This past Saturday, I walked down to EMP by choice, not to drop some significant duckets and don bulky headphones complete with personal tour guide-


EMP's Pop Conference: "They congregate to salve their senses."-Labi Siffre

This past Saturday, I walked down to EMP by choice, not to drop some significant duckets and don bulky headphones complete with personal tour guide- but instead to spend the day listening to music writers deliver (at times) thesis level papers on a range topics from strippers to drummer jokes during the EMP Pop Conference.

Some highlights:


Eva Tanguay

The He Pop/She Pop panel was kicked off by Jody Rosen (author of White Christmas and contributor to the Nation and Slate, among others) who chronicled the live and times of one of America's first female stars in his paper “Girl Gone Wild: Eva Tanguay's Madcap Feminism”. Who?? You may ask. Well, at one point in time Eva Tanguay was to the early 1900's in a way what Amy, Britney or Miley might be today- only a shit ton cooler. One of the most famous vaudeville performers of the time, she was one of the first performers to employ full time publicists (some times five at once) and was known for her racy performances just as much as her raucous antics, appearing in the papers that chronicled her every move, including wearing a dress made from 400 pennies, throwing a stagehand down a flight of stairs and much much more. After her career dwindled, she ended up spending her twilight years in a Hollywood bungalo, much in the way, as Rosen says, of the Norma Desmond character from Sunset Boulevard selling off her old costumes in order to get by.


Former Seattleite Ann Powers (who we lost to the L.A. Times, where she's now the pop music critic) was up next, and gave a-rousing presentation of her paper, entitled “In Love with a Strippa: Sex and Power in the So-Called Post-Feminist Age” that dissected the strippers role in music and videos, ranging from the empowered rock muse in Motley Crue's "Girls Girls Girls" to tired, worn out dancers who strip out of necessity depicted in some of today's rap videos.


Labi Siffre

Spin music editor Charles Aaron gave my favorite, and most moving presentation of the conference: an in-depth profile on black English poet, songwriter and singer Labi Siffre. He opened by playing a breathtakingly bare Siffre track titled "Saved" from his album Crying Laughing Loving Lying (1972) and spoke, emotionally about how hearing the song evokes the same, indescribably profound feelings he'd have as a child attending church in the South. He clearly feels the strongly about Siffre's work, who's now largely retired from music all together now- (despite the rare benefit concert) and uses his blog, Into the Light as his primary artistic outlet. The gay artist (who agreed to let Eminem sample his rhythm track from "I Got The" on "My Name Is" only after Eminem agreed to change an anti-gay lyric) has refused Aaron's interview requests multiple times, and recently posted on his blog, possibly Aaron mused, in direct responce to the conference:

09 April 2008


they congregate to salve their senses

one by one the mensches quiz

“what does it mean?” the artist pissed

off shrugs, “for fucktuation’s sake

it means what it is”


and still they whining on and on as the critics encourage

“what is the artist trying to tell us?” “what does the artist

want us to feel?” but the artist doesn’t give a shit

what you feel is your response ability not hers or his

jeeezuz! can’t you even take responsibility

for how you interpret what you see, hear and read?

End scene.

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