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October 18, 2010

Jim Malec, Meet Jackson Blake

So I'm writing a Miranda Lambert piece for MSN and as is my practice reading a bunch of other people's reviews in search of stray facts, tracks that hadn't fully registered, conventional wisdom to contravene or get beyond, and general context. And among the Revolution reviews that come up in Google is one signed Jackson Blake dated September 29, 2009, that begins like this:

Although "Kerosene," the debut album from Miranda Lambert, did offer an artistic exuberance that was refreshing and disregarded the methods and conventions that her would-be peers employed at the time, the album did suffer from its lack of refinement artistically as well as narrative naivety.  With "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," Lambert's second album, her artistic vision was brought into clearer focus.  The album showcased a young singer that had become more road weary and much less blindly optimistic at that point than when she first started on her musical journey.

Pretty crappy review, albeit representative of the Nashville meme in which Lambert's previous album, Crazy Ez-Girlfriend, was, how can I resist quoting, "bogged down with struggling with aggression and firepower that Lambert's image had come to be defined by." It also reports that the CMA-nominated "The House That Built Me" is the only song she didn't write on an album enhanced by Julie Miller, Fred Eaglesmith, and John Prine covers. And the prose--well, read the samples again if you dare.

So I stop Googling and start writing and then, early the next day, avoid negotiating a troublesome transition by Googling a little more. At which point I discover a review signed Jim Malec and also dated September 29 that begins like this:

While Miranda Lambert's debut album Kerosene offered a refreshing burst of artistic exuberance and a relative disregard for the conventions and methods employed by her then would-be peers, the album suffered from a certain narrative naivety and a notable lack of artistic refinement. With her sophomore effort, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Lambert brought her artistic vision into clearer focus on an album that showcased a young woman who was a bit more road-weary and a hell of a lot less blindly optimistic than when she began her musical journey.

Internet plagiarism--ain't it grand? It comes in so many different forms, including, apparently, the un-Googlable bad rewrite. Which came first, the Malec or the Blake? Well, FWIW, I also found Malec's double-somersault "then would-be peers" at Amazon's Askville, whatever that is. And he had my other quote as the somewhat more literate "mired in a struggle between the firepower and aggression that had come to define Lambert's image." So my guess is that Malec is the originator--that all Jackson could think to do to conceal his tracks was convolute the syntax even more. This skill set being why he thought the review was worth ripping off in the first place.

Further Googling, however, reveals that "Jackson Blake" also has reviews up of concerts by Celine Dion, Ray LaMontagne, and the Pixies. In different cities no less. Gets around, that Jackson. So perhaps he's a pseudonym employed by some touring service company that filches real writers' reviews and puts them on tour sites? I dunno--it's almost one in the morning and this isn't my problem except insofar as every new insult to arts journalism is my problem. Jim Malec, take up your cutlass.
October 18, 2010 9:11 PM | | Comments (6)


A couple more people who should give Go Daddy a call and see who owns the Jackson Blake domains:

Jason MacNeil, Jam: "This complemented the equally earnest Old Before Your Time, resembling a cross between Ryan Adams and Neil Young circa Harvest Moon."

Blake: "He also performed “Old Before Your Time” which sounded like a well developed hybrid of Ryan Adams and Neil Young during his “Harvest Moon” days."

Paul Sexton, Billboard: "Another long runner climbing again on the chart was Mumford and Sons' "Sigh No More" (Universal Island), up 7-4. That's a new peak in its 48th chart week for the album, which debuted last October and has been dipping in and out of the top 10 since January. Two more titles opened in the new top ten, with the debut set "Light Me Up" (Interscope/Universal) by New York rockers the Pretty Reckless new at No. 6 and "Asylum" (Reprise/Warner Music) by Chicago hard rock act Disturbed at No. 7."

Blake: "Another long runner climbed the charts again. “Sigh No More” by Mumford and Sons rose from No. 7 to No. 4. The album has been on the charts for 48 weeks and the No. 4 spot is its new peak after making its debut last October. Since January it has dipped into the top 10 and out. “Light Me Up,” the debut set from Pretty Reckless, a New York rock band, came in at No. 6, while “Asylum” from Disturbed, a hard rock act from Chicago, came in at No. 7."

Robert, thanks for pointing out this case of plagiarism. Sadly, it happens often. Consider my cutlass drawn.

I have to say, however, that I'm really disappointed by your misrepresentation of my writing.

You're right--the following sentence is only "somewhat more literate" than the "pretty crappy review":

"mired in a struggle between the firepower and aggression that had come to define Lambert's image."

Of course, it's only "somewhat more literate" because it's only "somewhat" the sentence I wrote.

Lambert's struggle, as I argued in that review, was not between "firepower and aggression that had come to define Lambert’s image," as your quote would suggest (by the period), but between that "firepower and aggression[...]" and "abstract meanderings through a string of love and heartbreak ballads."

Go ahead and criticize my writing if you want, but do so on the merits of my writing--not by clipping parts of my reviews so that they better serve the point you're trying to make.

Jim Malec is right to an extent. Bushed though I was, I still should have included more of the sentence. I also should have noted that unlike "Blake," Malec doesn't say "The House That Built Me" is the only song on Revolution that Lambert didn't write. But the example at issue wasn't adduced to make any "point" about Malec's review. The reason I was quoting was to provide a taste of Malec's language and hence suggest that he and not "Blake" was the originator, which wasn't self-evident on the face of it, though it is now. In that regard I was especially taken with the active verb "mired," which was why I reproduced that snatch. In my view, however, both reviews are crappy. That's because both assume there's some irreconcilable gap between the anger of, for instance, "Gunpowder & Lead" and "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" and the regret of, for instance, "More Like Her" or even the somewhat livelier "Guilty in Here"--a contradiction Lambert makes thematic and powerful just because it's so extreme. It's also because Malec's review, while more graceful than its ripoff, is by no means devoid of tortured syntax--"then would-be peers" indeed.

Lest we become too smug: I recall being plagiarized -- thanks to Knight-Ridder wire -- by colleagues at Philly Inquirer and Chicago Trib. When I called the first to attention of columnist's editor, he said, "Oh, the guy is new -- I'll talk to him." When I called the second to the attention of the writer who had virtually lifted an entire column, tacked his byline on it, and appended "from Knight wire" to the bottom, he said, "Oh, that's standard practice here. I do it all the time, don't you?"

I'm really starting to dig women country musicians... the male ones can be so doltish and obvious. Except for Brad Paisley...

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