The Chronicles Award for Making Shitty Parts of the Back Catalog Seem Ideologically Sound
By Chris Molnar | 12 December 2010
Tie: Bob Dylan / Jay-Z
Chronicles, Vol. 1 / Decoded
While part of the narrative thrust of the “Oh Mercy” section of Bob Dylan’s memoir Chronicles, Vol. 1 comes from its perception as a comeback after a guest rap- and Grateful Dead-soaked ’80s, the straightforward tone also makes his spotty career seem far stronger than it really is. If Dylan really has had his head on straight this entire time, thinking about the Music most of all, who are we to doubt his muse? The same goes for Jay-Z’s recently released Decoded, whose faultlessly logical distillations of the essence of rap—the beat is time and the flow is life, man!—make it oh so easy to forget, say, “Girls, Girls, Girls.”
Of course, when it comes to luminaries like the erstwhile Messrs. Zimmerman and Carter, they’ve already earned the right to a huge amount of leeway, even before writing disarmingly candid memoirs that inflate their mystiques by artfully pruning them. It’s just that reading about Jay-Z losing sleep over the trenchant critiques of a Village Voice reporter warms my cold, critical heart in ways I never thought it could; not in the way that a business, man, could be human after all, but in how he’s as much a part of the conversation as we are—that art is as much a response as the response, and vice versa, and how both create profundity as much as they come to inadvertently canonize hypnotically misogynistic Hype Williams music videos.