Pitchfork: Talking Head: Remain in Light
By 1980, the conflict in music between what was thought and what was felt was in full cry. As disco continued to monopolize music you could dance to, rock reached a point of maximum theoretical sincerity. Pink Floyd’s The Wall, possibly the least ironic recording of all time, was the No. 1 album in America for 15 weeks. It was finally unseated by Bob Seger’s Against the Wind, which was knocked out of the top spot by Billy Joel’s Glass Houses. Ostensibly, these were works of deep sentiment. To a generation of punks, though, they were rock at its most bloodless and calculating. … The central insight of Talking Heads—what made them not just weird but exciting and relevant—was that their art-house affectation felt more sincere than a lot of American culture.
Completely unrelated but somewhat adjacent: the unseen magic trick Bruce Springsteen pulls off, for me, is to thread the needle between sincere storytelling, grandiose maximalism, and bar band raucousness.
Without Afrobeat, though, there is no Remain in Light. The central role of West-African polyrhythms in the album’s sound draws attention to a curious aspect of its longevity. Could a group of white musicians playing Afrobeat be taken sincerely in 2018? Virtually every genre of American music, including punk and especially rock, is taken from black forms. Afrobeat is not African-American, though; it’s straight-up African. The 21st-century sensibility finds something problematic in a band of white art-school types playing West African music. Earlier this year, the Beninese musician Angelique Kidjo released her own version of Remain in Light, which NPR described as “an authentic Afrobeat record” compared to the original. Given how closely Kidjo followed the Talking Heads’ arrangements, this description raises questions about what we mean when we say “authentic.”
This is a great review and a pretty good read.