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Lorde and Iggy Azalea Attack “Spineless” Music Critics, Complex Strikes Back

Truth rating: 10

By Daniel Gates

(Getty Images)

Lorde and Iggy Azalea attacked music critics over the weekend, bashing Complex for putting Azalea on its cover last year and then publishing an unflattering review of her new album.

The saga began when Lorde wrote on Tumblr, “Bugs me how publications like complex will profile interesting artists in order to sell copies/get clicks and then sh*t on their records?”

“It happens to me all the time – pitchfork and that ilk being like ‘can we interview you?’ after totally taking the piss out of me in a review,” she added. “Have a stance on an artist and stick to it. don’t act like you respect them then throw them under the bus.”

As an illustration of her point, she posted a picture of Azalea’s October 2013 Complex cover juxtaposed with the magazine’s more recent review headline, “Iggy Azalea’s ‘The New Classic’ Isn’t Really” (see below).

Azalea then weighed in, agreeing with Lorde and going after the critics.

Then Complex struck back.

In a piece explaining why Lorde and Azalea were “wrong about criticism and journalism,” the outlet made a number of points about how the artists’ attack was off base.

Among the relevant passages:

Contrary to whatever Lorde may think, for Complex to give a cover to an artist like Iggy Azalea or current covergirl Jhené Aiko (or even Lorde for that matter) it simply boils down to Complex thinking the artist is someone our audience is interested in. Giving someone a bad review basically boils down to thinking someone our audience is interested in didn’t make a very good record. We can’t speak for all publications, but we imagine it works about the same way for them.

Lorde declaring “have a stance on an artist and stick to it” is a bizarre notion for an organization like Complex, which is to say bizarre for any media organization that claims to have any journalistic integrity. No one should stick to their opinion when new facts (possibly in the form of new music) are made available that can alter your views. Art and artistry are fluid things.

If Complex—or the media at large—operated the way Lorde wished, it would do away with journalistic integrity all together. Lorde—as well as Iggy—seem to confuse press as “respect” and criticism as being thrown “under the bus.” Truth is, not every media interaction will be mutually beneficial. Sure, giving Iggy a cover helped us “sell copies/get clicks” but it also helped establish Iggy as a star. When Def Jam sent its Iggy press kits around, best believe Complex’s cover and cover story were featured in it. There’s no way Iggy can say she didn’t benefit from being on our cover. Maybe she didn’t benefit from our review, but so be it. Celebrities seek attention and media coverage every time they do something great, why would the camera stop rolling when they do something not so great? And even if they do, it isn’t meant to be disrespectful—it’s meant to be critical.

This issue Lorde highlights is an on-going problem in music writing, one where artists seem to think of journalists as akin to their publicists, and journalists are afraid to say anything bad about an artist for fear of losing access. An artist thinking that just because they’re interviewed by an outlet that said outlet can’t then “sh*t on your records” muddies the difference between music profiling and music criticism. The job of a journalist profiling an interesting artist is to bring their story to life for an audience. The job of a music critic writing a review is to put an album in the proper context for listeners and, yes, share their opinion on the album. Thinking doing one means a publication can’t do the other misses the point of each entirely.

What do you think of the dispute?

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