Monday, February 8, 2010

In Defense of The Who

Dear Mr. DeRogatis

What do you think you accomplished with your review of The Who’s performance at the Super Bowl?

After reading, “Out there in the field, fossils barely resemble the Who,” I wasn’t so much disappointed that you didn’t like the Who’s performance but rather the way you justified your opinion.

You started out calling the recent trend of classical rock stars at the Super Bowl half-time show “an increasingly hoary roster.” You called the band at yesterday’s performance “the band that pretends to be the Who.” You criticized Townshend’s hat and sunglasses and then went on criticize the fact that they newest song on the set list was 32 years old, calling the songs over-familiarity a problem. You only gave one musical criticism towards the end of your review when you stated that they were flat and out of sync.

Now, I don’t believe that critic’s jobs are just to bash things and I constantly defend the role of critics in our culture to my friends. I read critics' writings on a daily basis. Your colleague Roger Ebert is one of my favorite writers of all time. But when you write a review like this I understand my friends’ frustrations.

Who would you suggest perform at the Super Bowl instead? You question that there has to be something between “pop pandering of Justin Timberlake and the recent procession of sad old Hall of Famers phoning it in.” You are a music critic and I assume you have an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music, so be an expert, pull out something that you liked about past half-time shows, celebrate that and suggest some ideas. Your role as a critic cannot just be to criticize, it needs to also be constructive help artist create better art.

Some of the things you said were not well-thought out strong arguments. You said that the NFL commercial featuring Arcade Fire (who I've raved about in this previous post) proved that the big game’s “commercials are often a lot more entertaining than what happens on the field.”

I agree, that’s true, often the Super Bowl itself is lame, but that wasn’t the case last night. It was one of the most entertaining Super Bowl games I’ve ever seen. I mean c'mon the onside kick to open the second half was crazy good times. So you bring up how the Super Bowl game were boring in the past because if reflected about this year’s you wouldn't be able to make your point.

Yes, The Who is a shadow of the band that they used to be but keep in mind that they are one of the greatest bands of all time. And them being a shadow of their past selves is still a better rock band than most younger bands performing right now.

What is so bad about The Who doing this show for a paycheck? It's not like the people playing in the Super Bowl are doing it simply for the love of the game. Let's be honest, you're a music critic, so you should know that if it wasn't for the all mighty paycheck most of the pop music greatest artists would not be such a central part of our culture. The only reason Bach wrote all that great church music was because he was paid. Let's do our homework.

These rock Gods are old and they do not perform as well as they do in the past. So you can either mourn they have grown older or celebrate and be inspired by the fact they can still rock better than most people half their age. I don't know about you but seeing guys in their sixties rock like this gives me hope that when I'm their age I'll still be doing my thing.

My biggest disagreement with you you is your complaint that the music is old. Yes, I also love Arcade Fire and the NFL commercial with them was awesome but if they performed at half time it would mystified the audience. I hope that newer band will eventually have enough mass appeal to perform at the Super Bowl but at this point, older music that has crossed generations is the most fitting choice for the Super Bowl half time show stage.

This is the Super Bowl, an unofficial national holiday. You don't introduce a strange new food in a Super Bowl party. You serve chili and hot dogs. You don't introduce a new uniform or rule in the football game on this day either and the music should celebrate these traditions by embracing music that may be old but is relevant and important parts of our culture.

You are a music critic, an expert in the field. We need your expertise to better understand and reflect on our cultural experiences. Not acknowledging any of the positive things about the performance except for the stage doesn’t help understand the context of what we saw last night.

What did you accomplish in your review? Well, absolutely nothing. Without solid musical arguments and a educated perspective you came off more as random person anonymously trying to start an argument on a discussion thread than a journalist. You have a job an honorable and important please treat your station with respect and be a professionalism.

If you didn’t like last night performance, that’s fine. But please think about your arguments a little better and please be more constructive. We have enough unreasonable political arguments coming from both major parties. We don’t need this negativity and ridiculousness in music.

-Kingsley Tang


  1. Very well put. I loved the show that The Who put on. They started off slow, but finished strong...kinda like the Saints. I also love the Arcade Fire, and was stoked to hear "Wake Up" as the new commercial theme for the NFL. It ranks up there with the NFL Network using "Up From The South" by The Budos Band.

    Yes, it was a great game, and I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I weren't a Colts fan. Oh well, there's always next year.

    By the by, you want to post odds on the halftime show for the 2012 Super Bowl (assuming it happens) in Indy? If you have Mellencamp at anything over 2-1, then you'd need to rethink Super Bowl shows all together.

  2. Mellencamp. . . well I could see it happening, they've pretty much gotten most of the great bands who are still around to do shows. What I would like to see is Billy Joel & Elton John do it together. I went to their show at Wrigley field last summer and it was really awesome. That would be a fun way to do a halftime show.