In recent weeks, a line of criticism has emerged that argues A Star Is Born, the current Oscar front-runner and box office hit, paints an inauthentic portrait of the music industry partially because of the way the glossy, often ridiculous movie places guitar-driven rock music at the center of its fictional pop culture universe. The film's washed-up megastar Jackson Maine, played with gravelly voiced sensitivity by co-writer and director Bradley Cooper, is the figurehead in a festival-worthy band that sounds like a boozy combination of Kings of Leon, Black Crowes, Drive-By Truckers, and a sentient leather boot. A viral appearance on stage with him catapults Lady Gaga's Ally, a waitress with dreams of a music career, to fame, a SNL performance, and eventually, because this is a movie, tragedy. Not in our reality though, right?
And yet: One of this week's many online skirmishes centered around an increasingly popular band that scans as more artistically backward-looking than Cooper's roots-rock cosplayers. I'm talking about Greta Van Fleet, the young rock band from Frankenmuth, Michigan, that released its debut full-length record, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, on Republic last Friday. They didn't pee their pants onstage at an awards show or check into rehab, but they did ruffle some feathers. If it's truly time to "let the old ways die," as Cooper sings in his A Star Is Born ballad, then Greta Van Fleet didn't get the message.
After a viral Pitchfork review, which rewarded the record a 1.6 rating on the site's 10.0 scale, said they sounded "like they did weed exactly once, called the cops, and tried to record a Led Zeppelin album before they arrested themselves," fans mobilized to defend the band's honor online. Websites wrote up the incident with headlines like "Pitchfork Destroyed Greta Van Fleet's New Album and Rock Fans Are Pissed." Jokes were made; familiar pop culture battle lines were drawn. Did you miss the whole controversy? Or simply have no idea what the fuss is about? Unfortunately, we do.