To give you a sample of the corrosive charm that is A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Reexamined As a Grotesque, Crippling Disease and Other Cultural Revelations, I here have typed in a short passage from a polemic against nasty music.
The Top 40 has been dominated for years now by that royal family of singers who can twist all the air out of their larynx in an inhuman display of lacy, high-gospel vocal-emoto aeronautics and wild flights of forced musical hysteria, accompanied by string-heavy orchestrations and a commanding hairstyle blown into a backlit power-aureole by a large industrial fan. Often, leather pants are involved.
Billowing white shirts are also important to their effect, which I suppose is to evoke the drama of being trapped in a strong prevailing wind, which I believe is supposed to evoke the drama of being tempest-toss'd in a fever pitch of heartwrenching that no mere mortal could stand. Their platform is an incredibly heroic dissatisfaction with Love, a ranting of Zeus-like proportions against Love itself, utilizing such universal laments as "I can't be strong," which is ultimately resolved through a revelation of forceful self-empowerment, such as "I will be strong," fueled by a lot of soft-jam arpeggios.
There is a tremendous need for this oversized, synthetic junior-high emotional wallowing. Teenagers all over the world rock back and forth on their beds, singing in hurtful little voices along with the radio as the cyberviolins choke tears out of their love-deprived eyes. Teenagers understand codependent musical statements such as "I will never breathe again" or... "walk again" or... love this way again." This music distills the emotional torpor and the whining indignities of puberty and filters it through hundreds of thousands of dollars of production value into a kind of saplike audio cologne, which, for some inexplicable reason, appeals to billions of adults as well as the emotionally hairless teen.
We are a Soft-Jam Nation. Walking into various shops, you start to realize that insipid, cloying lyrics with huge pop-symphonic orchestrations are the emotional wallpaper of the working class. "I'm down on my kneez, beggin' you pleaz, baby baby baby woah," etc., seems to pacify an otherwise disgruntles, non-movie-star workforce at their delicatessen and gas-station jobs and keep them in a semipermanent state of glazed, flavorless passivity. Listening to such music makes me feel as if I have just rubbed a floral-scented electric-blue toiled puck all over my face and neck, but I am a tiny minority in the vast world of music listeners.
Barbra Streisand is the monster that started it all. [...]