“Making it” at NQC
As part of his 10+ years of managing to write about Pretty Much Everything, Andrew Sullivan posted the snippet below and titled the post “Kid Rock: the Monkees of Today”:
Although he has been culturally irrelevant for the last half-decade, his songs are always playing whenever you turn on the radio. Slowly, he has turned himself into the turn-of-the-millennium answer to the Monkees or, maybe even the late Rolling Stones: quintessentially shallow, timeless pop music that does nothing new and enforces old clichés, forever recapitulating them until, at the end, we can finally come around to enjoying it.
Full thing is here. I have very little interest in Kid Rock’s derivative music or his Skynyrd-lite persona, and the idea that by hearing something over and over again for long enough “we can finally come around to enjoying it” seems self-discreditingly absurd (hello Christmas music?). But the writer’s assumption that radio-play matters as a measure of much of anything these days reminded me of a scene from the BBC’s bizarre documentary, The World of White Gospel Music.
It aired a few years back but I only just recently managed to secure a copy of it (a big shout out to Grover Baker at MTSU’s Center for Pop Music!). The Dove Brothers quartet is one of the documentary’s main examples of “the world” of white gospel, which is a debatable choice, but whatever. At one point, McCray Dove describes the NQC as the “granddaddy of them all,” so far so good, I guess, just by the sheer size of the thing, and then he goes on to say something to the effect of: if you play the NQC mainstage you’ve arrived. You’ve made it.
On the surface, it’s easy to just nod and assent to this as obvious, but is it? I mean, I guess this is true if “making it” to you includes the distinct possibility of low-pay, very little job security, sketchy-to-nonexistent healthcare benefits, and constant long-distance travel, all for the chance that the handful of guys who own NQC will someday deign to assign a twenty-minute slot to you or your group on the NQC evening concert rotation. There are plenty of folks who are not only willing but eager to submit themselves to this ordeal (and consider it a honor to do so). But the Cultural Greatness vision of NQC seems to be a vestige of a much earlier era when American popular music was driven by the celebrity concert circuit. These days NQC is primarily a cheap, easy way to hear a bunch of gospel music in one place. That’s not nothing and, given the number of people who continue to turn out for the event, NQC shouldn’t be taken lightly or dismissed too easily. But it’s about as much of an indicator of “making it” as hearing Kid Rock on the radio all the time is a measure of musical enjoyment.
Update: as to DBM’s question about where/how to view the BBC’s World of White Gospel, good luck with that. As some of you have noted, it’s not available through the BBC website and all my years-long requesting of copies for purchase went unanswered. That said, through the heroic research and outreach of Grover Baker at MTSU, the university’s Center for Popular Music now has a copy of the dvd that is, I assume, available for viewing at the center. That may not be the only copy that exists in the United States, but it’s probably close to it.Email this Post