Monday, September 26, 2005

The Defiant Reign
Sure. Now explain to us why so many people under the age of 30 feel the same way.

Also: Three cynical guesses how this story ends.

Also II: This review (link via Radwanski, who at this very moment is suffering through the Stones show so you don't have to) is probably the finest piece of music journalism we've read in the last five minutes. And not just because we haven't read any other music journalism in the last five minutes, but because it includes the segue, "Aside from the assclown stench..."
Play It Again Sam And Other Myths
Matt Good discusses his refusal recently to play an encore for an obnoxious university crowd: "Last night I decided not to do an encore. For those of you unfamiliar with how the encore process works, allow me to fill you in. An encore is played when a band feels that the audience deserves it, as a reciprocal show of appreciation. It is by no means mandatory. And while there were some in attendance last night that were obviously there to enjoy the show, I was unable to bring myself to return to the stage to show my gratitude to those who spent the majority of the night conducting themselves like school children."

Is that really how it works? We always understood it to be the other way around; if a crowd deems a band's performance to be of particular quality, the crowd cheers long and loud, requesting the band's continued presence. An encore just confirmation that the band has done their job on this night. "An encore is played when a band feels that the audience deserves it?" Really? So if we pay $150 to see U2, but don't cheer with appropriate glee for Stuck In A Moment (arguably, on a side note, U2's worst song ever), we're not entitled to as much music as Bono, Edge and the other two can possibly squeeze in before curfew? That seems unreasonable.

Have we had it wrong all along? Please advise. If need be, some sort of summit may have to be organized.

Friday, September 16, 2005

We're Just Going To Go Ahead And Say This...
We kind of dig the new Paul McCartney investment commercial. There. We said it. Can't take it back now.

(Also: eventually Broken Social Scene is going to have to acknowledge a debt to Wings. There. We said that too.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

We should take a moment to mention Matthew and his site, i (heart) music. First, because he e-mailed us to announce his presence (this is generally a good idea because we don't get out much anymore) and, second, because he has come out firing - taking on the Arcade Fire in only his second week on the job.
Pop Quiz
Which one of these two stands a better chance of becoming a pop star?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"A full-blown topic of public policy debate."
Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post just goes ahead and asks: Was Kanye West right?

To wit: "The latest Gallup cuts to the chase and asks: 'Do you think George W. Bush does - or does not - care about black people?'

"Among blacks, 21 percent say he does and 72 percent say he doesn't. Among whites, 67 percent say he does and 26 percent say he doesn't. Overall, 62 percent say he does and 31 percent say he doesn't.

"Obviously, that's a pretty dramatic rift. But consider the absolute numbers: Three out of four blacks, one out of four whites, and one out of three people across the country regardless of race actually believe that President Bush doesn't care about black people.

"Sorry, but the question: 'Does the president of the United State care about black people' should be a no-brainer.
Of course he does should be the overwhelmingly common answer.

"Here's a question for Washington's punditocracy: What percentage of people believing that the president doesn't care about black people should be considered alarming?

(More university press reaction from Temple, Southern, MIT, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Southwest Baptist and UNLV.)

(Semi-rhetorical question of the day: When was the last time anything in pop music ignited a "full-blown... public policy debate?")

(Today's biggest lesson: You may not be able to stop it, but you can begin to contain it.)
Radio Won't Even Play My Hits
James Brown... Mariah... Snoop... Jay-Z... Missy? That Michael Jackson charity single might actually be rather phenomenal. The official statement adds Ciara, Lenny Kravitz, Wyclef Jean, Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly, Lauryn Hill, Yolanda Adams, Babyface and the O'Jays.

Vegas is laying 10-1 odds that this actually does heal the world.
Against The Tide
Hey. Remember this?

Well. Thursday night the Hard Rock Cafe in Toronto is hosting a benefit concert featuring tribute bands covering the AC/DC, the Doors, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones and... the Tragically Hip.

This is all very well and good and we encourage those of you who enjoy the classic hits of said bands to attend. But upon receiving a press release explaining as much, the obvious - and, of course, most trivial - question immediately came to mind: Will the Wheat Kings, said Hip cover band, be performing New Orleans Is Sinking at said show?

So we dropped lead singer Todd Sharman a quick note. He promptly sent back the following reply (note: this is probably the closest this blog will ever get to an exclusive one-on-one with Gord Downie):

"No. We have not dropped it from our set list. As far as the benefit show, I guess if the promoters have a problem with it, then we won't play it. I personally don't find that song is negative toward the situation in the city nor do I find it offensive. The lyrics state that "if New Orleans is sinkin' then I don't want to swim." I take that to mean that he loves that city so much that he'd rather go down with the ship. These are only my feelings on this. Other members may have a different slant on it. Hope I have been of some help. I hope to see you at the show on Thursday."

Cheers Todd. Here are the details on Thursday's concert:

WHAT: "Amazing Tributes Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert"
WHERE: Hard Rock Cafe Toronto, Club 279
WHEN: Thursday, September 15, 2005 8 p.m.
ADMISSION: $10 donation at the door
All ticket and bar proceeds benefit the American Red Cross
Ages 19 and older
Peoria. It's Just A Funny Word To Say Out Loud.
Sufjan Stevens = What the mid-to-late 90s boy band revival would have looked like had David Cross beaten Lou Pearlman to the punch.

Just saying.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Don't Lie To Me Man
Elisabeth Bumiller writing in The New York Times: "Many African-Americans across the country said they seethed as they watched the television pictures of the largely poor and black victims of Hurricane Katrina dying for food and water in the New Orleans Superdome and the convention center. A poll released last week by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center bore out that reaction as well as a deep racial divide: Two-thirds of African-Americans said the government's response to the crisis would have been faster if most of the victims had been white, while 77 percent of whites disagreed... At the White House, the public response has been to denounce the critics as unseemly and unfair... But behind the scenes in the West Wing, there has been anxiety and scrambling - after an initial misunderstanding, some of the president's advocates say, of the racial dimension to the crisis."

Elsewhere, Kanye explains himself. And the debate continues in the
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Louisville Courier-Journal, Delaware News Journal, Chicago Sun-Times, Orlando Sentinel, New York Times and USA Today.

Semi-rhetorical question of the day: When was the last time any single moment, trend, individual, band, scene or nipple in pop music stirred anything that remotely resembled an adult discussion - as relatively a thoughtful and considered discussion as continues in the days since Kanye punk'd the president?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Forever Ever
Howard Kurtz considers just how complicated a debate Kanye West volunteered for. The Palm Beach Post considers Bush. The Observer considers Kanye.

Laura Bush refutes. While MTV looks at the rush of post-Katrina music (see also, Jay).

Saturday, September 10, 2005

We Had No Idea
Stratford was so hard.

Friday, September 9, 2005

2004 cont'd
Somebody at Interscope gave the Feist Publicity Machine a swift kick recently and the beast has roared back to life. Resulting hype to be found in the Detroit Free Press, Detroit Metro Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun and Chicago Tribune.

(Not to mention some adoration from The Phoenix, the student paper at Swathmore College in Pennsylvania.)
The Wheels Of Justice Spin Fast In Orange County or Dead Horses
After one episode it seems clear the O.C. is battling its own version of the Problematic Third Album - in which a band attempts to take what has made it successful over the first two records and multiply that by a thousand; assuming that it will make them a thousand times more successful, only to learn that it actually makes them a thousand times more self-conscious and boring. In the O.C.'s case this means an average rate of 5.6 improbable plot twists per minute.

The cliched example of PTA is Oasis and Be Here Now. Though that particular PTA is equally explained by Problematic Cocaine Addiction. A more recent example might be Coldplay and X&Y (though, at least at the moment, we tend to think Fix You is just a shade shy of genius).

Speaking of which (all right, to be honest, this is what we wanted to mention in the first place), here is a recent review from The New York Times, a large circulation periodical of some repute. It discusses a certain Chris Martin and a certain band of his. That's all. If you think it raises the issue of sincerity in pop music, that's your problem bud. You said it. Not us though. We know far better. So go take it up with someone else.
"I feel like Kanye West is successful because of me."
50 Cent considers Kanye's popularity.

(Kanye cont'd: Los Angeles Times and Slate.)

Thursday, September 8, 2005

"If that had aired live in certain parts of the West Coast who knows what it might have sparked out there."
Rush Limbaugh responds to the NFL's support of Kanye West.

(More Kanye coverage from the Baltimore Sun, Buffalo News, New Hampshire Union Leader, Arizona Republic, AllHipHop.com and MTV.)

(In related news, here is the Mayor Nagin mash-up and here you will find info concerning a concert in Ottawa this Thursday night - ie. tonight - to benefit the the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.)

(A couple pieces from the Hilltop at Howard University. And a piece from the paper at George Washington University.)

(What will this mean for the other telethons?)

(And, oh yeah, Late Registration debuted at No. 1. In Canada too.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

The Believer
Various commentary from the Village Voice, Nation, Chicago Sun-Times, Orlando Sentinel and HipHopMusicDotCom. While Kanye gets support from Jay-Z, the NFL, Rhymefest, Joel Madden, Diddy and Harry Connick Jr.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

College Kids Talk About Kanye
Opinions from Howard, California, Connecticut, Purdue and Florida.

Also: Notre Dame/St. Mary's and Virgina.

Monday, September 5, 2005

"How about bras?"
Have no fear, Macy Gray is here. God bless her crazy ass.

Friday, September 2, 2005

"George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People."
Kanye West deviates from the script during NBC fundraiser.

Jay has the video and transcript.
Google News coverage.
Blog reaction.
Indie geek reaction.
Hip-hop geek reaction.
Industry geek reaction.
Red-faced, frothing-at-the-mouth conservative geek reaction soon to follow.

Update. While NBC apparently cut some or all of Kanye's comments, MSNBC.com was blogging the concert and appears to still have video. (Via Wonkette)

Update II. We spent a not inconsiderable (which is to say, considerable) amount of time Friday and Saturday watching CNN. Enough to decide that Jack Cafferty is something of a hero. And enough to say, with some confidence, that by Saturday afternoon two general notions had come to the fore and deemed worthy of discussion.

First, that it was not insignificant (which is to say, significant) that many of those left stranded in New Orleans were black and poor. And second, that America's leadership, ultimately leading back to President George W. Bush, had failed to respond in a timely and appropriate manner to said people.

Put the two together, as we can only assume most mildly intelligent adults have done, and you arrive at a rather astonishing question: Could it be that America's leaders had failed to act in a timely and appropriate manner because said people were black and poor?

By Saturday evening, we'd guess that somewhere between 17 and 326.7 million people had actively considered this question. And, though we lack any kind of independent polling numbers (beyond a sample of two in our living room) to support this, we'd wager that anywhere from one third to half of those people had decided that, "Yes. If the Superdome was full of white people, the National Guard would have likely arrived days sooner. With caviar. Or at least sparkling water." One possible subsequent conclusion being that, "Perhaps George Bush worries more about the well-being of white people."

Given this, it's probably fair to suggest that Kanye West didn't say anything Saturday night that hadn't been said or suggested somewhere in America. He might have been voicing the minority opinion, but he couldn't even be said to have brought any kind of subversive, underground whisper to the fore. Anyone watching CNN could have come to the same conclusion. Or at least had cause to consider it.

But Kanye said it. And none of the above makes Kanye's moment any less remarkable. In fact, having said all that, we still think his rant stands as the single gutsiest move by a pop star this millennium. All things considered, it's probably one of the five gutsiest moves in the history of pop music (the other four being up for some debate, but probably all involving R. Kelly).

There is, of course, a thinly drawn line between blinding arrogance and guts. And certainly Kanye has been known to suffer from arrogance-associated blindness. But not for a second in his minute and a half on screen did Kanye look arrogant. He looked scared. Sad and frustrated and impassioned and pissed off. But mostly nervous. He was in grade four again, delivering a speech about civil rights in front of the whole school. He'd memorized it all beforehand. But he'd forgotten his cue cards and was now just intent on getting it all out - probably without the use of periods, unintended tangents and all.

Now, usually when a pop star wants to be daring, they have various, generally accepted options of expression - protest song, lesbian kiss, underage marriage, concept album, simulated masturbation, heroin overdose, etc. Rarely does this involve live television. When it does, the result is usually something silly and gratuitously shocking (lesbian kiss, ripping up a picture of the Pope). Rarer still does it involve anyone at the peak of their popularity. Almost never does it occur during a period of national crisis.

So how bewilderingly unprecedented is it that Kanye West went on live national television Saturday night - with his country struggling to comprehend almost unimaginable horrors on its own soil; at a time when all political dissent is discouraged as un-American - and demanded to discuss the most painful cleavage in American history before calling out the leader of the free world as a racist?

Regardless of everything else (whether he was right, whether it was the proper venue, whether it was impolite to leave Mike Myers hanging like that and so forth), and whether or not it results in Kanye West being deported, that requires a unprecedentedly large set of testicles (figuratively speaking, we assume). And we dare say it essentially redefines any previous notion of what constitutes a bold, defiant, challenging artist in pop music.

(All the same, we bet that if Kanye hadn't said it, Cafferty was totally going to.)

(Anybody else see the Colorado/Colorado St. game? Cripes. Early frontrunner for most ridiculous game of the year.)

(For the record, we have no doubt Bush loves black people. It's just tough to tell when he's getting all misty-eyed about the fate of Trent Lott's front porch.)

(Perhaps to prove his love for black people, Bush could enlist Cuba Gooding Jr. to re-create the "Show me the money" scene from Jerry Maguire. Couldn't hurt.)

Update III. This, a comment on an ilXor thread, in response to the suggestion that Kanye's off-the-cuffness will draw attention away from the immediate tragedy: "[D]oes it really divert attention from the disaster? Really? Did one person, even for a second, forget that there was huge humanitarian tragedy taking place in New Orleans when they heard and discussed Kanye West's remarks? Or are people actually able to hold two thoughts in their heads at once: the tragedy, and how it's being mishandled, and (maybe even three thoughts at once here!) how that mishandling seems to indicate apathy if not something worse on the part of the President?"
"In the end the ideology itself became reduced to a set of narrow standards as obfuscatory and tiresome as any academic jargon..."
Contrarianism is sometimes overrated. But here, in the interests of democracy, free speech, an open dialogue and entertaining ourselves on a lazy Friday afternoon, we present the kindest words for this year's most terrible records*. Re-printed here with exclamation points. If only because it's funnier that way. And it teaches us all a valuable lesson about context.

(*Terribleness, in this case, determined through the imperfect science of MetaCritic. MetaScores in brackets.)

1. Backstreet Boys - Never Gone (34)
"Backstreet Boys acquit themselves reasonably well here... Never Gone [is] a solid adult contemporary album!" - All Music Guide

2. Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill Acoustic (34)
"Morissette turns in a powerful and nuanced vocal performance over these lighter but layered arrangements!" - Rolling Stone

3. Staind - Chapter V (40)
"Their self-seriousness comes with a melodic tenderness that's rare in the genre!" - Entertainment Weekly

4. Bizarre - Hannicap Circus (41)
"For fans of D12 and/or Hunter S. Thompson, 'Hannicap Circus' is one crazy trip through the mind of a lunatic!" - RapReviews.com

5. Athlete - Tourist (42)
"The disc's cool atmosphere and expansive orchestral arrangements go a long way in making a mood. Don't be afraid to welcome these tourists with open arms!" - E!Online

6. Moby - Hotel (43)
"From anthemic to soothing and sleepy, while never once crossing any kind of line - or even looking at one!" - Filter

7. Mudvayne - Lost And Found (43)
"Weaving crystallized melodies into their signature rage clusters, the metalheads dip a toe in clearer waters without losing any of the grime!" - Entertainment Weekly

8. Black Eyed Peas - Monkey Business (45)
"Undeniably and increasingly danceable!" - Paste

9. Adam Green - Gemstones (46)
"Simply put, either you’ll love this album or not 'get' it. It’s too good an album for you to not like if you understand it!" - Stylus

10. Chicks On Speed - Press The Spacebar (47)
"Hurrah for all those who delight in confounding expectations, especially when the results are this unexpectedly, paradoxically delightful!" - Drowned in Sound

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