Monday, 15 February 2010

Top of the Popes

It will go down in history as the day the music died. Last week, and seemingly without warning, Google took the unprecedented step of deleting a number of music blogs.

Perhaps fearful that it would be held accountable for aiding the growth of music piracy, the internet giant decided on a pre-emptive strike and simply eliminated the offending sites.

Years of work were obliterated in a flash, as a host of bloggers representing every music genre received a cordial note that said "We'd like to inform you that we've received another complaint regarding your blog. Upon review of your account, we've noted that your blog has repeatedly violated Blogger's Terms of Service ... [and] we've been forced to remove your blog. Thank you for your understanding."

Their crime was to offer links to filesharing sites where music tracks (some new, some dredged up from the archives) could be accessed by the blogs' readers. As Thursday's report in the Guardian correctly asserts, many of these bloggers operated with the tacit approval of the record companies who regularly send out promos and carefully orchestrate leaks in order to ensure that their music finds the die-hard fans first.

This leaves music fans with a major problem - in the aftermath of "musicblogocide 2010", where can they go for reliable, up-to-date recommendations on the music they need to hear?

Weirdly, it seems that the Vatican is willing to step into the fray and play unofficial DJ for today's musical youth. Following the success of last year's Alma Mater, Pope Benedict XVI's debut CD, the Catholic Church has decided to branch out into playlist territory.

Still, at least this will give people something to listen to while the octogenarian ex-Nazi works on his difficult sophomore album. RedOne has booked some studio time, and American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi has a few demos knocking around that the Pontiff may be interested in.

Of course I jest. But not about the music recommendations - the Holy See’s official newspaper, L’ Osservatore Romano has published a list of what it considers to be the top ten rock and pop albums of all time. Although, sadly, Britney Spears has been criminally overlooked.

The list itself is pretty surprising, featuring some inarguable classics, such as The Beatles' Revolver, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. It's a far cry from the days when rock music was decried as evil - in fact, Pink Floyd previously earned a shout-out from His Holiness in 1996 when he included them in a list of 'instruments of the Devil' which 'endangered young people's souls'.

The fact that L’ Osservatore Romano is moving towards a more populist approach should be applauded. But once again, it provides further evidence that organised religion offers few immutable truths that can stand the test of time.

As society adapts, these systems of belief need to acknowledge the changes and evolve accordingly. It's just a shame that they're quite happy to review their position on matters of popular culture, but the bigger issues, which sometimes equate to matters of life and death, remain exempt from discussion.

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