Review Summary: This is not a review.
That score up there is completely arbitrary. I asked a buddy of mine to give me a number between 1 and 10 and he said 8 so there you go. How can you apply a score to something like this? A score implies a rubric against which you’re judging a piece. So far as I know, no such rubric exists for Farrah Abraham’s My Teenage Dream Ended
. What’s the standard for Accidentally-Genius-Avant-Garde-Pop from Reality-TV C-Listers?
But that 4 is just as well; something about this monster leaves me hopelessly captivated. This album is so far removed from any conceptions of “goodness” that goodness itself stops being a measure to judge it by. Internet commenters gleefully proclaim “this shit
is worse than Rebecca Black,” but Farrah’s music doesn’t even approach the level of comical vapidity Black’s transparently sweet “Friday” hit. Teenage Dream
is a different beast entirely, comprised of glitch-y wubs and aggressively anti-melodic auto-tune. It’s as if at its conception, Farrah had an image of glitzy female pop-music a la Kesha, then hacked at it with a knife and poured acid on it so that it became this sublime grotesque of the original. Or, to use an analogy I imagine is a more accurate description of her creative process, Teenage Dream
is what would happen if you gave a child a keyboard, an auto-tune vocal filter, and free reign to do whatever it wants, and what it came up with was a horrifying demonstration of just what the shi
t we listen to is made of, the foundational principles of modern pop music blown up to the point of ludicrousness. Whether we like it or not, My Teenage Deam Ended
spits modern culture back at us in ways that are vile, hideous, and completely unintentional, and it became the site of the best critical conversation of 2012. Who cares if Kendrick Lamar released a hip hop classic or if that’s even a thing anymore when the very concepts of Artist Intentionality
were being called into question on the most compellingly ugly album of the year?
For those of you who are doing pretty good all things considered, Farrah Abraham was on the first season of MTV’s Teen Mom
. The father of her daughter died in a car accident two months before the baby was born. She struggled with post-partum depression and had a rocky, abusive relationship with her own mother. It’s an extremely sad story, undoubtedly, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that it’s also not a particularly noteworthy one without the album she inexplicably recorded to accompany her autobiography. The album version of My Teenage Dream Ended
is an incredibly bizarre thing whose very existence is remarkable in itself. How did nobody tell her that releasing experimental compositions with almost total disregard for rhythm and melody might have been counterproductive to the book she was trying to push? How did nobody tell her that auto-tuning every one of her unnervingly confessional shouts to the point of sounding between human and robot might have been a bad idea? None of that matters now. All that does is that a piece of art has come into existence and we need to decide what to do with it.
The initial response for the majority of everyone seems to be laughter and derision, which is understandable because My Teenage Dream Ended
sounds pretty dick by any traditional standard. If you go into it with any expectations based on preconceptions of what constitutes “listenable,” it will suck. But what if that was the point all along?
If you give Teenage Dream
any consideration beyond the reactionary “what the fuck
is this shit
?”, it begins to suck in such a way that it draws attention to the very bases by which we judge things, and when those get deconstructed, the album becomes a strange yet utterly fascinating example of pop media throwing up on itself. Here’s a woman whom our ethically perverted sense of schadenfreude made a celebrity. The product of our love of watching people dismantled and broken on television has spit back at us a demonic caricature of what we’ve been secretly wanting all along. Deal with it, fuck
Of course, that argument comes up against the fact that it obviously wasn’t the intended point of My Teenage Dream Ended
. Clearly, Teenage Dream
is whatever it is by accident, which calls the question: should our interpretations of art be influenced by what we know about the artist and his/her intentions? Farrah Abraham is quoted as saying “I just was playing around with music and people took it WAY too serious.” Well, too bad, Farrah, you do not get to control how my brain interprets your sonic tomfoolery! I don’t think Farrah’s utter lack of self-awareness (or hyper self-awareness? still working on that) or her perceived vapidity should prevent us from having the critical discussions this album surely warrants. It should not be dismissed because of its supposed low-art origins; in fact, they're the very reason discussion is so crucial. I imagine if this album came out with a black cover littered with upside down crosses and all the A’s in Farrah’s name were changed to triangles, we’d be having a different, way less interesting conversation surrounding My Teenage Dream Ended
. But because it is an oddity without attempting to be one, an outlier that sprung into existence without any censorship, a pure, totally unfiltered expression of consciousness without any recognizable thought given to how the exterior world would perceive it, it has deceptively tremendous value.
And eventually, it reaches a point where it isn’t so
hideous anymore, where it starts making a deliciously twisted sort of anti-sense. I can’t deny that after the album breaks you (how else to describe the transition from hating to hate-loving it?), it takes a on hypnotic power, and eventually judgmental rubrics that apply only
to this album are erected. Were this a record whose primary critical argument wasn’t the value of its very existence, these paragraphs would’ve been devoted to arguing the merits of “The Phone Call that Changed My Life” and “Without This Ring…” and how “On My Own” is overrated because it’s a microcosm for the record’s novelty. But these are arguments we’ll never have. In the meantime, all I can do is tip my hat to My Teenage Dream Ended
for sparking the most intense critical discussion of the year, defend its value for the challenges it poses to our standards of pop music, applaud it for not being in on the very joke it’s telling about us.
Now please, leave me alone to die.