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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Cross Me Off Your List

Let me get something out of the way right away: I still do not care for Hawthorne Heights' music. It is still the epitome of the cheeseball mall emo that today's "kids" who "don't know any better" buy. That said, I'm totally behind them on their decision to leave the label that brought them to the masses: Victory Records.

Airing dirty laundry in public never really looks good, but in this case, there is some stuff that the public should know about. To be honest, a part of me is relieved that this dam has burst and the flooding has begun.

A few months back, on the eve of the release of HH's "highly-anticipated" new record, If Only You Were Lonely, there were some rather questionable acts suggested on trying to make the album debut at number one on the Billboard Top 200 album charts. A written manifesto circulated supposedly from the band about how important this placement was for rock music in general. Plus, there were some tactics suggested on how to prevent another major release that week (R&B artist Ne-Yo) from debuting at number one. Turns out the band denied such claims and said that Victory made the manifesto and signed it in the band's name. Word from Victory owner Tony Brummel was that the manifesto was a "joke," but the story broke into a few news outlets (namely, MTV News and Punknews.org) with a lot of skepticism. Something smelled really fishy.

If Only You Were Lonely did not debut at number one -- it debuted at number three, selling a reported 114,000 copies in its first week. Since then, the record has sold well, videos have received nice airplay and the band has played sell-out shows all over the place. Great success right? Well, according to the band, this whole experience has been very bittersweet. For us on-lookers, we're seeing something that could really shake things up with Victory's image with their current audience.

During the week the album came out, Kyle did a nice summary of the goings-on between the label and the band. I echo his sentiments about Victory, an independent label that is trying to take on the major labels by becoming a label that is worse than a major label. "These tactics and hype nullify Victory's indie-vs.-major battle," he wrote. "If an indie’s copying a major’s business aggression, the line between the two disappears. You can’t wave the indie flag, then tell your street teamers to hide CDs. Or proselytize about rock’s superiority to other music."

Why should I care about all this ugly stuff from a label that usually puts out crappy records by crappy bands and occasionally releases something great? Without going into too much detail, there is personal vindication of seeing a person be taken to task by people that have been abused possibly the most by him. Taking square aim at Brummel, Hawthorne Heights now joins a long line of former bands and label employees who have complaints about how he runs his business.

In a long statement on the band's website, here is probably the quote that gets me cheering for Hawthorne Heights:
You may be wondering, why now? Why did they wait three years before saying something? Why did they sound happy in that interview??? Like being in an abusive relationship, we let certain things slide as we were afraid, as many of the bands on Victory are, to stick our neck out for fear of being "beaten," in this case represented by the threat of not being promoted as has been the case with certain bands on the roster. We're done being abused. The reasons stated above represent the final straw in a huge pile of hay that broke our backs.

All this time that Hawthorne Heights has been putting out music, I've wondered how could guys my age write such flimsy mall emo songs and claim they're being serious. Well, despite that, I'm glad that they have their heads on straight and are taking action. Being in an abusive relationship is never good, but so many people stay in them as they know exactly where the abuse is coming from. The thought of being ripped to shreds by imaginary, but possible situations in their heads is way worse. This is something we all struggle with, so I'm pretty darn inspired by Hawthorne Heights' decision to put their foot down and move on.

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