coincidence, my parents were at the Hall of Fame Museum last week (I've never been). At this point, Rush has earned popular respect by its sheer longevity, but critical respect is another matter entirely. Last night I watched a video of two rock critics talking about this year's nominees and explaining their disagreement with Rush's nomination.
Lately, I've become more aware of our society's tastemakers and their pervasive influence. Interestingly, I think popular music (including rock) may be one of the last huge battlegrounds in which some of them remain standing. They've had to cede books and literature, due to changing lifestyles and technology, to Twilight and its ilk. Their hold on the academy is getting tenuous, as liberal arts degrees become vastly less attractive than at any time in the previous century.
Their beloved rock music, on the other hand, is theirs...all theirs. The critical voice isn't challenged much in the musical area--and it's all too convenient to those who would sweep the entire white audience into country and to those who profit from selling Katy Perry-style drivel. Never mind that Rush typically sells out sheds such as Milwaukee's Marcus Ampitheater twice each tour, and tour with unusual frequency for a legacy act. Never mind that in a jobs crisis, Rush--which, at the end of the day, is a business entity--is a prosperous, thriving organization that creates jobs and business activity in places such as Milwaukee and St. Louis.
At heart, the tastemakers and the academy are still stuck in the mud of the twentieth century. Their ideology associates artistic legitimacy with poverty, drug use and degeneracy. Business bad. Middle class bad. As much as we now like to complain about the 1% squashing the middle class, we forget about our tax dollars paying for the UW System to vilify the middle class or at least its values. Frankly, I think society would be no worse off with those liberal arts departments shuttered. If the liberal arts no longer seek human well-being as their end, but rather padded nest eggs and chairs for graying beards, they have lost all claim to legitimacy.