Tuesday, November 30, 2004

This is going to be so very insular. Look away. It's hideous... (but do note the second post script - we'll probably expand on that later)...

My co-worker, Mr. Nestruck, is currently embroiled in a rather nasty little spat over something Warren Kinsella said about another of our colleagues, Mr. Cosh. For the record, we side with the law firm of Nestruck & Cosh, but not at all because of any Kool-Aid consumption.

Anyway. What we really want to talk about is a throw away comment Warren made about U2 in response to a comment made by a former colleague of ours, Mr. Wells.

In reviewing the Pixies recent show in Mississauga (see reviews, er, everywhere else but here), Warren remarked:

Paul Wells recent post about U2's new album sounded defensive and self-conscious, to me. U2 are boring old farts, and so is Wells for liking them. They aren't fit to work on the Pixies' merch table. Paul, however, would be a heck of a roadie. For the backing band.

We'll let Mr. Wells defend himself. But we would like to point out that U2 are at least twice the band the Pixies ever were.

This is not to disparage Frank Black and his band in the slightest. We're sure they were very influential. Or something. But they are another in a long history of idealized could-have/should-have-beens - the short-lived, under-appreciated, famously name-dropped and ultimately over-romanticized. It's the weakest song in the book. And yet, here we are listening to it again (even if we'd much rather have had a few more years of the original - a second Kennedy term a lot better than some gratuitous video game, right?).

And, by the way, Frank Black is as boring an old fart as they come. So much so in fact that all ye Pixies fanatics haven't bothered with his solo work (see Alex Abramovich in Slate some months back). Oh how quickly we forget these things when he gets the old band back together and promises to play the hits (no more snickering at those who still get excited about Rolling Stones concerts now).

U2 simply had the gall to keep making records (always a bad idea). And good ones. Good enough that real people actually wanted to listen to them. Good enough that when they put on the Zooropa tour they were able to offer an opening spot to a little band called the Pixies.

It's not 1990 all over again. If it were you'd be cringing at the prospect that 14 years later your vaunted heroes of alt. rock (if they get credit for Nirvana, they also get blamed for Nickelback, mind you) would be fat and bald and playing the hits for a bunch of nostalgic hipsters, many of whom didn't bother with the band the first time around.

P.S. Sorry. We're just really bored with the Pixies fetish.
P.P.S. To be honest. Right now, we'll take Baby Mama over both. We don't think it's satirical. But the possibility blows our mind.
P.P.P.S. How U2's new record can solve the NHL's labour crisis - song-by-song.

Monday, November 29, 2004

SFJ on Eminem:
Eminem’s mode is the childishly profane, the comically exaggerated—he’s more Benny Hill than Lenny Bruce. But on “Encore” he sounds like neither; he’s buried too deep inside his own problems to see the audience. It’s time for Eminem to look for subjects outside his head. And leave the family alone.

Carl Wilson on nearly everything else:
What Bugs digs most is his depiction as a modernist trickster, in the line of jesters and "wascals" going back to the African hare deity who quick-changed into America's Br'er Rabbit. A society invents tricksters to undermine its own rules, so it can move on, says Leland, bringing up Bob Dylan, Miles Davis and Richard Pryor.

And now there's hip-hop, with its roots in the rhyming-insult showdowns known as "signifying," after a trickster type called the Signifying Monkey. No wonder Eminem's 8 Mile character was named Rabbit, Bugs thinks. ("Note to self: Could I mebbe make a buck off that?")

Haven't yet read Wilson's column for the requisite second time.

As for Eminem looking to subjects outside his head. Agreed. Entirely. But what of the fact that after proving that point himself he sticks a gun inside that head and proceeds to splatter its contents all over the place? Seems to us (*WARNING: Wishful Thinking Ahead*) that maybe that means he agrees with Sasha and everyone else who has called this record for what it is (psst... "not good").

Just a theory. One we've already beaten you over the head with.
White Willow
Kelefa Sanneh on Lil Jon and the crunk takeover.

There's a case to be made that while the Blues have won the culture war, the two most significant — and hedonistic/celebratory/unapologetic — developments in music for 2004 came from the Reds. Namely, Crunk and the Muzik Mafia. Probably means something. Or maybe not.
'Play Something Sad'
In another of those "music happening upon the real world" stories, a Palestinian violinist now finds himself in the middle of great soul-searching after being ordered by Jewish soliders to perform at a checkpoint. Reports The Guardian:

The violinist, Wissam Tayem, was on his way to a music lesson near Nablus when he said an Israeli officer ordered him to "play something sad" while soldiers made fun of him. After several minutes, he was told he could pass.

It may be that the soldiers wanted Mr Tayem to prove he was indeed a musician walking to a lesson because, as a man under 30, he would not normally have been permitted through the checkpoint.

But after the incident was videotaped by Jewish women peace activists, it prompted revulsion among Israelis not normally perturbed about the treatment of Arabs.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Chips Ahoy!
Ah sweet victory. With the Ukranian parliament declaring the recent election invalid, native pop star Ruslana Lezhychko, winner of this year's Eurovision contest, no longer sees any reason she should go hungry. At least for now.

"I have ended the hunger strike, because I see positive developments," the 26-year-old singer told the Welt am Sonntag. "As soon as the situation comes to a head again, I will immediately resume the hunger strike and only drink tea and water."

Official Ruslana website here (She's the Eastern European Shakira!).
Download the Eurovision-winning Wild Dance here (thanks to this guy).
And some archived Eurovision coverage from Weisblogg here.
It's Thanksgiving! (At least down south.) And that can only mean three things: football, cranberry sauce in a can... and pop stars giving away turkeys to the less forunate! This year's honour role includes:

Joe Budden, Mariah Carey (photos), Jennifer Love Hewitt (photos), Ted Nugent (opting for American soldiers), James Brown, Cam'Ron, Cash Money Crew and Steven Tyler

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Weekend Reading
Martin Samuel on Kylie
Clive Davis on Johnny Mercer
Peter Paphides on bad songs
J.D. Considine on the Pixies
David Stubbs on real jobs for rock stars
Alexis Petridis on Girls Aloud
Steve Morse on U2
Jim DeRogatis on Secret Machines
Ashante Infantry on Millie Jackson
Tom Jones is the Pavarotti of Viagra
NYT: The year in Christmas albums
Nirvana in a box: It's the voice
The life and times of Studs Terkel
Jem: Still not as cool as the cartoon
Korn: Free agents moving forward
Snow Patrol: No need to rush
Beta Band: The last stand
Gerald Finley: The Canadian who wants to do it all
Yuri Lane: From Tel Aviv to Ramallah
Regina Belle is silky; Jane Monheit is sultry
London school children demand Floyd royalties
The anti-gay reggae debate continues in Britain
Britons buy lots of records
Women love George Michael too much (and steal his loo paper)
Hilary Duff and Joel Madden no lovey

Friday, November 26, 2004

They're Just Like Us
Second best Scott Weiland quote of the week. This time from an interview with Entertainment Weekly, in response to the thought-provoking query, "What did you do today?"

"I did the same thing I usually do, which is just about nothing. Sit in my room... masturbate occassionally..."

Scott Weiland so detests the rock star cliche and blames it for everything. And yet he seems to embody it with every wasted word. It's all very meta. Or lame. We sometimes confuse those two.
It Ain't All Mustard Sandwiches
Just so we're clear, the early years of Eileen Twain weren't the romantic rags-to-riches tale we media jerks have been spinning. To wit:

Twain says that being yanked out of bed to perform in local clubs may sound nostalgic, but she "didn't always want to do it. I didn't want to come in these smoky clubs with all these drunks in the middle of the night when I had school the next day. I didn't want to do that."

And she lifted the first name off some poor unsuspecting woman from Huntsville.

"I guess maybe the Eileen Twain didn't flow as well so there was a girl I was working with at a show in Huntsville, Ontario ... her name was Shania. She was from an Ojibwe background and my father was Ojibwe and so, I just thought the association just so uncanny."

Indeed. Full interview on CTV or something at some point in the near future or whatever.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

You Say You Want A Revolution...
Further proof that North American pop stars are weak and unworthy from Ukraine, where pop star Ruslana Lezhychko (we have all her records) has vowed to go without food "until justice is restored." Eat it, Bruce Springsteen. Or, rather, don't, ah, eat it.

Ahem. To wit:

Ruslana, 26, is Ukraine's mega star who won the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest in Turkey with the song Wild Dances.

The song was inspired by the folk music and dances of highlanders in the western Carpathian Mountains. The album went platinum in Ukraine selling more than 170,000 copies.

Shortly after her Eurovision victory, Ukraine's Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych appointed Ruslana his special adviser for cultural affairs. She never accepted the position.

(In vaguely related news, Canada's rock stars got together recently to sing about Copyright reform.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

An Old-Style Moralist
Scott Weiland explaining why Velvet Revolver were an hour and 25 minutes late taking to the stage last night in Toronto (as reported by The Sun):

"The U.S. customs held up our equipment at the fucking border because of who we are and what we are about! That is fucking persecution! That doesn't have anything to do with the Canadians, that has everything to do with America today!"
Wake And Bake
So was everyone else up at seven this morning to go on television and refute Ben Rayner's poo-pooing of the U2? No? Just us then?

Well you should have been there. Actually, no, you should have been sleeping. We all should have been.

We're quite enjoying the disc. Though we suppose that much is already
obvious. Thing is, we actually don't disagree with Rayner all that much. Go figure.

Anyway. We got the new Fantasia yesterday and Gwen's greatness this morning, so our ADD should be flaring up shortly.

(Stereogum and Alex Ross on U2's yesterday in NYC.)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Weekend Reading
Montreal's painful past yields to burst of creativity
Come to Canada for the Corey Hart
Avoid Canada on account of the Our Lady Peace
Ben Rayner: Nirvana in a box
Jim DeRogatis: Happiness in a Velvet Revolver
Robert Everett-Green on the Pixies and Hayden
Carl Wilson takes on the tastemakers
Frank Rich: The casualties of Bono's booboo
NYT Playlist: The answer is mono
Robert Downey Jr. is the cooler John Mayer
Diana Ross delivers
k.d. lang and credibility
The 10 greatest rock t-shirts
The post-election REM
Beyonce makes people cry
The gender politics of Band Aid
The Nirvana box sheds new light (also here)
Is Bob Geldof still angry?
Does sex still sell?
Nas: Complicated man
A visual history of Oasis
The Manic Street Preachers' failure to inspire bands as smart as them
Dave Eggers on smart rock
Reggae = AIDS
The rock n' roll dad
U2's bid for biggest band status
And Gwen Stefani goes mega: here, here, here, here and here
(But who are the Harajuku girls?)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Beers Are For Drinking
It is, of course, pure coincidence that aspiring rap star Ron Artest was tonight at the centre of the quite possibly the ugliest moment in the history of North American professional sports. But you can bet that in the days to come it won't be seen as such.

Here is the Detroit Free Press' first write through (the reporter's name: Perry Farrell?!). Expect them to lead the rest of the pack for at least the first few days, though the Detroit News has a better first story here. The News even gets comment from the first person Artest punched:

"I have no idea. He was on top of me, pummeling me and he said, 'Did you do it? Did you do it?' And I said, 'No, man, no.' He kind of shoved me and went off on other people."

Scary stuff. And rather sad.

Update I... 2:36am EST...
The Detroit News reporters blog the melee here.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Next On Dr. Phil
The PopWherry staff is seriously considering whether to award Album of the Year honours upon U2's How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. Anybody want to talk us down off this ledge?
The MTV Europe Awards Are Horseshit
No seriously.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Don't Do What They Tell Ya
Not one, but two columns this week. Eminem looking ahead. And Ol Dirty Bastard looking back.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

It wasn't Suge Knight. It was Young Buck in the airport hangar with the knife. Or so says the Santa Monica Police Department.
How's My Driving?
While we continue consider optioning our life story to P.T. Anderson (see below), we pause to investigate how Avril Lavigne is faring in that former British colony to our south.

The Philadelphia Inquirer calls her a "modern-day pioneer for Canada." While the folks at Knight Ridder seem to like her. Say they (or, rather, one of their writers) about speaking with Napanee's favourite high school dropout: "It's kind of like talking to a really centered Girl Scout who would like you to buy one more box of Thin Mints, but understands it's not the end of the world if you don't."

Ahhh. How precious.

Unfortunately, this reviewer in Las Vegas has no taste for Thin Mints and see's only the end of the world in Lavigne's made-up eyes. To wit:

The problem with Let Go--and even more so with the follow-up, Under My Skin--is that it's about as exciting as, well, Canada. On top of that, there's the quagmire of Lavigne's image, which is a hopeless muddle of of pop-star gloss and punk grit. Perhaps this is the natural consequence of polished punk bands like Yellowcard and Simple Plan, but the hypocrisy of pop-punk reaches a glass-breaking crescendo with Lavigne... There's little doubt that the debate about "authentic" punk rebellion began and ended (badly) with the Sex Pistols, but to suggest that the singer of "Complicated" could ever represent a radical ethos--unless, of course, she cut herself with a broken bottle on stage--is to turn punk into the musical equivalent of Ralph Nader.

Avril Lavigne = Ralph Nader? We always thought it was Avril Lavigne = A better packaged Pat Boone. But whatevs.

In other news:
Nellie McKay admits to faking Estonian heritage (someone call the Buffalo News)
And it's "Mc-High" please and thank you
Arcade Fire and the Hidden Cameras take Beantown
Dick Clark defends Ashlee Simpson
Canadian lawyer turns litigation into musical inspiration

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Someone with one of them dream dictionaries explain this one to us...
So we're coming home from work. The bus driver and another passenger are talking passionately about God. And Bob Marley. Coincidentally, we're reading an Esquire story about Ricky Williams. And God. And Bob Marley.

At this point we decide that Bono is like the white, Irish Bob Marley. Only we're all too cynical to appreciate his particular wonderfulness.

We get off the bus, get on the subway and continue reading Esquire. We arrive at our stop, get out and begin walking home, with a stop at 7-11 to buy some chocolate milk and fruit juice.

At the counter, we're paying for our beverages when a man saddles up next to us and says, "Here's a nice looking young man." We smile. Then he says, "Look at this face. This is the last time you will see me. I just lost my wife of 32 years. Tonight I will die."

Speechless, we leave the 7-11 and walk to our apartment building. Upon arrival at our living quarters we open the door and see the day's mail includes but one letter - addressed to someone who actually lives down the hall it is from some ministry and the envelope reads "BE STILL and know that I AM GOD."

OK. So now. What if we said that all really just happened to us?
And Away We Go
"It was pure panic. I never saw anything like it... Russell Simmons ran out of here crying."

ODB is dead. And it's all going to shit. Again. As the Vibe Awards experience something of a disruption.

So let's piece this together.

MTV says Suge Knight took to the stage and yelled, "Fuck the G-Unit." The New York Post reports that while Snoop and Quincy Jones were preparing to present Dr. Dre with a lifetime achievement award, someone from Suge's entourage went after Dre with a knife. He was apparently intercepted by members of G-Unit. At some point, someone got stabbed. Possibly a member of G-Unit.

(Here we learn that the man approached Dre as a friend before starting to throw punches. And that after a ten minute melee, Dre calmly went on stage and accepted his award.)

The Associated Press advances the story a bit further in their dispatch. To wit:

Dozens of people sitting near the stage Monday inside a hangar at Santa Monica Municipal Airport began shoving each other as the show wound down about 7:30 p.m... News video showed chairs being thrown, punches flying, people chasing one another and some being restrained.

"To my understanding ... the show was going on when the stabbing occurred," said police Lt. Frank Fabrega in a press conference following the fight.

It was unclear whether the stabbing preceded or followed the fight. The victim, a 26-year-old man, was taken to a hospital and was listed in stable condition. Police were looking for the assailant and no arrests have been made.

The Post has things settling after host Tyra Banks asked kindly that there be "more love in the room."

But AP gets the money quote of the night, from Mr. Knight. To wit: "It's really important that we don't take a negative incident like this and do away with the awards."

Far too much more to come, we trust...

Monday, November 15, 2004

Soul Is The Goal
Greetings ODB mourners.

Just in case you needed reminding: Bono is smarter than Ashton Kutcher. No really.

Haven't heard How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb yet, but it's already the best U2 album we've heard. No really. Jon Pareles says so.

(The more we think about it, the more we really like Bono. Is that wrong? Dude just seems so much smarter than any of the other megalomaniacs with bands. OK, so the competition ain't that stiff, but still...)

Name dropping/house cleaning: Several of my colleagues (aka the McGill mafia) are behind the Torontoist addition to the Ist family. This is a good thing. Best of luck to all. (Discussion of possible CanWest conspiracy here.)

In vaguely related news, another of my colleagues is following George S. to the CBC, but she (Katrina Onstad, to be specific) will be writing for their soon-to-be-launched, Slate-ish online magazine on the ahhrts. This (the magazine, we mean) is also a good thing. Best of luck to all.

Oh. And today we got a can of Crunk juice with our copy of the new Lil Jon. So we're all winners.


Getting back to the issues that matter: the ODB tributes are piling up. Here's some essential stuff from: the Village Voice, Smoking Gun, MTV and SOHH.

In an interview with the New York Post, his wife disputes the claim of 13 children. Seems he had only 3. Or at least she only knows of 3. She also says he left no will. And that he did not collapse, but simply fell asleep and never woke up.

Along the same lines: Newsday reports he was giving up his wild ways to focus on his family of late.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Weekend Reading. Sort of.
This won't be our usual overload of information. For three reasons:
1) There's already like a gazillion links to stuff below.
2) We spent the day donning body armour and making terrorist threats (in ODB's honour of course).
3) And all life at our end ceased as soon as The Ashlee Simpson Show premiered on Much.

So this will be a blog-only day of fun. But we're still cool right? Guys? Anybody?


Oliver Wang on Eminem
SFJ on The Clash
Coolfer's Sunday Reading
Largehearted Boy with another helping of heroism
Alex Ross on Ray
Optimus Crime on U2
Colby Cosh on ODB

That last one is mega.
ODB is dead.

Last updated at 5:26pm EST...
Reuters: Rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard dies suddenly
AP: Found dead in studio
AllHipHop.com: Ol' Dirty Bastard Dead
NY Times: Controversial rap artist dies at 35
Billboard: Lived life as wild as his lyrics
Newsday: One of rap's most colourful characters
MSNBC: One of the most vivid characters in hip-hop
Associated Press: Authorities seek cause of death
ODB Dead. I Met Him Once...
Official ODB messageboard
Jeff Chang
Byron Crawford
Anthony Miccio
Hipster Detritus
Optimus Crime, with an MP3 and links to...
Skunks of Los Feliz
and Truthfullytruthfully
No Rock & Roll Fun

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Ol' Dirty dead?

Friday, November 12, 2004

Here are those Encore reviews. Our take is below.

MSNBC: Eminem's new CD delivers
Philadelphia Inquirer: Does Eminem still matter?
Miami Herald: C'mon Slim, that's enough now
Washington Post: More Rap, Less Bite
USA Today: Encore deserves an ovation
The Scotsman: All rapped up in himself
The Guardian: Funny peculiar
Belfast Telegraph: An entirely new direction
Winnipeg Sun: More Eminem, please
Boston Daily Herald: Eminem goes stale
Cleveland Plain Dealer: More of the same
Fort Worth Star-Telegram: No need to cheer

The last paragraph of that Star-Telegram is hysterical. At least to us. Other reviews were posted earlier here.

A couple things inexplicably left out of our review (sure to be added before anything becomes official): the lyrics of Encore that the Fort Worth writer hints at and the message on the CD itself. "To my family & all my friends - thank you for everything. I will always love you. To my fans. I'm sorry. Marshall."

Erm. What more can he say?

Update I... minutes later...
Pitchfork gives it a 6.5

As much as it seems no one wants to acknowledge the explicit idea, it does seem most of these reviews are playing into Mathers' hands - concluding that Eminem has run out of ideas and is in desperate need of a new direction. And maybe the rest - the fawning and apparently deaf - are the aristocrats he slays at album's end.

Fuck. We're thinking about this way too much...

Update II... several more minutes later...
Metacritic has Encore standing at 48. Though a big fat goose egg from Stylus drags that number down.
Our Shadows Will Remain
There's another series of Encore reviews out there that we'll get to shortly. Or at least after we get some sleep. For the moment, we figured we might as well get our own feelings on the record. Don't hold us to them quite yet. Give us a couple days to live with them. And a couple more listens to the album. But we think we think these things. Feel free to think otherwise (apparently, most everyone else does... so far). Because of the wonky release date it didn't come together in time for this week's column. But it will likely appear in some form next.

Note: This is largely unedited. And the sun is about to come up. So no guarantees.

Marshall Mathers was born in 1973, but he is very much a child of the 90s. His formative years were spent in a decade dominated by the twin pop culture personalities of Kurt Cobain and Bill Clinton - two men who came from nothing and ended up with too much, each ultimately defeated by their own success. Faced with the same proverbial crossroads Eminem finds himself at with his latest record, Encore (rush released this week to beat an Internet leak), they got ahead of themselves and ended up deceased and impeached respectively.

Mathers, the most self-conscious pop star since Madonna lost the plot, knows better as a result. And ever in control of his image and various alteregos, he has made his own Monica Lewinsky. Then put a gun inside his mouth and declared Eminem dead.

Though only some critics seem willing to come right out and say so, Encore is without doubt the worst record of Eminem's surprisingly short career. This is not the shock and awe of his debut, The Slim Shady LP. Nor is it as inventive or passionate as the follow-ups, The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show. Even the spark of his most recent material, Lose Yourself from the 8 Mile Soundtrack, has all but faded.

Fittingly, it seeks first to close some of his still pending accounts. To those who deemed him a racist after hearing the ancient, but recently unearthed, mixtape on which he insults black women: he's sorry (Yellow Brick Road). To the other rappers he's beefed with over the last five years: he wishes to call a truce (Like Toy Soldiers). And to those who roll their eyes at his bleatings about the trappings of fame (as he does again in a soft-focus profile in the current issue of Vanity Fair: he realises his own absurdity (XXXX).

Oh, he still hates his wife. Still loves his daughter. And still blames his mother. But he's worried about the future of the country now (Mosh). And, as many critics have too hastily clung to, this is a kindler, gentler - more mature - Eminem. This is the first sign that something here is amiss.

Eminem, the potty-mouthed persona created (while on the toilet, mind you) by Mathers as a means to helping a short white kid get his ends, is not kind or gentle or mature. He is merciless and profane. Witty, but wicked. Vindictive and violent. Self-identified insane and sometimes unbearably dark. That Eminem would hate this Eminem.

Not that Mathers hasn't allowed his character to explore more rational thought before. But ever then there was a quick and inflammatory counterbalance of fiendish fun. Here, well, you get puke.

That's the sound and the track that follows Mosh, his call for revolt-by-vote. Another in a long line of lyrical Dear Kim letters to his ex-wife it is intolerable, but, more disconcertingly, uninspired. The former is something you've often been able to say of Mathers, but the latter is a criticism, for all his sins, that never applied.

Great stretches of Encore find Eminem sounding entirely disinterested. He mocks Jessica Simpson and Christopher Reeve. He lusts over the Olsen twins. He impersonates his old friend Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. This sort of fare used to seem brazen and hysterical. But on album five, it's tired. And Eminem knows it (as apparently does his producer and mentor, Dr. Dre, who supplies a series of uncharacteristically stale beats). Three classic albums and a much-touted perfectionist streak tell us he's too smart to know otherwise.

When Just Lose It, the album's first single, reached Internet and radio, the reaction was almost universally negative among amateur and off-duty critics. Of course it stormed up the charts, but then that just seemed to prove the tracks point - that Eminem could all but fart into a microphone (something he does on Just Lose It) and the faithful would still eat it up.

A conspiracy theory soon took hold that this was a case of self-sabotage. That maybe in stringing together some of his weakest rhymes and poking fun at everything he'd done to date, Mathers was trying to undermine expectations; convince the critics that he couldn't possibly match his work to date, surpass or justify the Artist of Great Importance that he had become.

This was half right. It was a case of self-sabotage, but not to fool the critics. Instead, it's meant to prelude an end - something that comes violently on Encore's final track.

In a pair of skits between Eminem and his manager, there is mention of a "new gun" (something that should ring bells for those Cobain-obsessives). After the music fades, Eminem bids farewell, but the crowd - depicted in the cover art as a bunch of well-to-do aristocrats - continues to chant his name. As per the album title, Eminem returns, only to turn that new gun on his audience, the whole scene audibly (and visually in the liner notes) playing out as shots are fired and bodies hit the ground. There is a pause and then Eminem turns the gun on himself (this too is pictured). His body falls to the floor. And the album closes with a message from the tiny robotic voice Eminem uses in one of the previous skits: "See you in hell. Fuckers."

This isn't a cry for help. This is the last testament of an artist who has learned from Cobain and Clinton - who has seen the mistakes that can be made when celebrity, expectation and ambition join forces. Why wait for the Ken Starrs of the world to tear you down when you can do it yourself? And why commit suicide when you can just pretend and accomplish the same goal? Why, ultimately, would you let anyone else gain control?

Would we ever have let him walk away from this character under any other circumstances? Probably not. So Eminem is dead. But long(er) live Marshall Mathers.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Got Em Need Em
The enterprising folks at H.O.P.E. (Horrified Observers of Pedestrian Entertainment) are reaching out to disgruntled record buyers stuck with Ashlee Simpson's debut disc. With the help of Rhino Records, H.O.P.E. invites former Ashlee fans to exchange their discs for another from "the likes of Elvis Costello, The Ramones, X, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Aretha Franklin, Mr. Bungle, Ray Charles, Abe Lincoln Story, Grateful Dead, Neil Hamburger, Joni Mitchell, and Brian Wilson." While supplies last. Selections vary.

Those in NYC can make the trade at the Knitting Factory, but those relegated to life outside the centre of the universe can visit the site for exchange details.

(Is it wrong of us to admit that we'd much rather stick with Ashlee?)
Dear America
Matt Good would like to apologize. Sort of. To wit:

I posted an entry that very much reflected my feelings at the time. I will, without any reservation, admit that I could have chosen better words with which to convey my disappointment, as such feelings were in no way intended towards those Americans that were proactive in working within the system to remove President Bush, that understand the ramifications of Bush’s re-election, and must now face four more years of disastrous leadership. If anything, the 1,000+ e-mails that I received in the days that followed impacted me greatly, acting as a wake up call of sorts. Alienation is not an answer - it is ignorance; and I am guilty of it.

The post for which he is apologizing seems to have disappeared.
Team Spirit
Continue pondering Eminem. But spare a moment for this press release from Sony BMG Canada. Specifically the following excerpt. Unfortunate use of the word? Freudian slip? Or rare moment of honesty from the music industry? To wit:

Dave Toomey has been appointed to the new role of Vice President, Domestic Marketing and International Exploitation. Mr. Toomey joined Sony Canada in 2002 following five years with Sony in New York. His department will have a dedicated marketing staff and will collaborate closely with the people in Marketing, in addition to having a direct relationship with A&R on creative development.

(emphasis mine)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

People Say He Monkeys Around
So the Eminem record isn't very good. But that's sort of the point, right?

We're very seriously considering whether we should retract previous snark about this being a case of self-sabotage. Cos now we're thinking that might be for serious. No, really.

So far nobody's biting though. Which seems, from where we sit (specifically an overly expensive one bedroom apartment in uptown Toronto), to ignore the entire theme of the record. Like, er, there's a picture of him with a friggin' gun in his mouth. And the whole thing ends with him shooting his audience before turning the gun on himself. Sure, he shows a previously unseen sensitivity on Mockingbird. But, uh, then he goes and kills a bunch of people. Forest. Trees.

Anyway. The initial reviews are coming in. And guess what? It sucks! Well, sorta.

Chicago Sun-Times: It feels like we've been there before
Los Angeles Times: Eminem Melts
NOW: A potential breakthrough sabotaged
Edmonton Sun: Definitely Offensive
Chicago Tribune: Some growing pains
Sydney Morning-Herald: Well short of great
Minneapolis Star-Tribune: A mixed bag
Montreal Gazette: Standard Eminem
New York Daily News: The real sorry Slim Shady
Newark Star-Ledger: A kid at heart
New York Post: Eminem goes both ways
The New Therapy
Brother of Amanda, Best Of Toronto, Manager of Bands and Publicist for the Richard Branson Empire... Evan Newman has a blog.

(Casual fans may remember Mr. Newman as the author of this.)
Please Advise
We'd swear we just saw Live performing Lightning Crashes on Leno. And we'd swear, if it were possible, that so awkward was the performance that it somehow made the song even more painful than we remember it. And we'd swear that at the end Jay Leno walked over to congratulate them, turned to the camera and said, "And tomorrow night, Ja Rule!"

But that couldn't possibly have happened, could it? It has to be the brownies we're eating, right? We must be completely baked, right? Somebody please tell us we were baked...
And I Think To Myself
Recent world developments that Paula Zahn won't be explaining to you:

Madonna calls on American soldiers to leave Iraq
Green Party calls on Canadian music stars to leave New Zealand
Bitchy college reporter accosts Jessica Simpson in Wal-Mart

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Flipping And A-Flopping
Bold prediction of the day: The academics are going to bust a tree full of nuts on M. Mathers' Encore.

Finally gave it a full listen. Love them or hate them, record label people do send us records with liner notes and bonus discs and pictures of murder-suicide. Which is, apparently, the idea. We think. Right?

He wants quiet days. And school plays. So Eminem is dead. Long live Eminem. Right?

Monday, November 8, 2004

Everything Must Go
Anyone else happen upon MuchMusic's Halo 2 informercial this evening? Disguised as an Intimate & Interactive-ish feature on The Music the "commercial breaks" featured a faux VJ on a MuchMusic-esque set providing colour commentary on a seemingly spontaneous game of Halo 2 featuring the band members and some randomly selected audience members. Bystanders cheered whenever a new feature was announced.

The makers of Halo 2 pulled a similar stunt with MTV. And the video game is the title sponsor of The Music's current tour.

That loud bang you heard earlier this evening was Moses Znaimer's head exploding.
Everything For Show
Aaron Carter, Michael Jackson and their lost night together.
John Kerry, in a June interview with C-SPAN I came across today, discussing Janet Jackson's nipple:

"I thought that was in poor taste and wrong -- wrong venue, wrong timing, wrong place, wrong audience."

So maybe he didn't base his campaign around it, but he did condemn it. And in much the same language he would later use to condemn the war in Iraq ("wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time").

In other news: we just got back from a taping for the magic picture box. Specifically this. It was us v. Dave Bidini v. Clifton Joseph v. Daniel Richler. Topics included the rock n' roll, the poetry and the politics. We were gloriously out-matched and likely only allowed on set because Carl was unavailable. The good bits will be on the tube Thursday night. Or all week if you get Books Television.

(Anyone know how to get this make-up off? It's burning our eyes. Send help.)
Nipples are the new Bill Buckner
Apparently the Janet Jackson Excuse has legs. Big hairy ones. Here are reports from Houston, Sacramento, Des Moines and Grand Rapids. My own dear publication repeats the theory here. And no less than William freakin' Safire furthered it on Meet the Press yesterday. To wit:

You know, I think the social, political event of the past year was Janet Jackson's exposure of her right breast on television during the Super Bowl. Why? It wasn't what she did. It was the reaction which was fantastic. I mean, the NFL went up through the roof. The television network started crying bitterly. Bloggers exploded. The FCC started looking into it. And that was the case of, "Hey, you're going too far. You know, this is not what we should be doing." And that sense of, "Hey, you're going too far too fast" affects not just evangelicals but a lot of Americans. And that permeated this campaign.

This is, we think, complete hogwash. And will likely argue as much later this week in the official newsprint. But we're happy to see the foundation of the Janet Jackson theory is beginning to shudder (as compiled by my colleague Mr. Nestruck). As David Brooks writes in The New York Times, the idea that morals drove this election is a faulty one. To wit:

Much of the misinterpretation of this election derives from a poorly worded question in the exit polls. When asked about the issue that most influenced their vote, voters were given the option of saying "moral values." But that phrase can mean anything - or nothing. Who doesn't vote on moral values? If you ask an inept question, you get a misleading result.

More later. Surely.

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Weekend Reading
... will be a little late in coming. We're spending most of Saturday in Hamilton. Watching Canadian university football. Shit. Did we just write that?

In the mean time, here's a few things...

Karen Bliss gets Alexisonfire a plug from Rolling Stone
Avril Lavigne co-wrote a song for Kelly Clarkson? Huh? (scroll down)
Norah Jones comments on Ashlee Simpson
Nellie McKay hearts Teresa Heinz Kerry
And helps revive Dylan Thomas
Is there really nothing else for music writers to talk about? The Ashlee fallout continues with stories from the Seattle Post Intelligencer, New York Post, Indianapolis Star, Detroit Free Press, San Francisco Chronicle and Charlotte Observer.
Elton John: Anonymous
Arts funding as morale booster
Avril: Not yet a woman
Avril: Le Tigre Jr.
The New York Times loves Tegan and Sara. And they in turn love Arcade Fire and Leslie Feist
Ben Rayner loves his Grand Theft Auto
Springsteen: Post-Bush
American Revolution Tour: Red meets Blue
Postal Service's Indie Tale
The Pixies hit the big time
The other Smashing Pumpkin solo project
Fade to Black fails Jay-Z
Scott Weiland speaks
Luna quits
Encore Yes v. Encore No
Seeking Joshua Tree
Death of a Band Manager
In appreciation of the mobile DJ
411: The Hip-Hop Surpemes
The roots of reggae's prejudices
Eastland MCs: Straight outta Africa
The worst albums covers ever
How John Harris learned to stop worrying and love Pink Floyd
The real Paul McCartney (no, we mean it this time)
The unjust vanishing of Richard Ashcroft
The Christmas rush of Greatest Hits albums

Friday, November 5, 2004

P. Diddy Begins Reconciliation Talks With The Man
Dear Dubya. Remember how Puffy threatened to kill young people if they didn't help vote you out of office? Yeah. Well. It was nothing personal. So we cool?

That and a play-by-play of P. Diddy's election day here.
My Prerogative
Here is this week's column on Bruce Springsteen and the rude awakening of his first serious foray into partisan politics.
The Election Explained
It was Janet Jackson's fault. Or so says Janet, as reported by the always releveant UK Sun:

"When I had a wardrobe malfunction at the Superbowl, [Bush] used that to take the country’s mind off the fact things were going badly in Iraq."

Crazy, right? Well...

This seems to be gaining steam as a reputable theory. Robert Wright, a visiting fellow at Princeton, advances the theory in Slate's discussion of what ails America's liberals. To wit:

Criticism of Timberlake and Jackson came mainly from the right. Liberals scoffed at the idea of getting worked up over "one exposed breast." But the problem wasn't the breast; the problem was how it was exposed—through an act of stylized male sexual aggression, an apparent preamble to rape. (After Timberlake's advance, Jackson pretended to recoil in fear.) Does anyone with a son or a daughter want to see such behavior glorified? For that matter, do liberal feminists?

This wasn't the most egregious specimen of contemporary culture, but it was about the most prominent—a national, even global, advertisement of American values. By denouncing it, Kerry could have endeared himself to millions of American parents and gotten pundits commenting on his maverick moral streak...

Later in Slate's discussion, Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under Bill Clinton, disagrees. To wit:

Yes, Kerry should have spoken—and future Democrats must speak—in moral terms. But not about Janet Jackson's bare breast, or about gays, guns, abortion, or school prayer, or even about the "evil" of Saddam Hussein and terrorists. The Democrats' moral language should be about social justice...

But in a widely circulated editorial, David Usborne of Britain's Independent chimes in with this discussion of the "anti-Janet Jackson boob vote." And, lending some direct credence to the notion, the Religion Editor at the Charlotte Observer agrees.

That's one powerful nipple.

Update I... 5:06pm EST
Ah-HA! It wasn't just Janet's nipple, but the two Alexandra Kerry carries around with her and the entourage they required after announcing themselves to the world at Cannes. From the NY Post:

John Kerry campaign insiders are blaming some of the high-profile people surrounding the candidate for helping President Bush win re-election.

A prime target of the finger-pointers is Kerry's filmmaker daughter Alexandra, who made a splash at the Cannes Film Festival last spring when she appeared on the red carpet in a see-through dress. She then hired a pricey publicist at powerhouse agency PMK — on her dad's dime, sources say — and went on the campaign trail.

But insiders snipe that all she did was rack up major expenses. "She had an entourage of five people with her everywhere she went," one Kerry confidant sniffed to PAGE SIX's Jared Paul Stern. "A hairdresser, makeup artist, publicist and two assistants. It ended up costing something like $8,000 a month. And she didn't exactly do anything."

"These accusations are categorically false," Alexandra's rep retorts. "The campaign is accountable to taxpayers and would never pay for anything inappropriate. And the candidates' children would never be sent on the campaign trail by themselves."
Welcome To The New New Normal
So Eminem's Encore has leaked. But it sucks. Or so we've heard. We promise to spend Friday cramming and report back later.

P.S. Our eternal respect to the first person to claim in print (and with a straight face) that this is case of intentional self-sabotage.
P.P.S. We just saw Hootie & The Blowfish on the Golf network. Promoting a Greatest Hits cd. And it seemed to make sense.
Revealed: The Hidden Meaning of George S.
Oddly enough, this is the same explanation we've been providing to Springsteen fans all day.

VJ Georgie Quick
I was surprised that G. Stroumbo was selected the best local TV personality (NOW, October 28-November 3). I frequently see him on MuchMusic. He speaks so quickly that I am amazed viewers understand what he's saying. Trying to understand him is like trying to find and sort all the letters of the alphabet from a bowl of Campbell's Soup. Obviously, it works for him. I mark it up to white male privilege. Whether or not he's understood isn't important. It's assumed that he's knowledgeable, that he's speaking from the perspective of an expert. He speaks quickly because to slow down for us, the viewers, would be an insult to his intelligence.

Denny Hunte

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Back To Normal
Stereogum comes through with video of Avril Lavigne singing OutKast's Hey Ya while wearing a Hooter's uniform. And pictures.

Sorry. What were you saying about the end of the world?
Matt Good's Jihad
What were we just saying about being out of touch?

Somewhat disturbing to see former rock star Matt Good disppearing up his own arse. But there he goes. Americans are stupid! Arrogant! Insular! Well the half of you who voted for Kerry are alright. But you there in Montana! Stop fucking up the world! And next time you go to the polls won't you please think of what Matt Good is going to tell his kids?!

More bigoted: An American caring about American lives more than Iraqi lives or a Canadian damning an entire nation of people as idiots?

Suppose it's silly to say 59,117,523 can't be wrong. But they can't all be dumber than the esteemed Mr. Good.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Raptors win. World loses.
95-88. Houston still fumbling toward dynasty. Raptors setting us up for future heartbreak.

Loren Woods Watch: 9 points, 7 boards, 1 block, 1 assist, 1 steal.

And oh yeah. That election thing. We wrote tomorrow's Post column in a rush after an afternoon of awkward speeches, but we think we got out point across - specifically that the America Bruce Springsteen and John Kerry claimed to speak to and for doesn't seem to exist. Or is at least vastly out-populated. Which should be kinda scary. Especially for The Boss. (He bet the house on Kerry and lost. Now what?)

Bonus commentary: Let this be the election that once and for all obliterates any remaining conventional wisdom that said celebrities and rock stars matter in these, er, matters. In fact, if the popular vote is any indication, they actually turn people away (or at least unify the opposition who doesn't appreciate being told what to do by P. Diddy).

Update I... 12:48am EST
Just to add to the Springsteen point: Jon Stewart just admitted as much on the Daily Show - that the election was somewhat of a reality check for those "who control the TV" (ie. those in New York and California, the so-called Liberal Elite, etc). Disappointing to hear the Democratic senator from New York argue that this wasn't a case of the DNP being out of touch with Middle America. Listen folks, you can't blame everything on Karl Rove.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Like Christmas. Or a kick in the stomach.
Alright. Quick show of hands. Who here is really, really, really, really scared? Yeah. Us too. But there's not much we can do about it. Well, American readers can go vote. But past that it's all in the hands of the Supreme Court.

So what is a silly little music blog to do on a day such as this? Well, we could keep debating the merits of Eminem. Or we could do what we're going to do - that is spend Tuesday posting links to silly, useless bits of fluff that have absolutely nothing to do with voter fraud and/or intimidation. Stop by whenever you need a break. Or come hang out all day and ignore the coming Rapture with the rest of us. Together we shall build a monument to all that is meaningless and yet strangely satisfying. Huzzah.

[+] Both Stereogum and "The Official Blog For Westcoast Music In France" love Feist. Jean-Luc Raymond at the OBFWMIF says Let It Die is "very much a voice album in close up." Brilliant. He is officially our favourite Frenchman. Narrowly besting Toronto Raptors centre Jerome Moiso.
[+] Kalan Porter has an online journal. And just so you know, we'll be quoting from it every chance we get. Let's start: "I was really fortunate in that I got a chance to be very involved in the album's creative process which is very important to me. Musically the record is a pop and rock mix with maybe a few surprises." Surprises?! What are the chances that means a remix of Kish's I Rhyme The World In 80 Days?
[+] R. Kelly in trouble, minus any mention of urination
[+] Kittens are not for washing machines
[+] Britney Spears: Totally ruining Fiji

***Update I... 3:36am EST
[+] Malaysian music critic makes peace with post-Peel world
[+] Croatian pop star sex tape scandal!
[+] Malcolm McLaren to launch Anti-Pop Idol

***Update II @ 11:26am EST
[+] According to Metacritic's ratings, the ten worst records of the year are:
1. Lenny Kravitz - Baptism (41)
1. Travis Morrison - Travistan (41)
3. Paul Weller - Studio 150 (42)
4. Five for Fighting - The Battle for Everything (43)
5. John Squire - Marshall's House (45)
6. Radio 4 - Stealing Of A Nation (46)
6. The Vines - Winning Days (46)
6. Fatboy Slim - Palookaville (46)
9. The Datsuns - Outta Sight/Outta Mind (47)
9. Method Man - Tical O: The Prequel (47)

***Update III... 2:14pm EST
[+] And now a poem from Billy Corgan, entitled I Choose:
I choose
to invoke my right
of myth
the drawstrings
of the phantom
Just above
Come to gift the past.

Like. Woah.

***Update IV... 4:31pm EST
[+] Shania Twain humours Timmins
[+] There can be only one: Jessica or Ashlee?

***Update V... 6:05pm EST
Oh fuck it. We can't keep lying to you like this... We've been watching CNN all day. We're so ashamed. We did take a short break to listen to Q And Not U, but otherwise we've been totally neglecting our vow to the musical and meaningless. Sorry.

If it's any consolation, Zogby says Kerry is going to win. Huge. Slate and Wonkette concur. At least vaguely. We project that this is will be played, rightly or wrongly, as a victory for hip-hop (and, subsequently, a defeat for country, we suppose).

***Update VI... 6:37pm EST
Optimus Crime projects Kerry as the winner. Kabbalah, tea leaves and a Magic 8 Ball? Good enough for us.

***Update VII... 6:47pm EST
Wonkette is wilting under the expectation. Go to Gawker for a text only alternative.

***Update VII... 7:01pm EST
Country gets Indiana, Kentucky and Georgia. Hip-hop carries Vermont. Better get comfortable. Snuggle up to some music courtesy of Music Bloggers for Democracy and ilXor.

***Update VIII... 10:31pm EST
Holy shit you guys. Bush is going to win. Country 193; Hip-Hop 112. WTF. OMG.

***Update IX... 10:37pm EST
Confirming everything you thought you knew about National Post editorial bias: Laura Bush's Oatmeal-Chocolate Chunk Cookies just bested Teresa Heinz Kerry's Pumpkin Spice Cookies by a 4 to 1 margin in a Post staff vote. Recipes courtesy of Family Cirle.

***Update X... 11:40pm EST
BREAKING NEWS... Aaron Carter, Macaulay Culkin and Emmanuel Lewis to tesitfy at Touchy-Feely Wacko-Jacko trial... oh, and Bush is still winning

***Update XI... 12:17am EST
Hey, Elton John is going to marry a Canadian dude. But surely not in Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Montana or Utah.

***Update XII... 1:28am EST
Four more years? Seems so. But Ohio is looking tres sketch. Dems are spinning in their graves (get it?!). Anxiously awaiting righteous outrage from Matt Good and Barlow.

***Update XIII... 1:43am EST
Ohio is a mofo. Provisional ballots won't be counted until 11 days after the election? Cleveland, what?! Akron, what?! We still got love for Dan Rather though: "Bush may not have the whip hand, but he's got the lead hand..." Dude. That's exactly what we were just thinking. P.S. If you want to know how the other side thinks, check Mark Steyn and Colby Cosh.

***Update XIV... 1:56am EST
Barack Obama: Saving kids from the hip-hop

***Update XV... 3:18am EST
The Dems ain't giving up. No Surrender, as their new friend Mr. Springsteen might say. (How do ya think the Boss is feelin' tonight?) ABC has switched over to infomercials. But everybody else is still talking. Anybody else still awake? SFJ just lost his mind. And we're thinking of offering him asylum. Jay's nightmare has come true and he's already packing his bags for Montreal. Wells damns the young people to hell. And Alex Ross comes through with a picture to contemplate.

***Update XVI... 4:45am EST
My morning Post calls it a "Cliffhanger." I call it a "Giant Pile of Crap." A semi-rhetorical question: If Ohio is too close to call, what about all the states that are closer? A channel surfing question: Isn't this Eugene character on Monday Night Raw just Hawksaw Jim Duggan for a slightly dumber generation?

In other news:
[+] 50 Cent chooses death.
[+] Ashlee's drummer falls on his, er, sticks.
[+] Springsteen's guitar pick fails to deliver Ohio.

Monday, November 1, 2004

At The Buzzer
This would have appeared in the National Post over the next two days, but apparently there's some sort of election going on and space is at a premium. It may still appear in the Post later this week (free of any 5am typos and such), depending on the relative state of anarchy we are living in post-Tuesday. Until then we'll consider this some sort of exclusive. Or something. Read it now before PopWherry Inc. moves to a subscription service.


George W. Bush has never taken up arms and killed another man in defense of his country (sorry Republicans, those criminals he fried in Texas don't count). Nor, vague terrorist threats notwithstanding, has he ever had a gun pointed in his direction in defense of another. In fact, before the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, he had shown little to no interest in any conflict beyond his own backyard. And even then he was only so interested as to believe whatever Andrew Card told him.

But then the twin towers fell. America needed a war hero. And President Bush just happened to have a directionless administration in need of inspiration. So he became a tough talkin' Texan. A warrior like those brave men at the Alamo he so admired.

So we got "shock and awe." Calls to "bring it on." And, of course, that infamous little photo op aboard the battleship, Bush playing G.I. Joe in full flight suit. He could grin while he was winning (or at least appeared to be winning), but when the mission proved to be less than accomplished, the bravado that had won him such great reviews suddenly seemed thuggish and juvenile. His popularity rating tumbled. His make believe had made him a fool. And the Democrats have had a talking point ever since. It's a case study that should be cause for some concern among fans of Eminem, the platinum rapper who has decided to play a similar game of dress-up in hopes of unseating his newly sworn enemy.

A wise man once said: "Every decade has its struggle, and every struggle has its songs." Actually John Mayer said that in his latest Esquire column. But the observation remains a valid one - especially in light of the current struggle over, well, everything and the tumult of songs that have ensued. But for all the songcraft so inspired by the events of Sept. 11 and all after, there has yet to be one of the generation-defining persuasion. Eminem's Mosh, especially when illustrated by its corresponding video, wants very much to be that song.

Over an altogether minimal, but typically ominous, marching beat, Marshall Mathers rages against what he sees as the lies and injustices of a Bush administration gone mad. "Let the President answer on high anarchy/Strap him with an AK-47, let him go/Fight his own war/ Let him impress daddy that way/No more blood for oil, we got our battles to fight on our own soil," he raps. The video, a lovely, if scary, bit of animation, imagines the frustrated rapper leading a frustrated generation in a revolt-by-vote; characters, including a soldier who proclaims "Fuck Bush" after being sent off to another tour of Iraq, donning hooded sweat shirts to storm the Bush's Bastille. At its conclusion the video fades to black with a simple message: "Vote Tuesday November 2."

Throughout Mosh, Eminem imagines himself as a leader - asking for his listeners' trust and promising to be the "spark" that sets them off. "If I get sniped tonight, you'll know why," he says at one point, "because I told you to fight."

Not surprisingly, the American political Left has been quick to press Eminem against its bosom, helping circulate the contentious video over the Internet (a move that has, in turn, compelled MuchMusic and MTV to put it in rotation). "Eminem's pronounced political shift should send shivers through the largely unchecked right-wing establishment," cooed The Nation, while Salon proclaimed it "the most powerful broadside against the administration since Fahrenheit 9/11." Even Moby, of whom Eminem once said "You thirty-six year old baldheaded fag, blow me," has rallied to his side.

"Wow. You know that Eminem and I have had our differences in the past," he says in a posting on his website. "But this video is the best thing that I've seen all year. It's an amazing song and an even more amazing video. Please go watch."

It likely goes without saying that political awakening is to be encouraged. And Eminem is surely to be applauded for attempting to use his power over millions of fans and listeners for the forces of good (that last adjective depending on your perspective, of course). But Eminem: Force For Democratic Change is about as reality-based as George W. Bush: Commander Heroic. And maybe just as opportunistic.

He has, by his own admission, never been much for voting. In fact, if and when he goes to the polls on Tuesday, it will be the first time in his life he has done so. But, more importantly, he has never been much for influence - at least so far as anyone must do as he raps.

"I'm not a role model and I don't claim to be," he explained in his first interview with Rolling Stone, back in 1999 when he was doing as all great pop music icons before him, corrupting children and bringing about an end to polite society. God (or, in this case, Dr. Dre) had sent him to piss the world off and he would do his best to do just that - mocking whatever he perceived to be the establishment and defying political correctness to such an extent that it became almost too easy to decry him as a misogynist and homophobe. He wasn't going to be told what to say or do and nor was he going to do as much unto others.

No matter the persona he adopted, the goal remained shocking the world to attention. And, like no other artist since maybe Madonna, he has forever been conscious of his image - mocking his fans, their expectations and, often, his own creations. He knows that constant re-invention - more than even his obvious skills - is necessary for an artist who relies on constant controversy, forever providing fodder for the water-cooler crowd.

Sure, he had jabbed at the political. But only in the way he wished the president dead on last year's mixtape highlight, We As Americans. Only in the above context of re-invention and grabbing our attention. In the case of We As Americans, it worked far better than he likely could have imagined, the Secret Service stepping in during these sensitive times to investigate the rapper's intentions. It was ridiculous. And shocking. And, as is usually the twist, made his outraged subjects look all the sillier for over-reacting so. But it was the best publicity he'd received since, well, whatever unbelievable thing he'd done previously.

On the eve of his latest record, Encore, it stands to reason that Eminem knew he needed a new trick. He had pulled all the dead rabbits he could out of the last top hat, admitting as much with the first single, Just Lose It - a half-hearted effort that undermines everything he's done until now. So what could Eminem possibly do now? What, when there are far scarier demons in the real world, could he do to horrify and delight as never before? How, essentially, could he focus his directionless career and once again top himself?

Well, it just so happens that we're facing the most contentious election in a generation - at the centre of it the most reviled president since Nixon and the most passionately divisive war since Vietnam. We needn't draw you a picture of what comes next, Eminem already has. And there he is in regulation uniform (in this case suit and tie), surrounded by his people on his own make-believe battlefield.

Maybe Marshall Mathers has changed. If ever there were a time that could inspire sincerity, this must surely be it. And maybe, as Frank Rich hopes in Sunday's New York Times, the American public has tired of Top Gun entertainment (ie. Bush) and longs now for substance (ie. Kerry). But it is still too early to tell which side Eminem has chosen. Maybe he's making like the liberal senator from Massachusetts. Or maybe he's simply turning Bush's strategery around in hopes of accomplishing his own mission.

Supplemental questions:
If Bush wins, how much longer will Eminem bang this drum?
If Kerry wins, how quickly will Eminem have to find a new bag?

Supplemental reading:
Slate: Mosh or Die
Slate: Summary Judgment
Colby Cosh
Washington Post's Reliable Source
USA Today: Political song and dance

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