Why Pop Rivalries Matter
Got beef? In his highly entertaining new book, Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life, Steven Hyden – of the late sports-and-culture site Grantland – analyzes classic standoffs with a sportscaster's breathlessness: Beatles vs. Stones, Biggie vs. Tupac, Kanye vs. Taylor. His impulse is less to pick winners than to figure out why we care. "It's about sympathizing with a particular worldview represented by an artist over a different worldview represented by an 'opposing' artist," Hyden writes. "You are what you love – and also what you choose not to love."
The historical data is fun to sift through – did Scott Stapp really challenge Fred Durst to a charity boxing match? – and Hyden's adjudication is fast and furious. "The Black Keys are successful, but the White Stripes are legendary," he writes. It's also nice that he has personal skin in the game. The Prince vs. Michael Jackson chapter tilts into an exploration of Hyden's high school social struggles and the myth of geekiness, while the Miley Cyrus-Sinéad O'Connor conflict becomes a meditation on aging in pop's cult of youth. Whatever side you take in these endless debates, Hyden's a dude worth arguing with. –Will Hermes