MINDCOLON

why yes, I am to blame for this.

why yes, I am to blame for this.

So The Room is getting old, what the new thing?

I’m leaning towards Body of Evidence. Though no one can live up to Tommy Wiseau, the acting’s about as bad, and the sex scenes - though between far more attractive people - are EVEN MORE AWKWARD. Madonna dripping hot candle wax onto Willem Dafoe’s chest, anyone? Plus, awesome defenestration twist ending.

One of the best scenes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duBFQkZYGbM

Play

Ask me anything!

And I don’t use the word fierce very often, only when it needs to be used, like Nicki Minaj. She is fierce, oh and also she went to LaGuardia. REPRESENT. I buy every song she raps in and fast forward it to her part…

Lourdes Leon on Nicki Minaj - too much concentrated amazing in one place.

Me Against Myself

Jay Sean - Me Against Myself


Lately, I’ve been listening to, and thinking about pop music a lot - and with it, the fact that so few pop artists start out great. As much as I love the latest albums by, say, Fall Out Boy and Rihanna, there’s much more to pop than melody - I can barely listen to their early output simply because it’s bereft of the artistry that makes them great. There’s no better argument for the organic nature of pop than the fact that even the Beatles had to grow into their genius.


Though hating on Justin Bieber is now so cool as to be meaningless, I can see in him the roots of something deeper. He’s objectively talented - and though I have no love for the marketing-over-talent Baby etc., I’ll gladly say “I told you so” to the kneejerk masses in a few years’ time.


Which brings me to Jay Sean, one of the least likeable - least anything - popstars in recent memory. The sappy, contrived Down resembles Chris Brown with a lobotomy - in its inescapable transatlantic crossover success, Cash Money seem to have sold the pure idea of the sensitive, romantic man as reassurance to the masses; romantic cliché served on a cafeteria platter, with nothing of the little, personal details that truly make us fall in love with another person.


Then I heard Me Against Myself - and I’ve honestly never been more shocked by an artist’s prior talent in my entire life.


Me Against Myself, the title track of Jay Sean’s fairly underground 2004 debut, has a concept to make Eminem jealous - a 3-minute, no-chorus battle between his rapper and singer personas. His raw talent and personality is stunning - the rapping in his native British accent as nimble as any 21st-century rapper, his R&B singing as melodic and nuanced as Justin Timberlake. But the lyrics, hilarious throughout, are even more unique - the (other-)self-deprecating rapper hurls every possible criticism, whilst the singer confidently articulates the difficulty of walking the line between his ambitions for fame and artistic integrity. It’s an internal dialogue many artists go through - but airing it in public is both fascinating and brave, and a powerful defense against accusations of selling out.


He presents part of Me Against Myself at the end of his video for Eyes on You, from 3:17 onwards, depicting the singer as the clear winner, with the audience’s (metaphor for the public’s?) support. But that’s problematic - in the full song, the singer’s short final response feels like an afterthought, and with the benefit of hindsight, it’s the rapper who has the greater attitude and charisma. The singer’s defense is reasonable, but it doesn’t even apply to post-Down Jay Sean, his personality so sanded-down he’s ditched his British accent in favour of sounding like an emasculated, auto-tuned puppy. Even his skin colour’s lighter - and yes, back then he’d marketed himself as a distinctly Indian popstar in the British/Asian markets, but really?!


For the most part, I think the concept of “selling out” is a rockist-perpetuated myth - even in questionable cases like Metallica and Weezer, their commerciality stemmed from artistic choice, and good music did come of it. But Jay Sean may be the single purest, most contrived example of commercial desperation I’ve ever seen.


So pure vocal talent may not be a prerequisite for good pop music, but for the aspiring popstar, nothing is more important than personality. Jay Sean merely has a target market without a unique marketing angle. Maybe he’s trying to establish a commercial presence before revealing his abilities - but why play dumb in a world that wants Lady Gaga-sized ambition? In fact, Me Against Myself is a better song than anything Lady Gaga wrote prior to 2009!


The signs don’t look good. 2012 (It Ain’t the End), the first single from his upcoming album Freeze Time, is more of the same generic sound that’ll date well before the year arrives, and, unlike the future/present/past-tense swap Prince’s classic 1999 has undergone, its concept is about as enduring as Y2K Bug (It Ain’t the End). Nicki Minaj demolishes him in her usual effortless style, but it’s not true proof of her overwhelming talent - knowing what Jay Sean’s capable of, it’s outright depressing.


By oversizing her personality, Nicki Minaj’s developed the strongest of cult followings. Even if she doesn’t have a Bad Romance-sized event song to indicate her popstar ascendancy, her debut Pink Friday is guaranteed to hit #1 in November, and (hopefully) establish her for years to come.


By downplaying his personality, Jay Sean’s had the most successful song in the U.S. by a British male since Elton John’s Candle in the Wind 1997, spending two weeks at #1. Comparatively, his 2009 album All or Nothing peaked at a mere #37 on the Billboard 200. His problem’s obvious - really, who gives enough of a shit to buy an album by someone as talentless and indistinguishable as Jay Sean?


My necessarily over-the-top plea to Jay Sean (and really, anyone who wants to make it big) is this: A few of us may know the truth about you as a person, but what’s no longer on display may as well not exist. So great, you have a platform for now - use it for good. Three minutes can change the whole world’s opinion of you into respect - it changed mine. If you really have had a lobotomy, let us know! Otherwise, I ask, for your benefit as much as everyone else’s: will the real Jay Sean please stand up? We know you’re in there somewhere.

Non-existent outrage - Sesame Street cancels Katy Perry

Well, Katy Perry fans, you will not be seeing her duet with Elmo on Sesame Street.

Perry recorded a parody version of her song “Hot N Cold” and made a video with Elmo, but Sesame Workshop decided not to air the video on the show after its presence on YouTube sparked complaints from commenters who thought it was too risque — apparently, based on the visible YouTube comments, because it contains too much cleavage…

I made such a remark (something more insightful than “lol bewbs”, thank you very much) on the YouTube video myself, and initially it was clear the majority of us were joking… no doubt some were serious, but this might be a case of a perceived “moral panic” when there really is none.

And the truth is, there’s no grounds for talk of supposed “immorality”, either. There’s simply no way kids would perceive any sexual themes in such a costume (which really DOES resemble how an 8-year-old would play dress-up, after all), in the same way that they’d make nothing of the song’s original lyric “you PMS like a b****”. But they changed that, and I guess it’s just an extension of playing it safe that they’re changing the video too.

SUPER IRONY - my comment on the NPR website was originally rejected because I directly quoted a song with swearing! How offensive!!!!

'90s critical revisionism, and my take via Tori Amos, part 2:

barthel:

richaod:

But speaking of revisionism: ’90s Tori Amos. I think you once labelled her lyrics “obviously embarrassing” in passing, and I didn’t respond then - but I consider her a truly visionary artist, as many people evidently did, or still do. Emblematically of her apparent whitewashing from history, Pitchfork originally ranked Little Earthquakes as the eighth-best album of the 1990s, but when they revised the list a few years later, it was left off entirely. So maybe the listmaking process is democratic, and the site’s staff/aesthetic changed, but surely good music is inherent?

I think it’s fair to say that dealing with uncomfortable emotions with brutal, unsentimental honesty, utterly devoid of self-pity, isn’t cheesy. Nor is externalising it exhibitionist if it resonates artistically. But it is difficult. Yet arguably no group of fans in all music have been as broadly, profoundly emotionally affected by an artist’s work as we “Toriphiles”; certain fans’ ongoing willingness to follow her on entire tours attests to that. So I’m not calling anyone out personally, and the quote was hardly intended as definitive, but to call Tori Amos “obviously embarrassing” feels a little insulting when many identify so strongly with her - not because I or anyone else is necessarily a victim in need of therapy, but because to us, she just about represents pure empathy in music. And it’s nowhere near a Celine Dion-esque critically reviled, “for the fans” situation - just where has all that goodwill gone?

If, whether or not it’s embarrassing music, we’re not really embarrassing as people, I’d also like to think musical taste, especially indie/”cool” status, doesn’t exist as a superiority complex. Not over other people, nor the aesthetics with which they may identify.

When helping me revise my pieces, Rachel will often say, “remember, other people don’t know what’s in your head.”  This is one of those times.  I say that about Tori lyrics with the greatest affection, because I used to be a huge Tori fan myself, right up through whatever that double live album thing was.  Live shows, meet-and-greets, the whole bit.  I just threw out my two boxes of cassette bootlegs when I moved to the west coast.  It’s like that.

So while I do think Tori Amos lyrics are obviously embarrassing - they’re overwrought and meaningless and badly in need of editing - I’m not sure quite where that impulse comes from, nor do I intend it to imply that Tori’s music is worthless or embarrassing.  (I did a post some years ago about how to produce a good Tori Amos album, FWIW.)  I still like it, I think.  I mean, my explanation for why she’s lost so much respect is essentially that she kept making music, and that music kinda sucked, but I know others disagree.  I think the biggest problem with post-Pele Tori is that she just started pandering to her fans, and given the kind of grating ideas her fans have about her (fairies and religion and vaginas and etc.), I don’t think that was very good for her artistically.  But do I just think that because I myself am embarrassed about having liked Tori Amos so much?  Is all of it embarrassing, or is none of it embarrassing?  It’s almost impossible for me to say, having been so wrapped up in it.  I can say that my actions as a Tori fan were somewhat objectively embarrassing, and no, I’m not going to get more into it than that.  For me, I just listened to so much Tori that I started being too aware of her tics and stopped being able to differentiate.  It was a problem of volume, and lack of variation.

Anyway, all that said, musical taste is nothing if not a superiority complex!  It’s just democratic in that everyone thinks their musical taste is the best, so it all kinda works out in the end.

On a personal level, point taken. I guess was assuming that quip about her lyrics was a broader indictment of her sentiments/sincerity in general… but I’m convinced at least someone feels that way.

In response to lex: okay, so I was two when Little Earthquakes came out, but I’m sure all those Rolling Stone and Q covers amounted to something! Maybe the negative reviewers don’t even care enough to have published their pieces online. Hmm.

from the choirgirl hotel may also be my favourite album of hers - coming out around the same time as the likes of Homogenic, OK Computer, Ray of Light, Mezzanine etc., it holds up at least as well, and it’s certainly more accessible than Boys for Pele.

Fundamentally, I have nothing against the championing of records like Kid A or Grace (which I always thought of as a male Little Earthquakes) - merely that she’s not even up for consideration as part of that canon. In the present environment, if someone like Joanna Newsom - who’s considerably more off with the fairies, full of vocal tics and incapable of self-editing than Tori ever was - can be a critical darling, what stands in the way of a Tori Amos reevaluation? If it’s not “cool”, I have no idea.

'90s critical revisionism, and my take via Tori Amos:

The “top videos of the 90s” list that’s up at Pitchfork right now is interesting in that it’s not the usual decade-retrospective staff list voted on by all the writers - which implies an expression of critical consensus - but the singular creation of Scott Plagenhoef, and he uses the opportunity to advance a particular critical argument of the 90s as a precursor to the new sincerity of today’s indie culture. I like this, but it also reminded me of the piece I wrote for Idolator called “On Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’ and 90s Revisionism.” Though Scott uses the word “irony” in the intro, it appears nowhere else in the piece, despite being such a strong presence in the contemporaneous critical discussion of that decade. And that seems problematic to me…

Funny, maybe I’m just behind the times, but my impression was always that indie defined itself by that Stephin Merritt “catharsis in art is always embarrassing” quote - unless tempered with a dash of self-aware embarrassment a la Pinkerton/Morrissey… or if it’s more musically expansive, it falls on the somewhat arbitrarily determined side of “cool” (Springsteen, Arcade Fire yes; U2, Muse, most metal no).

But speaking of revisionism: ’90s Tori Amos. I think you once labelled her lyrics "obviously embarrassing" in passing, and I didn’t respond then - but I consider her a truly visionary artist, as many people evidently did, or still do. Emblematically of her apparent whitewashing from history, Pitchfork originally ranked Little Earthquakes as the eighth-best album of the 1990s, but when they revised the list a few years later, it was left off entirely. So maybe the listmaking process is democratic, and the site’s staff/aesthetic changed, but surely good music is inherent?

I suspect that of all the acclaimed artists of that decade, she’s been dealt the roughest hand in retrospect, for a variety of reasons. Though thank god the “yes, she also has a vagina” Kate Bush comparisons have largely worn off, instead of claiming Kate’s “genius” mantle as she may or may not deserve, she’s been lumped in unfairly with the Lilith Fair crowd “off with the fairies”/group therapy stereotypes. The divisive quality of her recent output certainly can’t account for the diminished esteem - hell, you can’t shut people up about Weezer, and they only had two great albums.

Failing a wide-scale reevaluation of her work, I’d at least like to know why this is… Not to speak for any of her detractors, but part of me suspects it’s part of the continuing lazy, sexist dismissals of “weird” female musicians, combined with that indie sense of cool, which Bjork’s attained whilst being at least as supposedly weird and/or lyrically inscrutable. And Courtney Love may have it worse for being both more outspoken and more visibly in decline, but Hole are still admired, and hey, at least the establishment pays attention when she puts out new records!

I think it’s fair to say that dealing with uncomfortable emotions with brutal, unsentimental honesty, utterly devoid of self-pity, isn’t cheesy. Nor is externalising it exhibitionist if it resonates artistically. But it is difficult. Yet arguably no group of fans in all music have been as broadly, profoundly emotionally affected by an artist’s work as we “Toriphiles”; certain fans’ ongoing willingness to follow her on entire tours attests to that. So I’m not calling anyone out personally, and the quote was hardly intended as definitive, but to call Tori Amos “obviously embarrassing” feels a little insulting when many identify so strongly with her - not because I or anyone else is necessarily a victim in need of therapy, but because to us, she just about represents pure empathy in music. And it’s nowhere near a Celine Dion-esque critically reviled, “for the fans” situation - just where has all that goodwill gone?

If, whether or not it’s embarrassing music, we’re not really embarrassing as people, I’d also like to think musical taste, especially indie/”cool” status, doesn’t exist as a superiority complex. Not over other people, nor the aesthetics with which they may identify.

end rant. I really hope I don’t sound like I’m accusing anyone of anything. Related: I need to reread Carl Wilson’s examination of Let’s Talk About Love.

Why are people shocked that producers have signature sounds?

maura:

Today a video that sets out to “prove” that Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” and Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” and Miley Cyrus’ “Permanent December” are “the same song” made the rounds, and as you can imagine, it got a lot of pickup from people who like getting all OMG [INSERT LOATHED ARTIST HERE] IS SUCH A RIPOFF SUCK ARTIST. What I don’t get is why the rhetoric surrounding the video has turned into a matter of artistic intent of the three singers, instead of a look at the similarities behind the scenes. To wit:

“Tik Tok” is credited to Kesha “Ke$ha” Sebert, Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, and Benjamin “Benny Blanco” Levin.

“Calfornia Gurls” is credited to Katy “Ugh” Perry, Bonnie “Hey Guys I Was In ‘The Long Tail’” McKee, Calvin “Snoop Dogg” Broadus, Max Martin, and Dr. Luke.

“Permanent December” is credited to Miley Cyrus, John Shanks, and Claude Kelly. Kelly co-wrote Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You” with Max and Luke, Britney Spears’ “Circus” with Luke and Benny, Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” with Luke and Jessica Cornish, and Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment” with Dr. Luke. Obviously I’m not privy to how exactly those credits break down, but you do see a pattern here. Shanks has writing credits on, among other songs, Hilary Duff’s “Come Clean” (with Kara DioGuardi!!), a bunch of songs from Ashlee Simpson’s Autobiography, and some of the non-singles from Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway.*

So, to sum up: People who worked together have aesthetics that have rubbed off on one another. I mean, ugh, I know it’s the Internet, and OMG CONTROVERSY is the name of the pageview-goosing game. And it’s not like there are Dr. Luke fangirls clogging up ONTD and big-upping their hero and his protégés and collaborators 24/7. But Jesus, people. If you want to bitch about songs on the radio sounding the same, maybe scratch the surface as far as Wikipedia and figure out why?

(via bwall05)

In my experience, no non-music nerd/critic has EVER looked up a pop songwriting credit. Not people who are big enough fans to see the live show, nor the rockists who use “but she doesn’t write her own songs!… does she?” as a criticism they’re never quite sure is true. How the likes of ’80s Kylie Minogue and Rick Astley can sound exactly the same seems to be a mystery with no answer.

With that said, having always felt Max Martin/Dr. Luke were the definition of hacks, I laughed very hard the first time I heard California Gurls… and yet I can’t complain that they’d effectively just made Tik Tok listenable.

thevidsarealright:

Madonna - Vogue.

I never attended ballet lessons as a kid. I was the only girl in my class who’d never worn a tutu. I had never been instructed in the art of gracefully pointing your feet in opposite directions. I could do all that perfectly well without wearing anything pink, thank you very much, and so I stuck to twirling round on the smooth lino surface in the kitchen while watching the telly, pointing my leg out straight to touch the back of the chair. It never felt girly or feminine. I just liked how it felt when I balanced my weight in different ways, knowing and testing my own strength, my young muscles easily dealing with the problems a weaker power-to-weight ratio would incur later in life. If you’d asked me then if I wanted to be a ballerina, I would have made a vomiting noise at you.

Watching the smooth, clean flourishes that Madonna and her backing dancers execute in “Vogue”, it’s easy to pinpoint the flexibility and discipline Madonna gained through years of ballet training. There’s an element of OCD about the neat lines and super-slick quiffs on display, total control over both their bodies and their environment, making sure that nothing detracts from the glamour of the subjects. Before the stars arrive, a maid tidies up a jacket from a chair, one butler adjusts a pedestal to be parallel to the window and another flicks away a speck of dust from a bannister. Everything has to be perfectly arranged so that Madonna and her immaculate dancers can project the illusion of effortlessness: lounging around, draping themselves on the furniture, looking cool.

A large amount of screen time is spent close up on Madonna’s face, usually surrounded by fluttering hands miming a luxury massage — or fanning her as if mimicking the big Cleopatra fronds that open and close the video. She gazes into the distance wondering where Cary Grant’s got to, inhabiting the same positions and expressions that Hepburn or Harlow did 50 years previously, looking up to the heavens in case Marilyn’s up there ready to give out some tips, knowing she’ll up there in the pantheon herself soon. There’s a little bit of snobbiness there too, the Hollywood arrogance that demands its own trailer and the best lines in the script. Everyone in this video holds their heads up high with minimal eye contact (with the viewer or each other), aspiring to greater things than mere mortals can achieve.

When I use the word ‘vogueing’, I am usually thinking of the bit during the second chorus between 2.30 and 2.47, where the three male dancers go it alone. At first it seems strange to me that Madonna herself doesn’t feature in the most memorable part of her most memorable video, but of course these guys are where she got the idea in the first place and they deserve their turn in the spotlight. They’re clearly not making up the moves off the top of their heads but this section seems more organic than Madonna’s own formal attempt in the first chorus. No, ‘organic’ is not quite the right word - perhaps a better description might be that each dancer has been given their own ‘motivation’, and they’ve been left to improvise the dialogue between themselves. Compare it to a mass-participation dance routine like Britney’s “Baby One More Time”, where the entire braindead classroom does exactly what it’s told (with perhaps an extra credit backflip for Britney at the end). This seventeen second stretch is just as rigorous as Britney’s exercise yard workout, but here the three guys are doing their own thing, coming from all directions. Yet instead of trying to outdo each other like peacocks impressing potential mates, they work as a team, magically combining their different complex elements to make a sum more impressive than its parts (NB: the first episode of Captain Planet was screened a few months after “Vogue“‘s release - coincidence? I think not).

All this starched snooty posing may be iconic and memorable, but its real rewards come from its contrast to the massive release at the climax of “so get up on the DANCE FLOOR!”, all the aloofness dissolving into pure hedonism. Madge and her mate start jacking away like the Reynolds Girls, her hair falling into her face, fancy evening dress ditched for a sharp suit. Brimming with passion and energy, Madge can relax and enjoy herself, knowing that the hours of hard work and dedication she’s put in will produce something awe-inspiring yet still inch-perfect. Even when she’s not dancing she radiates out self-confidence: her eyes half-closed, letting the head-rush wash over her, absolutely comfortable in her own skin, smiling and smooching at the camera. Her drive has finally made her a superstar, ready to be tacked onto the end of the list of her idols. The beautiful people who were standing around posing at the beginning of the night have finally been caught up in the magic, too. They’ve let their hair down and are making Marcel waves on the dancefloor, letting instinct take over.

If Fred and Ginger had popped a few pills in 1990 I’m sure they’d have been the most graceful and stylish ravers in history. But I was eight years old, so I just twirled around in my socks on the slippery kitchen floor and struck a pose. So much better than bloody ballet.

I came to my (slightly similar) own conclusions a while back, but this is excellent. Well worth reading!

...and Ann Powers, also on Teenage Dream.

"Whatever person exists beneath Perry’s wigs and costumes is irrelevant to her music. Her process of self-creation is the purpose and sum of her art.

It’s enough to millions of listeners — especially young women — because this kind of constructed self has been a feminine reality since long before Peggy Olson started hawking Pond’s cold cream. “Put your hands on me in my skintight jeans,” Perry murmurs to a paramour in the title track, but it’s the clothing that matters more than the chance to get naked.”

Ann Powers, who I also dearly love, with a considerably more positive (but equally well-written) take. On the other hand, she did like Ke$ha’s ‘Animal’. Great, now I may actually have to swallow my Max Martin/Dr. Luke gag reflex and make up my own mind.