Well, folks, I did it. I operated a blog for an entire calendar year–and if you know anything about my work ethic, you’ll know that that alone is cause for celebration.
When I started Dystopian Dance Party just over a year ago, my plan was to give myself a space where I could practice my critical writing abilities with, as I put it at the time, “a complete disregard for audience.” And I have definitely fulfilled that plan: I wrote a shit-ton (in words, if not in number of posts) over the last 12 months, and very few people have been compelled to read it. But that’s part of the experiment here; Dystopian Dance Party isn’t about catering to trends, baiting clicks, or even really about building an audience. It’s basically an extended ego trip: a nakedly self-indulgent exercise that, if it ever does find a readership, will do so only because some like-minded people stumble upon it (or because some friends and family members take pity on me and click some of the dozens of links I post on Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter).
It probably won’t happen. But just in case it does, here’s one for both my (non-) audience and my ego: a list of the 12 posts I’m proudest of from the blog’s first year. Click past the jump and catch yourself up with what I consider to be our best work so far. And get ready for another year of shameless self-indulgence, because if I could keep this fucker running for 12 months, I’m pretty damn sure I can handle 24.
1. “Thoughts on Recent Mashups”
(April 17, 2014)
Uninspired title aside, this piece is significant because it’s: a.) the first post ever on Dystopian Dance Party, and b.) still one of the most popular posts ever on the blog. I tweeted my written impressions of recent remix projects by Scott Melker and Amerigo Gazaway at the artists, and their retweets got me a fair amount of hits. I won’t say how many hits constitute “a fair amount” for this site, because that would be fucking embarrassing. I will, however, say that this was before I installed ads on the site. Oh, well. Still cool to get the exposure, and I still think the piece holds up. Maybe someday I’ll flesh out my favorite bit, which was the thorny issue of what it means when mostly white remixers take mostly Black rap music and pair it semi-ironically with mostly white AOR hits; I didn’t want to belabor the point and make it seem like I was personally attacking Melker, who seems like a chill dude and whose remixes I genuinely like. It’s just a question I’ve been grappling with ever since I started listening to Girl Talk and his ilk, and I think it warrants more consideration.
2. “Dear Elitists: Shakespeare Was More Hip-Hop Culture Than High Culture”
(May 7, 2014)
This is another one that got the tiniest bit of social media traction–this time in my own circle, because I was an English graduate student at the time and boy do we love to dismantle and/or reevaluate our literary canons. I’m pretty proud of this one, though I do think it could have used a bit more evidence; I was too lazy to comb through my complete works of Shakespeare for actual, you know, examples of how his style and cultural position resemble hip-hop’s. But still, any essay on Shakespeare that allows me to quote Kid ‘n Play is A-okay by me.
3. “Grity Boi: 2 Chainz Gets (Sort of) Serious on FREEBASE”
(May 19, 2014)
One of the main reasons I started this blog when I did was so that I could write a serious, earnestly intellectual review of an upcoming mixtape by 2 Chainz. And I did that. And I even managed to work in an extended comparison to Will Ferrell–which I’m proud of, though when you think about it, basically every mainstream rapper is comparable to Will Ferrell. Point is, 2 Chainz finally got a serious, earnestly intellectual review all to himself. You’re welcome, 2 Chainz. You’re welcome, Internet.
4. Jheri Curl June (Yes, the Whole Thing)
It’s almost unfair how much more I love Jheri Curl June than the rest of the things on this blog. There are days when I wonder why I started a regular blog in the first place, and not just a single-serving Tumblr that shares jheri curl music all year round. When my enthusiasm for maintaining this site is flagging, what keeps me going is the thought of another Jheri Curl June in the future. Seriously, if you read one thing on this website, read these posts: it’s me and Callie in our element, writing about stuff we love and doing it regularly for once. It’s one of my favorite things in the world.
5. “Dystopian Road Mix Vol. 2: Eastern Michigan to Washington, D.C. (Part 1)”
(June 17, 2014)
Dystopian Road Mix is one of my favorite ideas for a recurring feature, and if it weren’t such a bitch to research and write, I’d have posted way more entries in the series. I like using my real-life road trips as an excuse to think about pop music’s connection to place, and to write about genres, artists, and styles I otherwise probably wouldn’t. I think all the installments are good to varying degrees, but my favorite so far is the Detroit-centric second volume, because I’m a Michigan boy and Detroit will always be close to my heart. Hopefully sometime in the next 12 months, I’ll finally get off my ass and do the volume I have planned on Baltimore…
6. “Dystopian Dance Mix Vol. 3: Rock, Flag, and Eagle”
(July 3, 2014)
But my favorite recurring feature–with the obvious, aforementioned exception of Jheri Curl June–is Dystopian Dance Mix: a monthly themed playlist
inspired by shamelessly ripped off my old music blog from my college days. Again, I’m proud of all our dance mixes, but I think they work best when Callie and I are both collaborating more or less equally. The Fourth of July-themed playlist was the first real example of this: I did May on my own, and Callie only get involved in the June one fairly late in the process. Even after all these months, it’s still one of the best.
7. “True Detective and the Subversive Potential of Pulp”
(August 4, 2014)
Probably the closest to my academic work of all the pieces I’ve written for the blog, and probably one of the best-written. The central idea I explore here is one I’d like to explore again; I was going to write a dissertation in the same ballpark, but who knows, maybe those thoughts will end up on the blog in the future. Maybe even when True Detective season two rolls around…
8. “Happy Birthday, Cosmic Dancer”
(September 30, 2014)
Callie doesn’t write for Dystopian Dance Party as often as I do, obviously, but I always enjoy it when she does. I really liked this retrospective she wrote about Marc Bolan of T. Rex, and I’d love to “borrow” the format for some more posts about other artists in the future.
9. “Selma, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and the Challenge to Be a Better White Person”
(January 19, 2015)
Considering I’m a former film student, I really don’t write about movies as often as I probably should. I’d also like to take a more serious political angle more often than I have, but that’s tough to do when you’re writing about jheri curl music. Anyway, this review of Ava DuVernay‘s Martin Luther King biopic Selma isn’t necessarily the best thing I’ve ever written, but it feels like a step in the right direction. Maybe I’ll be able to improve on it next year.
10. “Kanye, Beck, Beyoncé, and the Crisis of the ‘Real’ (Rock) Artist”
(February 16, 2015)
This is definitely my most topical post yet, written just over a week after Kanye West pulled a proverbial Kanye on Beck‘s Grammy acceptance speech and the Internet clutched their collective pearls. This is another one that got some modest social media traction, and I’m glad because I’m proud of it. I feel like I took an angle on the whole controversy that wasn’t being adequately covered in the barrage of other thinkpieces at the time, and I’m glad that a small audience read and enjoyed what I had to say.
11. “My Type of Hype: A House Party Series Retrospective”
(April 1, 2015)
Now this, unquestionably, is the funniest thing I’ve written for the blog. A blend of sober franchise synopsis, homage to Lester Bangs’ infamous essay “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung,” and straight-up Kid ‘n Play fan fiction, this–if I do say so myself–is Dystopian Dance Party at its self-indulgent finest. And a lot of the credit goes to Callie for her skills at, ahem, digging up screenshots from some of those lesser-known films in the series.
Yes, this recurring series has barely even begun. Doesn’t matter. This kind of long-form, arguably-over-ambitious, completely-unpublishable-anywhere-else pop culture writing is exactly why I decided to start Dystopian Dance Party last April. I actually can’t wait to finish up with Kanye’s oeuvre so I can get started on the next one I have in mind, and it feels good to be excited about my own shit like this. Here’s hoping I enjoy the next year as much as I did the first one. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, too.