Albums have never really made sense, except economically for the music industry: as a consumer, if you love “Twist & Shout” or “Call Me Maybe” or whatever, the idea that you should have to pay for a dozen other songs that aren’t the one that you want in order to have it is bizarre. But the rent on a record store is the same whether you’re selling singles for $1 or albums for $15, and a single or a full album take up the same amount of space in the bins, require the same number of employees to sell, et cera, et cera. The album, as a format, made sense in an era of record stores and physical media.
It makes much less sense in an era of digital downloads, when, for the most part, every song is available for $1.29 from iTunes and albums are merely the province of the superfan.
But when Beyoncé released Beyoncé, the math shifted a bit: the price of the album was the price of a cultural moment, a surprise album by one of the biggest stars in the world, featuring a massive production team and number of guest artists (Jay-Z, Drake, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, and more). Plus there was the value-added proposition of the seventeen videos that make the album something much more than just a collection of songs. And the fact that it was Beyoncé at the height of her powers, with a statement record that challenged preconceptions of what a woman like Beyoncé had to say, made it much more than a gimmick. When the history of digital music is written, Beyoncé will be a chapter with color plates.
The film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey is upon us. Face front, thinkpieces:
- Leslie Bennetts at Entertainment Weekly considers the film in the context of the suppression of female desire.
- Ryan Vlastelica at The A.V. Club asks us to consider that the movie might be good.
- Alison Wilmore at BuzzFeed reviews the film.
- Emma Green at The Atlantic ponders consent and American attitudes towards sex in the wake of the phenomenon.
The grotesque melodrama Amy orchestrates is prodigious, but still I found her more sympathetic than Nick, who is so convinced that he has tried, at every moment, to do the right thing. His father was an abusive misogynist, but Nick says, “I’ve tried all my life to be a decent guy, a man who loved and respected women, a man without hang-ups.” When his issues with women do leak through, like when he becomes momentarily furious that a female detective is telling him what to do in his own home, he blames it on being raised by his father and thinks his self-awareness will absolve him. He is the classic male victim. Even his misogyny is something that was done to him. This is why Nick’s is the more damning characterization: because Amy bears no resemblance to any person who has ever walked the planet, but she bears a resemblance to women as conceived of in the nightmares of men like Nick, and there are many of those men walking the planet. For “decent” guys like Nick, comfortably vested with patriarchal authority, the nightmare is to no longer be the narrator of their own story. InGone Girl, Flynn cracks open the culture and lets Nick say one of our unsayable beliefs: that it is scarier for a man to be accused than to be killed.