Problem. By, Bob Lefsetz (

Posted on July 19, 2014 by


I’m sick and fucking tired of armchair quarterbacks e-mailing me what they think is a hit, adjudicating while knowing nothing. Want to know what’s a hit? ARIANA GRANDE’S PROBLEM!


That’s right, welcome to today, where you’ve got a bunch of pontificating blowhards angry the world doesn’t conform to their desires when the truth is they don’t want to spend or play, they just want to bitch!

So, you used to be addicted to the free format FM station. So, you used to watch MTV incessantly. I’ve got news for you, the world CHANGED! You’re no longer a teenager, you don’t spend all day in front of YouTube, you haven’t bought a concert ticket in eons unless it’s from Goldstar, and you say the best music is made by people in clubs that you don’t go to, even if there’s no cover charge.

It all comes down to money, people vote with their wallets. And today, time is also currency. Are you willing to watch the YouTube clip again and again? Because then the artist will get paid. The reason your fave is broke is because nobody is watching, nobody is streaming. Forget about sales, the revenue may be great per unit, but there’s no guarantee anybody listens, and not that many buy. But can you get tens of millions of people to stream on YouTube or Spotify? Do this and you’ll no longer bitch about dough. Ariana Grande is turning down opportunities every day while you’re crying in your beer.

She bought insurance, sure she had a hand in writing the song, but so did Max Martin, today’s number one songwriter, has been for eons. It’d be like you being produced by Mutt Lange, at least in his heyday, he could turn just about anybody into a worldwide superstar, like Shania Twain, without him she’s nothing, other than her rep, which he’s responsible for.

But Max Martin doesn’t want to work with you, because you don’t want to compromise and you don’t have a good voice and you don’t want to make hits, and today either you’re creating a hit or you’re shit. Yup, you can post it online, but that does not mean anybody is listening to it. You think you’re entitled to success, but you’re not, even if you once had a hit in rotation on the aforementioned MTV.

The problem is you’re not creating alternative hits, something with as many hooks as “Problem” which sounds different. You’ve got a lousy voice, it takes forever to get to the chorus, and no one ever needs to hear the song ever again.

Repeatability… If I don’t want to put your track on endless repeat, it’s a stiff. I don’t have enough time, I’ve got endless episodes of “Breaking Bad,” John Oliver and “Vice” to watch, do you really think I want to waste time with something that’s not superior?

I’m with you on one thing, “Problem” breaks no new ground, it’s somewhat disposable. But the truth is your brethren, the greedy boomer businessmen, helped make it so. They didn’t want to invest in the alternative, and as a result today’s younger generation knows not of what you speak. That’s right, they didn’t spend all night glued to their transistor listening to underground FM radio, bonding with the deejay, they’ve just been exposed to Ryan Seacrest, and they keep pushing NEXT, because they don’t want to waste any time and they’ve got incredible shit detectors.

So I hope it makes you feel good to sit at home and e-mail me that my taste sucks and you know best. But I’ve never heard of you, and I have heard of Ariana Grande, never mind Max Martin, because they make music that appeals to many, and you can’t. And you can only make bank by appealing to many, that’s why they call it broadcasting, that’s why they call it mass media.

Yup, this cut is formula, and even hearkens back to C&C Music Factory, never mind having the obligatory rapper. But at least it succeeds on its own level, it hits the target. Chris Martin may be a whipping boy, boy, but at least his music is pleasant to hear.

That’s what’s wrong with music, all the know-it-all naysayers. Who suddenly have a voice because of the Internet. Father might know best, but not about music. Music is a living, breathing thing, it keeps changing, and mutating. I guarantee you four years from now what’s on the hit parade won’t sound like “Problem,” but will it be comprised of what you produce, of your favorites, unlikely, because you don’t know what’s a hit. And it’s all about hits, never forget that.

Yes had “Roundabout.”

Led Zeppelin had “Whole Lotta Love.”

James Taylor had “You’ve Got A Friend.”

Sure, the rest of their albums had mellifluous, challenging cuts, but they hooked everybody with their hits. There’s got to be an entry point. You keep bitching about the Eagles, but I’d like to see you burst on the scene with a song as enrapturing as “Take It Easy,” but Henley, et al, are whipping boys because they figured out the game and played it at a professional level.

But you’re an amateur.

I hope you’re satisfied with your highfalutin, worthless opinions, because that’s all you’ve got!

P.S. Come on, do you even get the reference to “99 Problems”? I’m sure our President does, but he’s probably hipper than you, he knows to ignore the naysayers, whose only goal is to tear others down and put themselves in power.

P.P.S. You may think the clip only has 77,000,000 views, but the truth is the lyric video has another 52,000,000. And you’ve got 1,300 or 13,000 and wondering why you’re not rich, HA!

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