Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

The Break Up Letter

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“Staring at empty pages, Centered ’round the same old plot, Staring at empty pages, Flowing along the ages”

-Traffic, Empty Pages

I’m breaking up with you. This isn’t easy for me. You’ve been a part of my life for so many years, most of my adult life. But the thing is- you’ve changed. You’re not who you used to be. You used to be cool. Smart. You used to have good taste in music. I don’t know why you changed, but it’s time for me to move on. It’s time for me to cancel my subscription.

I’m breaking up with you, Rolling Stone. I have been trying to make it work. I’ve been looking the other way, living in denial for a while now. I can’t do it any more. The disappointment runs too deep, I’ve lost too much respect. It didn’t have to turn out like this. I always loved you. Growing up I used to dream about my words gracing your pages. You were all about rock, you were  journalism. You were  political, you were edgy.  You were nearly perfect. Then things started to change. The turning point was in ’99.  I told my self that it was just a one time thing.  A little slip. Brittney Spears on the cover? The same place that had been inhabited by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Stones? This is the company she’s sharing? It seemed like sacrilege to me, but I tried to just focus on the articles, the music reviews. It was just one mistake.

But it wasn’t just once.

Remember Jimi Hendrix coaxing flames out of his guitar? Remember a naked John curled up next to Yoko? Remember David Bowie with the tinted sunglasses and cigarette dangling form his lips? Remember Janis with feathers in her hair? Nirvana all cleaned up in suits and ties? Fleetwood Mac sprawled out on a mattress? The fact that I could literally go on for pages is the very reason I’m so disappointed right now. Those covers were iconic, they were art. Now, we see covers like Taylor Lautner, Snooki,  Zac Effron, Jessica Simpson, Justin Bieber. What happened to your judgement on talent?  I am thinking you got seduced by revenues, you must have heard that teens were the money making demographic. So you sold your soul for some market share. You’re making a fool of yourself. And you’re making fools of all of us who have supported you all these years. I shouldn’t have to be embarrassed to read you in public.

Last month, I opened my mailbox to see Miley Cyrus leering at me. With her tongue sticking out. Really? I’m not jumping into the Miley hate-circus. I really could care less about her ass and what it did or didn’t do on MTV, or about her tongue. But could you have been more predictable? That was the most disturbing part of that cover. How much thought went in to that? You could have done a Miley Cyrus cover that was interesting, unexpected. Or you could have left her off completely and put someone more talented on the cover. It was a shameless attempt to be provocative but it was just boring and lame.

But it’s not just the covers. If it was just the covers I could probably get past that. I’m not all about looks. It’s what’s on the inside that matters. That is why the final betrayal cuts so deep. What sent me over the edge was the recent album reviews. Miley’s album got 3.5 stars. Wanna know who else got 3.5 stars recently?  Sleigh Bells, Justin Timberlake, Kings Of Leon, Sheryl Crow, Haim, Cage the Elephant- what???, Pearl Jam – no, you’re joking, right?, Arctic Monkeys – WHAT???  Knife in the heart….  I’m sorry, but there is no excuse for this kind of crazy. I don’t know if you’ve been sniffing too much ink over there, but I have no patience or tolerance for this kind of goofiness. I mean, the new Arctic Monkeys album is by far the best new album of the year…  Maybe Miley slipped you some Molly or maybe her new Rolling Stone tattoo has you smitten in some weird, juvenile “I’ve got a crush on the bad boy that sits in the back of the school bus, then a few years later you look at him in pity when he drops out of 10th grade” kind of way. All I know is you will one day look back at that review and cringe. You will try to hide it, you’ll hope everyone else forgets it. But I won’t. I won’t ever be able to trust your reviews any more. I won’t eagerly log on to Spotify to check out the new band you’re raving about. I won’t waste my time any more.

What makes all this so hard is I still think you’re smart. And being smart is probably the sexiest thing there is. And you still make me laugh. Being funny is also the sexiest thing there is. You still have great band interviews. You have thought provoking articles about politics and current events.  And you had your recent annual Hot List…  you can be so funny some times:  “Hot put two bullets in it:  MTV”, “Hot pretty fly for a white guy:  the new Pope”, “Hot Color Me Badd:  Robin Thicke”, “Hot stick to novels, buddy:  Jonathan Franzan”, “Hot it didn’t take:  Chris Christie’s Lap-Band”… you know I love inappropriate humor!  It’s the best kind!  I mean, maybe you still have some redeeming qualities… Maybe we can make this work.  Maybe… if you can ditch the teeny boppers and get back to the artists and the real rebels.

There’s still time to turn things around. If you get back to who you used to be, stop going for the cheap, easy thrills. Remember who really loves you. People like my Uncle Woody who’s saved every copy of you since you began. The “Beilebers” and “Twi-hards” are not going to be there for you in ten years. Those kids have the attention span of a gnat and will remember you as a brief fling from their youth. Those of us who’ve been here for you all these years, we may be a little older now, we may not be young and hip any more, but we are the ones that will actually appreciate you. We’ll read all the articles. Even the long confusing Matt Taibbi articles about the financial crisis. We won’t just skip to the celebrity interviews. So if you want someone who really appreciates everything about you, you’ll come back to us, you’ll remind us of how good you can be when you stay true to your roots.

And here’s the thing, if you do this, you will still be attractive to the younger demographic. Those that actually have good taste in music. They’ll start appreciating you too. Maybe when they hit the college years, they’ll realize how great you are and they’ll start buying you. My teen age son already appreciates you. He sometimes grabs you and reads you before I get a chance to. But sometimes, he laughs at you. He laughed at the Miley cover. He rolled his eyes at the Justin Bieber cover. He’s the kind of young kid that could become a loyal subscriber. But not if you keep going down the path you’re on right now.

So, please think about that before you put another no-talent, here-today-gone-today celebrity on your cover. Think about my uncle and his collection. Think about the years he has saved every single issue, 46 years worth. Think about the young kids that need to learn about good music and good journalism. Think about why you started this thing to begin with. Remember the guy you put on your first cover? He was a pretty good song writer. His lyrics are timeless and relevant even today. One song comes to mind, a song he wrote with his buddy Paul, called “Get Back”. “Get back to where you once belonged”….

14 Responses

      1. Really? I thought I was the only one.

        You’re an excellent writer. More importantly, you’re an excellent thinker. I can’t wait to read more.

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  2. Miley Cyrus is actually a very talented singer…in the right genres. She excels in Country & Western and is good in soft rock or pop.

    But she’s gone and lost her damn mind! Too much Molly, maybe? I’m personally hoping this is all a phase she will out grow. Grows her hair out, sticks her tongue back in her mouth, and puts some clothes on. Oh yeah, and stops with the twerking. Yegads, child, please stop twerking! 🙂

    1. It does feel like a ploy for attention and it overshadows whatever talent she may have. Rolling Stone covers used to be elite, earned and for the best the music world had to offer. It just seems like they’ve strayed from that… Miley just happened to be the latest in a string of disappointing covers! And it was SO predictable, R.S. used to be edgy and provocative, not predictable!

      1. Oh I agree, I just don’t like the way Miley has been attacked by the media. Or the way random people online just feel comfortable saying such horrible things about her. She *is* hugely talented and I hope her current behaviour and music is just a phase. I hope she returns to Country someday, because she really can belt it out.

        Well, that and I’d really prefer she keep tongue in and clothes on. Lol. 🙂

    1. You can absolutely sign it! We’ll start a petition! It’s just sad and disappointing to watch something that used to be cool and iconic pander… my confession? I still have a subscription. I can’t seem to let it go. I know, I have a problem.

  3. That is one righteous rant. I got a subscription for several years in the late 80s and early 90s, but haven’t followed them in a long time, and I’m totally out-of-touch with the contemporary music. This is sad, though. I have so many fond memories of them.

    1. Well, I just confessed to Chris, I still actually get the subscription. I keep saying I’m not going to renew and then I break down and do it. Every once in a while they have something really great still. It’s really sad to see what it’s become over the years.

  4. YUP. I love this. As somebody who still has every issue from 1984 to 1988 (or so???) in a box in her basement, I have to say that it makes me sad how today’s covers are full of wannabe’s like stupid miley. I can barely type her name. Sigh.

    1. I know, I hated to bring her up at all, but it was her cover that sent me over the edge. It’s kind of like a bad relationship I can’t quit. I still have a subscription and I still can’t bring myself to throw them away. I’m not proud…

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