The Big Hurt: Parse and labor

The week in unhelpful headlines
By DAVID THORPE  |  June 15, 2009


I think music-news headlines are now officially my favorite part of pop music. After having to sift through tens of thousands of them in the line of duty, I've begun to appreciate the weird poetry of these cryptic, ambiguous little scraps of quasi-information. When I see a really good one, I'm even a little hesitant to read the story for fear it might not live up. Since this week's headlines are undoubtedly more fun than the actual news, let's just focus on them for a change.

First, a few from the folks at Billboard. Their headlines are generally characterized by a pathological need to build torturous puns around album titles, but once in a while they slip into glorious ambiguity:

"JAGGED EDGE LINING UP GUESTS FOR SLIP-N-SLIDE DEBUT" | Anyone who's ever used a Slip-N-Slide knows what an unfortunate sentence this is. "Jagged Edge" and "Slip-N-Slide" go together like "lawn darts" and "eyeball," and I'm sure you have at least one friend with a 20-inch scar on his thorax to prove it.

"DIRTY PROJECTORS SHIFT GEARS ON 'ORCA' " | I feel like Lisa Simpson upon seeing the Yahoo Serious Film Festival marquee — I know all those words, but they don't add up. I just appreciate the pure surrealism here. Imagine a man waking up from a 30-year coma and seeing this headline. "The future is a strange and terrible place," he'd say, before lapsing back into troubled sleep.

"SUSAN BOYLE HOSPITALIZED AFTER 'TALENT' LOSS" | Goddamn, if talent loss were really a condition that called for hospitalization, our health-care system would be packed to the gills with musicians. Lou Reed would be constantly squabbling with Axl Rose for a bed in the ICU.

With headlines that specialize in the flamboyant and misleading, NME is one of my favorite sources of textual bewilderment. A few recent doozies:

"TURIN BRAKES TO RELEASE 'BEST OF' " | My brain's natural instinct is to parse those as scare quotes, as if NME were reporting a dubious or unconfirmed claim of quality. Thanks for the heads-up, NME, now we can all look forward to a collection of "great music" from a "memorable band."

"ROLLING STONES' MICK JAGGER IN BID TO SAVE CINEMA" | I didn't bother reading the article associated with this one, but I can only hope they're gearing up for a Freejack sequel.

"MARILYN MANSON CRIES AFTER BEING DENIED DRUGS" | With a promise that fantastic, I was all set for disappointment when I clicked on the article. The NME is notorious for its gotcha headlines, like "Smiths founders reunite with new album" to refer to Mike Joyce running into Andy Rourke in line at the record store, but this one proved to be just what you thought: Marilyn Manson was denied drugs, and he cried about it.

"BEE GEES TO BE GIVEN THE FREEDOM OF DOUGLAS ON ISLE OF MAN" | Do whatever you want to Douglas, boys, as long as you keep it on the Isle. Here's a fun fact: many Americans believe that their freedom of Douglas is granted by our Bill of Rights, but the actual letter of the law only guarantees us the right to pursue Douglas.

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Related: The Big Hurt: Wascally wappers, Dirty Projectors | Bitte Orca, Hard act to follow, More more >
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