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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

While The Nation Prepares To Sleep Through Another Election...
... Curtis Jackson slips in undetected.
You Are A Target Market
If you're like us, you've lost a lot of sleep these last few days. Tossing and turning. Staring at the ceiling, mumbling to yourself the same question, over and over. Pleading with no one in particular: Why did the great minds behind the Canadian Football League allow our nation's celebration of bizarrely governed, three-down football to be stained by the Black Eyed Peas and their incessant humps?

Tuesday, there came an answer. Turns out it was all about making the game more appealing to 20-something beer drinkers. (Football? 20-something beer-drinkers? No, no! This will never work!)

One problem: We actually don't think there's a single 20-something beer-drinker in this country who would proudly own up to enjoying the music of the Black Eyed Peas. Admittedly, our sample of immediately available 20-somethings is rather small, but the Peas (that's what we're going to call them from now on, by the way - just because it's sort of juvenile) have always struck as more for the 15-year-olds. Those who drink Red Bull. And don't get out enough.

Anyway. Are you between the ages of 20 and 29? Do you reside in Canada? Have you been known to drink Molson? And, most importantly, while living in Canada and enjoying your Molson beer, have you been even mildly pleased by the latest Black Eyed Peas single?

If so, write to us at the e-mail address at right and we'll see to it that you get the immediate help you so obviously need. Operators are standing by.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Our Boobgate: A Nation Scandalized
Damn Americans, with their hip and their hop. First they send us 50 Cent to corrupt our young. Now they soil our national football championship.

Black Eyed Peas were on the Grey Cup menu Sunday as the Grammy-winning recording artists put on an energetic - and raunchy - hip-hop halftime show before a sellout crowd at B.C. Place...

Things took a turn for the sleazy when Fergie - adorned in short shorts and a black tank top - suggestively shook her derriere during My Humps...

Their performance was a far cry from the usual conservative Grey Cup halftime shows. Last year, Canadian icons The Tragically Hip entertained the crowd in Ottawa....


We promise right now to vote Liberal in the next election if Dan McTeague guarantees that a Liberal government would immediately move to have the Black Eyed Peas banned from this country. That's the sort of public policy we can get behind.

Update. Outrage! Courtesy of Chris Zelkovich in The Star:

"At risk of sounding like a geezer, what was with a half-time show that featured 'humps' and 'my lovely lady lumps?' Cole Porter it wasn't."

Meanwhile, The Edmonton Journal and Globe's Stephen Brunt hail Fergie's ass as great sign of Canadian tolerance. Sayeth Brunt:

"And our halftime show by Black Eyed Peas, fronted by the magnificently lascivious Fergie, surely would have set off a media firestorm by now had it taken place in the United States. Those who were shocked -- shocked -- by the sight of Janet Jackson's pierced nipple a couple of years back would have been traumatized having for the first time really listened to the lyrics of the band's current hit, My Hump."
Rex Murphy On Gangsta Rap (Holy Crap, We Can't Believe We Just Wrote that)
This* is why we periodically look through serious newspapers. You don't even need to read it. Because you just know. It's Rex Murphy. He's talking about gangsta rap. It's amazing on that basis alone. What follows is almost besides the point.

Nonetheless, our favourite parts:

Should 50 Cent be barred from Canada? Well, I don't know Mr. Cent. If I did, I could call him Fiddy...

This line of thought could apply to the whole genre of rap music -- a highly stylized, slickly marketed, ingeniously promoted subset of pop music. Its most successful products are every bit as polished as any Madonna video, and some of them almost as painful to watch. It is, like almost all pop music, pure product. It's designed to sell. And if profanity, violence, sex, and confected rage will move the product -- and very evidently this combination does -- rap music has the combination down pat. Some of it is clever. Some of it is a put-on. A whole lot of it is hyped attitude laced with lazy rhymes, flash and inexhaustible crudity...

I can buy the point that the entire phenomenon of rap music contributes to, or is a symptom of, a degraded and vulgar culture. But to lay any individual responsibility on the menacing doorstep of Curtis Jackson (for that is the rapper's real name, and you can see why he changed it since Curtis does not ooze gangsta' cred) for any of Toronto's deadly crime wave is purely opportunistic...

Does Mr. McTeague know that Destiny's Child once worked with 50 Cent? Will he ban them for the association? Is Beyonce a threat to peace, order and good government?...

There's another problem with Mr. McTeague's suggestion. Should we start a trade war on entertainers, the Americans may retaliate. They could send Celine Dion back. Let us not be hasty here...


Phenomenal. The usual suspects will sniff and whine because that's what they do whenever someone like this writes something like this, but if this doesn't end up in one of those year-end collections of the best music writing, the entire industry of music criticism needs to be re-evaluated**.

*When in doubt, use the Google loophole.
**We're actually not, for once, being sarcastic.

(This is probably just for a friend of ours. He's currently wandering around Europe and he's probably the only other person who will find this nearly as amusing.)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Pretending To Live Blog The Black Eyed Peas' Video For My Humps
To be fair, this is the best Fergie's looked since she was in Wild Orchid and her name was Stacy Ann... We have no idea if they've actually explained it this way, but we bet fans of this song, at least those that feel the need to explain their love of this song with such arguments, love to argue that this is a great example of female sexual empowerment. Well, in that hypothetical situation, doesn't that hypothetical argument fall apart if the song was actually written by will.i.am?... Also: What do the other two guys do now? In lieu of evidence to the contrary, we're going to go ahead believe they're merely responsible for Fergie's hair and make-up now... 'What you gon' do wit all that breast? All that breast inside that shirt?' Little known fact: Actually a rejected lyric from John Mayer's 'Your Body Is A Wonderland'... You have to love how the video culminates in a series of sexy situations,interspersed with random shots of some guy twitching uncontrollably. You can't create genius like that. It just sort of happens.

(All right, let's promise never to do this again, lest we end up like those humourless comedians MuchMusic continues to employ for Video On Trial.)
Pape Sow Update
The official professional basketball player of this blog, Pape (All Love) Sow*, was recently demoted to the NBA's Developmental League. The bad news: He's playing for at team called the RimRockers. The good news: He's getting the chance to put up huge numbers against the likes of Marcus Fizer.

In his debut for Arkansas, our favourite Wolof-speaking power forward finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and one block in just 21 minutes as his RimRockers lost a close one, 113-111, to the Austin Toros. D-League domination awaits.

(Useless basketball trivia: One of the officials working Pape's D-League debut - former Raptor, Haywoode Workman.)

*The joke only works if you understand that Mr. Sow's first name is pronounced not like the Toronto subway station, but like the *NSYNC song.

Friday, November 25, 2005

How To Talk To Your Parents About Rap
A selection of words and phrases from The Globe's 50 Cent editorial (if you can't read that, go to Google News and search for it):

"gangsta"... Mr. Jackson is unlikely to win many nominations for citizen of the year... Fiddy (as he known to his legions of acolytes)... 50 Cent's lyrics glorify a culture inimical to the values of civil society. One random and relatively tame example (sensitive readers should skip the rest of this paragraph)... Rodgers and Hart, it ain't... one gun-fixated rapper's percussion-heavy, monotonic grunting about drugs and sex... his deleterious influence on the young... excellent cause for people to boycott his show and his products, and to urge others to do so.

(You can't possibly read that first one without actually doing the finger quotes, can you?)

Anyway. All that and they still think it would be wrong to bar 50 from the country.

Our favourite sentence is this though: "Like other miscreants before him, Mr. Jackson has been co-opted by the very capitalist ethic he purports to despise."

We love this a) because it manages to use the word miscreant and b) because it seems the complete opposite of reality.

50 hates capitalism? When did that happen? This guy was an independent entrepreneur at the age of, like, six. He obviously believes very strongly in the individual's ability to rise up economically and the value of healthy competition. Politically, he's pretty clearly a Republican. And did we mention Connecticut?

If 50 has any beef with capitalism, it's probably with the fact that whitey is still generally in charge. But otherwise...

(Elsewhere: Nestruck previews The Globe's next editorial - whether we should ban Hollywood's nefarious new blockbuster, Walk The Line.)

Anyway. It's obviously time we put this all behind us. We've got some very serious issues of poverty, race and violence we, as a country, need to deal with. And now we have a bitterly contested federal election to think about. This is a time for serious and sober reflection. A time to cease with the petty sniping and... oh, hold on, wait a minute, the honourable member for Edmonton-Strathcona is rising to speak...

"The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs says that rapper 50 Cent should not perform in Canada. With his hits like Hustler's Ambition, Slow Dough and Power of the Dolla, the rap star is known for glorifying theft, breaking the law and gangsterism. It sounds like he got his lyrics from the Gomery report.

"Does the parliamentary secretary not see any hypocrisy in condemning 50 Cent when he merely glorifies standard practice in the Liberal government?"


Ah. Yup. There it is. Rock bottom.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

When Rhetoric Goes Wrong
Ben Rayner does a fine job responding to the honourable member's 'rap is crap' criticism in The Star:

"What's happening in Toronto's have-not neighbourhoods should, in fact, be the strongest argument against further gun violence.

The challenge frequently raised against gangsta rap is that it glorifies violence without depicting the consequences. Here, though, we've seen the very demonstrable consequences of gun violence on the nightly news all year long — 48 bodies, wounded children, families destroyed — and it shows no sign of stopping.

With or without 50 Cent."


The Toronto Sun also expands on Dalton McGuinty's comments:

"They're not without some influence; I can say that as a father of four kids... But I think the problems that we're addressing here in Ontario when it comes to crime have their foundation and their causes in issues that are much more complex than any influence of any one particular rapper."

More Sun media stuff here, here and here. The Globe has a story here.

One minor quibble: The 'he writes only what he knows' argument only works to a point. Of course, he does write of what he knows. But he also writes of what he knows will sell. If you want to fall back on the idea that he is simply reporting his own reality, then you better be willing to praise his next record, a gritty, no-holds-barred take on cut-throat Connecticut.
Meanwhile, In France...
Those riots? Obviously rap's fault.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bowling For Canada II
You know, we're really kind of surprised to see Mayor Miller getting behind this.

If Toronto Mayor David Miller had his way, notorious rapper 50 Cent and his gun-glorifying values would not be allowed to influence Toronto fans in a Dec. 20 concert at Ricoh Coliseum.

50 Cent's music doesn't express the values that Miller sees as good for the city, which has been racked by gun violence all year.

"I've always seen music as an expression of what's happening in communities," the mayor said this afternoon when asked about the controversy by reporters.

"I think the sad thing is the expression of what's happening in communities, in particular some neighbourhoods in Toronto.

"And we don't want to see our have-not neighbourhoods become places where gun crimes are routine, where those kind of values are expressed in the music of the people."


Now, his actual quotes seem a little more nuanced than the first two graphs, so maybe there's hope yet. But how bizarre is it that Dalton McGuinty is looking like the most sensible voice in a debate about gangsta rap:

McGuinty said, "I wouldn't put too much stock" in the rapper's ability to influence gangs and said the cause of the gun violence in Toronto is "much more complex" than a rapper's lyrics and image.

Update. Toronto Star readers prove generally reasonable on the issue.

Update II. The Star has now changed the top of the above story. It now reads:

Toronto Mayor David Miller says it's up to the federal government to decide if notorious rapper 50 Cent should be allowed into Canada.

The entertainer is bringing his "Massacre Tour" to Toronto next month and while one MP, Liberal Dan McTeague, says he should be banned from the country, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty doesn't think censorship is the answer.

Miller didn't bite when he was asked about 50 Cent at an afternoon news conference today.

However, the mayor indicated that he didn't think 50 Cent's music expressed the values that Miller sees as good for the city, which has been racked by gun violence all year.


Nice. Basically, same quotes, completely different story. So did The Star change its mind? Something lost in translation? Or did someone from Miller's office complain?

This isn't quite a huge controversy, but it does seem the sort of thing Antonia Zerbisias could use her blog to explain.
Bowling For Canada
Well, if this doesn't solve the problem, fear not. Because this certainly will.

Says Dan McTeague, the honourable member of parliament for Pickering-Scarborough East: "I think it's time we send a message of our own to those who glorify violence that their gratuitous violence and movies are not welcome in our country. We need to do a better job at protecting Canadians from people who's message runs counter to all of our efforts of trying to curb gun violence."

Hey, go nuts Dan. We hate guns too. But if you're going to do it, don't just cherry-pick your villains - if you want to protect us, you've got to protect us from all those bad men. So quick, before the Conservatives pull the rug out, you've got to propose legislation that bans every rapper, rock star, professional athlete, author and movie star who has ever glorified violence from entering or residing in this country. Quentin Tarantino? Gone. Todd Bertuzzi? Out of here. Vin Diesel? (Especially Vin Diesel!) See ya later. And make sure that legislation covers the production of any films or television shows that involve anything more than a firm handshake. We certainly can't have that smut being produced in our neighbourhoods.

That would be taking a stand. A ridiculous stand. But at least a more principled stand than this.
Warner Pays Up
The latest payola settlement. Somebody help us out here: Has there yet been a Canadian investigation launched into such practices here? And, if not, why not?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Play Fighting With Kittens
Matthew at I Heart Music has posted the results of his hottest Canadian band of 2005 blogger poll. Arcade Fire won because really they were the correct answer.

Though we generally don't endorse aganozing over these things, due to action elsewhere we should probably clarify these comments of ours: "I really want the Arcade Fire fans and Broken fans to form separate and feuding groups, splitting the nation's indie kids down the middle. All of which would surely culminate in a cuddle party. Or monkey knife fight."

Let's be clear: We have no intention of drawing a line down the middle of the hipster record store. This has nothing to do with the precedent setting case of Canine v. Feline (a battle won decidedly, by the way, by the dog's representatives). You needn't pick one or the other. In fact, we can't even figure out why you would, seeing as both seem governed by the same basic ethos - 'Group hugs make the bad people go away.' That's why any Biggie-and-Tupac-esque feud in this situation would end in a cuddle party. Get it? Huh? Anybody?

All right, how about this? Broken Social Scene v. The Arcade Fire is basically the equivalent of Hulk Hogan v. The Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania VI.

Now, you have to ignore the themes of old v. new and the current king passing the crown to the future king that were at work when Hogan and Warrior met for the WWF title. That stuff doesn't really apply in this case. But, otherwise, it's the same basic idea — the two greatest forces of good in a match-up free of villainy, betrayal or anyone cracking anyone else over the head with a steel chair. This almost never happens in professional wrestling. Someone always has to be the bad guy. Same with indie rock. Sure, it's not exactly sports (then again, neither is wrestling). But the cool kids are always picking sides. Something is always cooler than whatever everyone else is listening to. This though is that rare occasion when two bands of equal quality and cool can both be viewed as unquestioned forces of good.

Anyway. At Wrestlemania VI, Warrior beat Hogan with a big splash off the ropes. But guess what happened afterwards?

They hugged.

We rest our case.
Rock N Roll Part 15: The Vietnamese Firing Squad
Insane is an over-used adjective, but this would seem to qualify.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Limp Bizkit Still At Large
Honestly, who among us, upon hearing that Korn are the musical guest on this week's Saturday Night Live was surprised to learn that Korn still existed?

(All right, who among us, upon reading this post, was amazed to learn that Saturday Night Live is still on the air?)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Waiting For Godot 2005: If Godot Were A Curvaceous Latin Pop Star
The New York Times stumbles upon the world's most perfectest pop star.

"Psychoanalysis, biblical revisionism, Renaissance paintings. Not to mention DNA-level multiculturalism, torrid dance moves and an ear for rhythms and hooks from all over. Fulfilling the basic needs of current pop - a catchy song, a pretty face - doesn't begin to match Shakira's gleeful ambitions. She is pop's 21st-century Latina bombshell, a sweetly upbeat face of globalization, and then some."

She speaks 39 languages. Reads newspapers. Probably loves Led Zeppelin. And definitely seems the sort to rescue kittens from trees or campaign against the use of Moroccan mine-detonating monkeys in Iraq. Plus, she's got a smokin' bod.

"I'm just a consequence of the great musical momentum and the great changes we are going through in the world."

Well, maybe.

We don't dislike Shakira. And we don't even dislike this piece about her. We just think this is probably the most lavish fawning ever bestowed, long after the fact, on someone who is, effectively, a one-hit wonder.

All right, that's a little glib. Her last album did peak at No. 4 on the Billboard charts (though we defy you to hum the tune - right now, from memory - to that record's lead single). But, at least in North America, she remains only a great pop star in theory. An unfulfilled music intellectual's wet dream.

You don't want another sports analogy, do you? Well, you're going to get one anyway.

Shakira is Peyton Manning. Pretty and perfect. Peyton is the charming southern gentleman, son of a former NFL quarterback, now leading the NFL's sexiest offence in the heart of the American midwest. On the field, he is charismatic, handsome and proficient. He leads, he directs, he throws perfect spirals on command. Good boys want to be him, good girls want to be with him. Mothers dream of giving birth to guys like him. Fathers want their daughters to marry young men like him. And the NFL wishes so bad that he that he could be the unquestioned star of their league, the focal point of their bazillion dollar business - the square-jawed, upstanding ambassador to succeed Saint Favre and vanquish evildoers like Terrell Owens.

There's just one problem. Guess how many championships he's won? We'll give you a hint, it's a number less than one.

The best Peyton could offer was the 2004 season. He threw for about 8,000 yards and 116 touchdowns. Then gagged on his own perfection in the playoffs.

Shakira had 2001's Laundry Service. Wherever, Whenever was good for a few thousand plays per day on your local radio station. Then she was taken to the same classified location where the American government is hiding Ricky Martin and the Mighty Might Bosstones.

Now, Peyton has the Colts at 9-0 and Shakira is poised for continental domination with another English-language record. But neither yet proves anything.

If you were to rank America's female pop stars, where would Shakira rank right now? Would she even make the top 20? Consider, by first name, those who would presently be considered 'bigger': Britney, Christina, Lindsay, Hilary, Mariah, Beyonce, Ciara, Gwen, Kelly, Jessica, Ashlee, Shania, Avril, Joss, Fergie, Sheryl, Faith... oh, and Madonna we suppose. And this completely ignores, for expediency's sake, country music. So where's that leave Shakira at this point? Neck-and-neck with JoJo?

The argument made by Shakira-fans and globalization-proponents is this: the world would be a better place if Shakira was bigger then all of the above. But what they actually mean is this: if the world was a better place, Shakira would be bigger than all of the above.

Because the world is not like Shakira. Yes, we'd like to believe the world is smart and cultured and thoughtful and ambitious... with a nice ass. But it is not. The world is far more like Britney than it will probably ever be like Shakira (just as football will always be far more like Owens than it ever will be like Peyton). It is weird and messy and self-possessed and dirty and it smells of Cheetos and cigarettes. It is falsely virginal.

This is not to say the world is a terrible place (nor is this an anti-intellectual argument, so spare us). Quite the contrary. The world is endlessly fascinating and periodically great. Just, you know, sometimes it ends up marrying really icky looking guys. That's life. It ain't fair. There is very little discussion of Jung on a daily basis.

That's not going to change until Peyton Manning wins a Super Bowl*.

(*Note: This may actually happen in February.)

(There is a slight possibility that, reading this, you will conclude that we are not a fan of multi-culturalism. Let us assure you that we're big fans of multi-culturalism. We have all their records.)

(There is also a slight possibility that, reading this, you will conclude that we are not a fan of Madonna. Let us assure you that we, in fact, do not like Madonna.)

Update. Josh asks: "for one thing that #4 billboard debut was for a spanish-langauge album, no?"

Indeed, you are correct sir. But what does that really prove? How truly surprising is that?

It was the biggest debut and most lucrative week ever for a Spanish-language record, but...

For one thing, Shakira had already established an English-language fan base with Laundry Service (over 3 million copies sold in the United States). So this was hardly the case of an unknown Spanish-speaker grabbing America's collective heart. You have to think that a fair number of people who adored Underneath Your Clothes were curious enough to pick up this album. You also have to figure that in 2005 there are a fair number of people with the requisite Internet access and open-mind to pursue foreign-language records.

But just for laughs, let's assume not a single English-speaking fan purchased Fijación Oral 1 during that first week when it sold 180,000 copies.

According to census figures as of July 1, 2004, the Hispanic population in the United States was 41.3 million. At 14% of the total population they are the largest minority in the country.

Even if we assumed that the Hispanic population accounted for the only Spanish-speakers in America and that the only people in the U.S. who bought Shakira's record were these Spanish-speakers, only .39 percent of them would have had to go out and buy Fijación Oral 1 in its first week to result in a fourth-place debut.

So, all things considered, how astonishing is that debut? Personally it doesn't quite blow our mind.

(Trivia: The three records that finished above Fijación Oral 1 that week in June, Coldplay's X&Y, Black Eyed Peas' Monkey Business and the White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan.)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

'I am like the guy in Ray who turns down the lights. It needs to be done.'
The NY Daily News on Jay-Z's new frontier.

Vaguely related: Pape 'All Love' Sow, the official pro basketball player of this blog, makes season debut with two points and one rebound in one minute against the Seattle SuperSonics. Pape now leads the Raptors with an average of 96 points and 48 rebounds per 48 minutes.

Not at all related: What's more disturbing? That something called Zathura beat 50 Cent's new movie at the box office Friday night? Or that 50 Cent's new movie beat Jarhead?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Alternate Title: 'What The World Was Like Before Cosmetic Dentistry'
While watching the documentary 'Who The Fuck Is Pete Doherty?' on MuchMoreMusic...

This kid really is the equivalent of rock n' roll's first indisputable snuff film. There wasn't wide enough TV and tabloid coverage to make anyone complicit in Elvis or any of the pioneers in this regard. And with Kurt Cobain and Elliott Smith it was possible, however implausibly, to claim that death came as something of a surprise. The ole 'we thought he'd get through it' defence.

There is no such claim to be made with Doherty. Everyone knows how this is going to end. He's a limited engagement that could end at a moment's notice. That's basically his hook. It helps that he's rather adorable-looking and a great songwriter and, save for the drugs and fisticuffs, a pretty all-right chap. But it's obviously more important that he's so willing to live the rock n' roll fantasy. He's going to blow his brains out young and, with that obvious, we have a chance to romanticize him and mythologize him now (instead of waiting for the suicide to get on with it). He basically turns the dead rock star idea on its ear - getting all the posthumous glee in now. He has basically found a way to live out that old fantasy of finding out how you'll be eulogized without actually dying....

(Jesus... Paul Morley (music critic) basically just predicted Doherty will kick it in 2006. Though he did have enough sense to say something about us all having our fingerprints on the gun...)

... Is it made easier by the fact that Doherty, though obviously messed up, seems completely cognizant of what he's doing and why? He seems to entirely desire this. And it seems completely his choice. Is that what makes this ok?

Anyway. Oooh, tomorrow's MuchMoreMusic is going to air a Strange Love marathon.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The First Recorded Instance Of Reasonable Contrarianism
As we've probably mentioned previously, we agree with this Anthony Miccio fellow on a lot of things (a possible exception being My Humps*). And here is Mr. Miccio talking, a month and a half ago, about Courtney Love's last record:

"I've found that albums that inspire indignant, negative reviews are just as likely to be powerful experiences as five-star polltoppers. It takes energy to inspire outrage and offense, to earn a 'fuck you' from cultural watchdogs - 'this is not what music is supposed to be like.' It's not enough to be mediocre, you have to STAND OUT to get an D+ or one star. The most flagrant example of a trend someone despises (especially if that person's tastes don't really match yours anyhow) is probably the one you should check out."

Smart.

And yet, does this mean we should be listening to the new Bloodhound Gang record right now? Scientifically speaking, it is rivaled only by Limp Bizkit's Results May Very as the worst record this century. The critics have deemed it "uncomfortably embarrassing," "pity-inducing," "painful," "right up there with finding poo funny" and "marginally more welcome than a Jerky Boys reunion." A Jerky Boys** reference? Short of confirming that a record does, in fact, cause internal bleeding, that's about as damning as it gets.

And yet, again, we are strangely compelled to listen now to the Bloodhound Gang record now. First, because we too kind of liked the last Courtney Love record. Second, because we kind of liked The Bad Touch. And third, because we'd kind of like Anthony to be right on this one. Only this one though. Because we're still fairly certain that the last Puddle of Mudd record, without having actually heard it, was truly awful.

If we get around to it in the next week or so, we'll report back with our findings.

On a side note, if there's an enterprising young university student out there studying pop music or media or pop culture or some such nonsense and is in desperate need of an easy thesis topic, how about taking a look at the seven best-reviewed records of the 21st century and asking what we might learn about music criticism and music critics from said albums and said reviews? We're thinking namely numbers one, two, three, six and seven. Though four and five are probably another worthy discussion altogether.

*Why does this have its own Wikipedia entry? Who took the time to create this? And at what point does an encyclopedia begin to include too much information?
**We totally forgot they made a Jerky Boys movie. And we had no idea it starred Alan Arkin. And - holy crap - Alan Arkin's middle name is Wolf.
The Only Other Blog You Need To Read...
... belongs to Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. Even if you have no interest in basketball. Or jazz. To wit:

ya know, sometimes when the rhythm section (role players) are laying
down the deep groove and structure
the soloists (kobe, d wade) need to get far out into the cosmos
for a victorious walk on higher ground

as is with jazz music
basketball, being america's greatest export
is the finest example of what is great about a democracy
people working together within a structure to accomplish something
but free to express their individual character as they like
to improvise on a theme

another beautiful laker victory tonight in atlanta
it was one of those absurd nights where my schedule forbid me from
watching the game
i heard kobe sprained his wrist enroute to 37 points...
hope that wrist is o.k.
This Is Going To Be Fun
Noted pianist Sarah Slean has begun blogging for Maclean's. See if you can guess which of the following quotes is from her blog and which are from the magazine's other online diarists.

1) "I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Stanford, the Canadian Autoworkers' Union economist, recently for a televised panel discussion on the auto industry. He's a fine guy, very friendly and smart. So I take no pleasure in pointing out the utter fatuity of his column in the Globe this week scolding China for failing to open its market to Canadian exports."
2) "I'm now 200 pages into Doris Kearns Goodwin's titanic Lincoln biography, Team of Rivals, and so far the only disappointment is the lame title. It is a mighty, mighty book. Goodwin pulls the camera back and writes parallel biographies of Lincoln and of the men he defeated for the 1860 Republican nomination — then brought into his war cabinet. In its blend of human insight and sweeping pageantry, Team of Rivals is a cross between Richard Ben Cramer's What It Takes and Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919."
3) "How I love this city. It's spirit is so vibrant and open and alive... always ready to dance recklessly... They cheer and laugh and throw roses at me (!!) I feel like a figure skater....the lighting girl pours delicious reds on me during Pilgirm, I'm channeling a vampire...."

Answer here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

The Pacey Endorsement
Joshua Jackson hearts Broken Social Scene.

Update. The O.C. is thinking about loving Jason Collett.
Least Remarkable Revelation Of The Week: That My Morning Jacket Record Is Pretty Great
One of the first things we watched in our new apartment was a bit of Coldplay's performance of Talk at the MTV Europe awards. And therein lay the most maddening thing about Coldplay. Or at least a testament to the remarkable acoustics of our new living room.

At this very moment, Coldplay are a strictly average band who just released a strictly average record that includes a strictly average song called Talk. And yet. That performance of Talk (we think it was in Spain) was altogether amazing. In fact, it was entirely reasonable for you, assuming you knew nothing of this band or its music previous to that performance, to think you were witnessing one of the great live performances in the history of rock n' roll. Or at least in the history of crap music awards shows.

Sure, they were shamelessly stealing from U2's Rock God For Dummies handbook (Chris and Johnny doing the whole "lead guitarist and singer on a catwalk" thing... Chris grabbing someone's cellphone and singing into it at one point because, you know, the song is called "Talk"... get it?). And, yes, it helps that no one makes better use of those radiating rays of stage lights that shoot out from behind the band into the audience. All of that helps. But, ultimately, it falls to the band to pull it together and pull it off. In that regard they certainly have the personnel and talent; all things being equal they should be the Radiohead that everyone can like.

But, alas, they are not. They are, instead, the Gwyneth Paltrow of bands (irony!). The pre-championship Chicago Bulls with all of the pieces and too few of the results.

What they need then, obviously, is Phil Jackson. Or at least the musical equivalent. Which is probably Rick Rubin.
Smarmy
From a Sunday story in The New York Times: "... 'I got carried away,' said Mr. Jackson, describing how he reached into his pocket, pulled out $12,000 and began flinging bills into the crowd. Where Mr. Jackson saw excited fans, however, all Mr. Sheridan could see was a dangerously escalating fervor."

Can we ask a stupid question? Maybe even a series of stupid questions? Like, for instance, what was 50 Cent doing with $12,000 in cash in his pocket? While filming a scene for a movie at that? Even in the curious world of rap, this seems odd.

Consider just the physical amount of money at play here. Even if that $12,000 was in hundred dollar bills, that's 120 pieces of government-issued paper in his pocket. Go to the bank right now, ask for $600 in fives, put that wad in your pocket and let us know how it feels. It can't possibly be comfortable. It must even make walking difficult. (And don't think this has anything to do with cinematic crotch-stuffing. For one, there are cheaper ways to do this. For two, that big a roll of cash isn't going to make you appear to have an impressively large penis. It's going to make you appear to have a tumor.)

Secondly, what sort of business or transaction could possibly require one to have $12,000 in cash on hand? Perhaps, you're thinking drugs. A reasonable assumption, all things considered. But we can't imagine someone of 50's stature actually buys drugs himself. Surely he gets his for free by now. Or, at the very least, has people who do the purchasing for him. In any event, obviously it was not the sort of business 50 was too worried about, seeing as he was willing to freely throw it away.

Speaking of which, is it possible that 50 regularly carries this much cash around just so that he might, every so often, shower his admirers in money? If so, couldn't one make a decent yearly income just following 50 wherever he goes?

Finally, doesn't 50 have Visa? Has no one introduced him to the wonders of Interac? Can he not be bothered to carry around cheques? Shouldn't he have financial advisors willing to explain to him why that $12,000 would be better off resting comfortably in a bank, accumulating interest? Or does he not trust banks to invest his money wisely?

Is it an ego thing? Is actual cash money the new bling? Is random philanthropy the new bling? Or is money so disposable to 50 at this point that he keeps a wad of hundreds on hand for not only financial transactions but also note-taking, cigar-lighting, mouth-wiping and nose-blowing?

If you'll excuse us, we're going to go lose sleep over this.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

The Hippest New Fall Trend: Band Dysfunction
Via Optimus, word of a controller.controller dust-up in Kingston (because unsubstantiated Internet gossip is fine with us). Completely unhelpful Stille Post discussion here.

Coming soon, Most Serene Republic Battle Royale plus Emily and James from Metric v. Josh and James from the Tangiers in a Texas Tornado Tag-Team Match.

Vaguely related: The trouble with being Broken.
The Two Best Summations of Ashlee Simpson's Existence We've Read This Month
Michael Idov on Slate: "Whereas sister Jessica has managed to elevate a sort of honed vacuousness to the level of physical comedy, Ashlee appears to harbor no ambition more specific than to be photographed with a microphone."

Adam Radwanski in the Post: "Sipping on a Red Bull and offering confident, polite and possibly well-rehearsed answers, she is neither especially witty nor as famously ditzy as her sister Jessica, the singing, tabloid-topping reality-TV star whose fame preceded hers. She is neither warm nor cold; neither unattractive nor unusually striking; neither as edgy as her early marketing sold her nor as sexy as the more recent efforts would suggest. She is just ... there."

Exactly.

If Joe Simpson is to be remembered for anything (though he should probably be remembered as one of the more fiendishly clever minds in the fiendishly clever world of pop music), let it be this: his recognition that a post-Watergate, post-Vietnam world dominated by reality TV and weekly tabloids is one ruled by the culture of lowered expectations.

Politicians are no longer expected to inspire (contrary to newspaper headlines, no one was really that surprised by Gomery or Scootergate). Professional athletes aren't heroes. Pop stars are rarely sources of profound inspiration and/or worship. Journalists are just opportunistic ego-maniacs (hey, wait a minute...).

Now, there are those who would suggest, of course, that this is all because culture is degrading and coarsening. That, essentially, the world is going to shit.

Of course, this is ridiculous. The world is not going to shit. The world is just getting less and less naive.

Politicians have always been corrupted by power. Professional athletes have long been fond of willing women. Pop stars have rarely been of any inherent consequence. Journalists have always struggled to reconcile their exact relationship with the truth. JFK cheated on his wife. DiMaggio hit Marilyn. Elvis died on the toilet. And so forth. Beliefs to the contrary are based on myth-making or willful blindness.

People just know better now (as a general rule, people are never given enough credit). As a result, people are more cynical. But as a result of that, people, we would wager, are also generally more willing to tolerate basic flaws and mistakes of judgment. It's not quite that people expect less. It's that they expect something closer to normal. You still have to do something admirable (cut taxes, run fast, prolong the career of Mary Hart). But you needn't be an infallible genius.

So maybe your team's wide receiver smokes a lot of weed and regular wears women's underwear. So long as he still catches a touchdown or two on the weekend, all is forgiven. So maybe your favourite pop tart can't actually sing and has been known to drunkenly accost McDonald's employees. So long as she's interesting (read: distracting and/or easily mockable) and puts out the odd hit single, everyone's a winner.

Joe Simpson, an indisputably awful father, just knew enough to take advantage of this - his daughters probably the first two modern pop stars to properly manipulate this reality.
If Only 50 Cent Could Play The Five
We don't generally defer to the wisdom of professional basketball players but the other night, apropos of nothing really, Eric Williams got to talking about Black Republicanism. So far as he sees it, Williams, whose life story isn't far from 50's, can provide for his family much better being a Republican than he could being a Democrat.

That's probably as good a summation of 50's Dubya-love as you'll find.

Anyway. A-Rad has already pointed this out, but it deserves as much ridicule as possible, so check out the Ontario PC Party's attempt to beef with 50 Cent:

GRITS AND CITY PERFORMING DOUBLE SPEAK ON GUN CRIME?

Leeds-Grenville MPP Bob Runciman, the Ontario PC's critic for the Attorney General, today called on the McGuinty government and the City of Toronto to explain why they allowed a movie that glorifies youth gun crime to be filmed in Toronto and quite possibly, supported by Ontario taxpayers.

The movie, "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" scheduled for public release next week, stars former drug dealer Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson. Demonstrations against the movie have already occurred in Los Angeles.

"I think it's important to know why the city on one hand would issue a permit for the filming of this kind of movie and on the other suggest they're doing everything they can to discourage violent gun crime in the city," said Runciman, a former Solicitor General.

"It's also important to know if the provincial Liberals issued tax credits for this production" he continued. "If they did, it raises serious doubts about the sincerity of their commitment to combat gun crime."

"We can't forget that 50 Cent is the same guy that former Chief Julian Fantino tried to keep out of Toronto because of his history of promoting violence" Runciman stated.

See www.50cent.com

-30-


And to think, there are those who would have you believe the Ontario Conservatives have lost their focus since Mike Harris called it quits.

Friday, November 4, 2005

Ashlee Simpson Gets Drunk, Protests Mayor McCheese's Illegal War On The Hamburglar
CTV with the amateur video of Ashlee's little trip to a Toronto McDonald's. Officially the 2nd-best, fast-food-slash-pop-star-related thing we've ever seen on the Internet.

(Don't worry Courtney, you're still number one. Not all that safe for work. Not that you really had to be told that.)

Thursday, November 3, 2005

50 Cent Continues Campaign To Save Bush Presidency
Now this from the most popular Republican in America: "There is a lot of pressure on Bush as president of our country. A lot of things going on, this doesn't happen so often all the things that have happened under his presidency."

And, for good measure: "We are both gangsters."

Which reminds us of something M.I.A. once said: "Now it seems like what President Bush is teaching us is if somebody steps to you, you just kill him. Don’t even ask any questions. Just take him out. He’s the biggest bloody 50 Cent he is."

We are now actively considering whether this and not that is actually the ballsiest move in the history of pop music.

Vaguely related: Bush approval rating hits new low

Also: Conservative blog love for 50 here, here, here, here, here and here.

Further Action: Byron Crawford, Oliver Wang, Hip-Hop Libertarian and the Village Voice.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Bitches, Ho's And Smaller Government
We've never been able to figure out where this site gets its information, but here you will find 50 Cent's apparent take on Hurricane Katrina and topical storm Kanye. To wit: "The New Orleans disaster was meant to happen. It was an act of God. I think people responded to it the best way they can. What Kanye West was saying, I don't know where that came from."

Big, wonky, pseudo-philosophical question of the day: Is 50 Cent a Republican? Let us now pseudo-seriously consider this.

So far as we can tell, 50 Cent is a firm believer in the individual and self-advancement. Given his current financial well-being, 50 is almost definitely in support of an economic policy that relies on tax cuts for wealthy entrepeneurs. George W. Bush is no big fan of gay marriage. And it's difficult to believe 50 would feel any differently. Though the latter at least seems willing to make exceptions if the two women involved are particularly hot. And willing to let him videotape the honeymoon.

Neither Bush nor 50 seem reluctant to solve problems or quell foreign threats through intimidation and force. 50, like his president, is also now, apparently, a firm believer in the will of God with equally unflinching support for the Department of Homeland Security. And both are obviously keen on the merits of loyalty, often to a fault — 50 has G-Unit, Bush has/had Harriet Miers.

Pennant clincher: Fiddy shares a birthday (July 6) with both Dubya and Nancy Reagan. This proves nothing. But is probably far too coincidental to mean nothing.

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