Music News

The End of Idolator

Is there anything more ridiculous than finding yourself upset by a change in management on a music blog? No one seems to managed to stay employed in one place anywhere for long, so Maura Johnston's three year run at Idolator (starting with the site's founding) was bound to come to an end eventually, even though it happened quickly with a sudden goodbye post in the middle of a decade-closing series covering the worst songs of the decade. Immediately, the tributes in the comment section and on Twitter started rolling in, but the problem wasn't so much that Maura was out of a job (she's ridiculously talented and sure to be snapped up by some lucky employer quickly), but what followed the next day.

I wasn't likely to be predisposed to like whoever followed Maura - she gave me my first opportunity to write about music for actual money, after all, back when I was taking cheapish shots (which I largely stand by, for the record) at the company hosting this post - but I assumed the replacement would be someone writing in a Stereogummy format, since Idolator's parent company Buzz Media sorta owns that site as well and always seemed to prefer their breezy info-lite style and stream of YouTube embeds. You can't fault Buzz Media for trying to find a way to make some money with the brand they purchased from Gawker, but it's a little distressing that a site that was generally considered one of the smartest of the medium couldn't survive as is.

Maura and the others who contributed to the dozens of daily posts (excluding this particular hack) avoided the indie worship of the Brooklyn-based websites or the parade of Perez Hilton wannabes covering pop music, taking a middle ground of actually covering music. Instead, there was some skepticism mixed with humor and enthusiastic fandom, as Maura found writers with interesting things to say, helped them focus their ideas and gave them the freedom to write about what they found interesting. I'm sure I personally irritated people by covering Canadian Idol, Christian contemporary music, and buxom Brazilian children's star Xuxa, but in the midst of what I was writing to keep myself sane and entertained over the course of twelve to fifteen posts a day, Maura was getting great work out of what I was dragging from Google News.

Even on my worst day, however, I hope I was better than the hacks they brought out on Tuesday in the first day post-Maura. Eventually, the internet community dredged up where "Robbie" and "Becky" came from (gay culture site Towleroad and a gossip blog hosted by the cable channel E!, respectively), but that's not the issue: what was once a clever site that brought out the best from those posting and commented covering whatever was happening in music became a Lady Gaga fansite overnight. I really wish that were an exaggeration, but long thoughtful, provocative posts were gone, and quick, poorly edited posts with an occasional PMS joke thrown in as a replacement.

Today, a post on the People's Choice Awards was based on the premise that the award show that gave an trophy for "Favorite Threequel" in 2007 and regularly and sincerely acclaims Two and a Half Men really missed the boat by failing to nominate La Roux for Favorite Breakout Artist over Susan Boyle. I guess it would be one thing if the subject matter changed exclusively to covering American Idol and top 40 pop (did you know teenage pop star Justin Bieber beatboxes? HE TOTALLY DOES!), but did they have to hire two morons to give us multiple David Cook posts daily? As someone mentioned in the comment section, it was as if Idolator was now run by two people who hadn't seen the site before their hire. Again, it seems absurd to get all worked up over a music blog, but for the site's audience, the change was a real slap in the face.

So, what now? Idolator will likely be gone before long. Maybe that was the intention all along. Even if this didn't vaguely involve me somehow, I'd probably still be as upset as the dozens of people complaining about the change on their Tumblrs. Pitchfork is better than people generally give it credit for, but how much Animal Collective fandom can anyone be expected to take? The I Love Music web board is where all the critics seem to congregate, but it can be a little difficult to keep up with. It was nice to have a national site that made some effort to cover the entire gamut of popular music, but now we just get an idiot's take on American Idol Amazon pre-orders. It's hard not to feel a little cheated.

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Dan Gibson
Contact: Dan Gibson