2020, Music

Women in Music Pt. III (2020) by HAIM

I was going to write “No I haven’t listened to Women in Music Pt. I or Pt. 2 and then I remembered I had listened to Days are Gone when it came out and hated it. This is what I wrote in 2013: “Also, I listened to Haim. Once. I couldn’t even make it to a second listen. What the fuck is wrong with everyone? (I know the answer to that, actually: it’s not you, it’s me.)” So that’s a good place to start from, right?

There’s something about HAIM that a lot of people find appealing that is lost on me. Even before they were part of Taylor Swift’s posse (unless that happened sooner than I know), I knew people who were serious music snobs – like obnoxious music snobs – who thought they were really cool. (And they’ve had some associations that helped prior to Swift so I don’t know if that’s part of it.) And in addition to that I read positive reviews and so I listened to the debut (there is some chance it was their debut EP, actually, and not Days are Gone but I’m pretty sure it was Days are Gone) and I just heard soft rock worship and got really confused (and a little angry). People look at these sisters and think they’re really cool, for whatever reason, and that seems to obfuscate the music they make.

But the other thing that happened around the same time is poptimism. (It was earlier, actually, right?) The big reaction against snobby male rockist critics. (Full disclosure: I am a rockist. And I’m male. And I’m a snob, or at least a recovering snob.) And though you can classify some of what HAIM does as “rock” in the broadest sense (obviously as part of the pop rock tradition but also “soft rock”) they obviously make music that is more pop than rock. And pop became cool sometime in the 21st century (the aughts I think) rather than just popular. I missed that memo (ignored it, rejected it) and so I missed the memo that I was suddenly “supposed to like” bands and artists that worshipped the smooth sounds of the ’70s, music I basically hate or at least have zero time for. (I used to hate it. Now I mostly just try to ignore it.)

It’s certainly too reductive to claim that HAIM are just devotees of certain ’70s sounds and that’s it. There’s more going on here than that. Certainly the production is considerably more 21st century on some tracks. (Like looped/programmed drums, a harmonizer.) And there are probably all sorts of influences from other eras that I’m not catching, such as contemporary R&B and contemporary pop. (Is there an ’80s UK influence? That too.)

There’s just no edge. There’s that one track (“All That Ever Mattered”) where they pretend they have an edge and all it does is remind me of how the other tracks have no edge.

I’m not sure I’ll ever get the big deal. It’s generic, middle of the road “soft rock.” Calling most of this “indie” this or “alt” that just further devalues the meaning of those terms. This type of music, that was once horribly uncool to a certain set (notably not the rich!), has become cool due to poptimism and something about the mystique of these sisters. But I just don’t get it. It’s music made in styles I have never liked and there’s nothing about the songwriting, performances or production that is going to change my mind.

Giant shoulder shrug.


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