THE 11TH INSTALLMENT of the Best Music Writing series initially suggests that music journalism is in flux—demonstrated by the inclusion of the transcript of Christopher R. Weingarten's infamous "Twitter & the Death of Rock Criticism" address at the 140 Characters Conference in 2009. Weingarten claims that music writers have been replaced by music blogs, and that free music access to anyone with an internet connection has rendered critical thought an unnecessary link in the chain of commerce.
But the random-seeming string of essays in Best Music Writing 2010, hanging together as shapelessly and disjointedly as it does, suggests otherwise. There's Jason Fine's long, tremendous Rolling Stone profile of Merle Haggard, and there's Jessica Hopper's unflinching look at David Bazan's rejection of Christianity. There's also Too Much Joy's Timothy Quirk's "My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement," a terrific condemnation of the inefficacy of major record labels.
There's plenty of doggerel, too: Guest editor Ann Powers chooses to open the book with Michelle Tea's interminable account of the Gossip's Beth Ditto traipsing around Paris' Fashion Week, which has everything to do with Ditto's celebrity and nothing to do with her music. That's where Best Music Writing 2010 trips up: By including pieces about fame rather than music, it makes Weingarten's omens seem all the more tangible.