Friday, September 29, 2006

Black Eyed Peas... OWNED!
The absolute highlight of my week was this piece (1), in which the Winnipeg Sun gets spurned by the Black Eyed Peas and proceeds with one of the more impassioned rip jobs in recent history.

Let's go to the highlights...

To us, Black Eyed Peas represent pretty much everything that's wrong with music nowadays, from their supposedly socially conscious lyrics to their inescapable ubiquitousness (first Best Buy, then the world!) to their oh-so-calculated street image. Had we got some phone time with 'em, we'd probably have felt more generous. But since we didn't (and since we're small, petty people), we're just gonna point out the following

Awesome. Ever been involved in producing a record and had it receive a bad review? Well, this basically confirms everything you ever thought about music criticism. In other news, I have no idea why journalists are so poorly perceived these days. I'm dumbfounded, in fact.

Also: pop music shouldn't be ubiquitous. Wrap your head around that one kids.

Sure, the Peas aren't the first posse out there to take liberties with the English language. But two of the band's four members (will.i.am and apl.de.ap) have taken the practice so far they're like those Valley girls who insisted on being called Tyfanni, then dotted their "i" with a heart or a smiley face. And don't get us started on Fergie's new album The Dutchess. What, there's not a single person in the BEP camp who knows how to run Spellcheck? (No "t" in Duchess, kids.)

All right. Fair point.

Hey, even we thought Don't Phunk With My Heart was kind of catchy ... for about 10 seconds, until we realized we'd enjoyed it even more 20 years ago, when it was a Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam song called I Wonder if I Take You Home. My Humps rips off I Need a Freak by Sexual Harassment, the track Union "interpolates" Sting's Englishman in New York (even drafting the once-great rocker for an embarrassing cameo), and Pump It consists of nothing more than Dick Dale's Miserlou run in its entirety but with a bunch of annoying beats and ad libs slapped on. That's not sampling, that's a cover.

Sweet. A sampling debate. Didn't we all get over this in, like, 1994? No? Could we get Vanilla Ice on the line to comment? Hold on... Prince Be Softly from PM Dawn would like to say something: "Sampling artistry is a very misunderstood form of music. A lot of people think sampling is thievery but it can take more time to find the right sample than to make up a riff."

Yeah, Apl lived in poverty in the Philippines until he was 14, and he and Will (who grew up in the projects but was bussed to an all-white school) took part in breakdancing and emcee battles in their younger years. But Taboo's first industry job was shovelling horse manure at Disneyland, and Fergie was a child star on TV's Kids Incorporated (alongside future thespians like Mario Lopez and Jennifer Love Hewitt) before forming pop trio Wild Orchid, a teeny-bopper version of Wilson Phillips. And, yes, their multi-culti, positive-thinking vibe can be a welcome relief from the bling-laden boasts of rap contemporaries. But are we the only ones who think they seem less like a band and more like a middle-aged marketing exec's version of what a Benetton ad might look like if scored to some "phat beats" and "dope rhymes?"

Will... what a total sellout.

What exactly is the argument here? That black people from the projects shouldn't go to all-white schools? Or, if they do, they can no longer claim to be from the projects? Is this a call for a return to segregation? I'm confused. This is like the ultimate "When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong" moment for music journalism.

Also: multi-culti is a terrible phrase. Please let this never again appear in print.

During a concert in Australia, Fergie peed her pants while on stage. Yes, literally PEED HER PANTS... Keith Richards doing enough heroin to kill a herd of elephants, then heading back to the basement to crank out Exile on Main St.? That's rock 'n' roll. Peeing your pants on stage because you had too much champagne in the green room? That's just sad.

Sure. Urinary incontinence is funny. I think we're all with you on that. And, no, it's not very rock n' roll. But don't try to make that point with a comparison to Keith Richards' epic drug use because said drug use probably left Richards with much the same problem that apparently afflicts Fergie.

Just saying.

(1) Yes, it was a slow week.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My Seventeen Favourite Things About The Controversy Surrounding Aaron Carter's Marital Status

1. He proposed to model/actress Kari Ann Peniche onstage in Las Vegas during a performance of the Playboy Hollywood Comedy Tour.
2. Video of the proposal can be found at the bottom of this page.
3. His mother's reaction to the engagement: "I never listened to my parents at that age, so why would I put myself in the position of giving an opinion that would alienate my son and the progress we have made in healing from the divorce."
4. He's 18.
5. And had known her for five days.
6. He broke the engagement off six days later.
7. His father's advice: "Son, I know you’re 18 and you think you're an adult, but you're still a kid. Don't make any rash decisions... I told him you don't go looking for love, you don't go asking for love. It will happen when you're not looking for it."
8. Kari Ann on Aaron: "You know he has a lot of emotional problems and I just want him to get healthy and happy. I just want him to become stable."
9. She's a former Miss United States Teen title holder.
10. But was stripped of that title after posing for Playboy (you can look those pictures up for yourselves).
11. And she once "hooked up" with Nick Carter, Aaron's older brother and a former member of the Backstreet Boys.
12. Nick's reaction to news the engagement was off: "I don't like her."
13. Her film credits include a small role in Grilled, a film about two meat salesmen starring Ray Romano and Kevin James.
14. The movie's tagline: "You Can't Beat Their Meat."
15. She was also a cheerleader in Species III.
16. Yes, they actually made a Species III.
17. The Carter brothers have a new reality show debuting next week. What a coincidence, huh?

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Second-Most Offensive Story In Last Weekend's Globe
I got so caught up in my entertaining, though vaguely offensive, discussion of the Polaris Prize that I forgot to heap attention upon the other music-related highlight of my week - John Mayer's talk with The Globe and Mail's Sarah Hampson, in which Mayer proceeds to make an ass of himself with seemingly little prodding from his interviewer. The best part is that after Mayer's done hanging himself, Hampson comes in with a baseball bat to get in one last lick on his still-twitching corpse. Highly entertaining.

Let's go to the highlights.

The gossip tabloids have it right, I figure. John Mayer dumps Jessica Simpson? He accused her of using him for publicity? Sure, I believe it, especially after what he told me a few weeks ago ... At a mere 28 years of age, he possesses an unusual combination of qualities. He is thoughtful and earnest, but has the arrogance of the gifted. He is famous, and knows it, but is repulsed by celebrity culture.

"This is what I want to do my entire life," he says of his music career. "I've looked up heroes in the black-and-white photos. I go to the record store when I get depressed and just take in what's around there," he continues, leaning forward now with big, brown, soulful eyes. "And that's not conducive to hanging out in Hollywood nightspots. Not that I will never be found in front of one, because I defend the ability to go out to one if I want to.

"But my altar is in a whole different church. Know what I mean? It's not the church of Hollywood. It's not the church of attention. It's not the church of blind affection."

If that's not already in a lyric in one of his song's, I'm offering 3-to-1 odds it will be.

He asks himself for "strength not to be seduced" by celebrity culture, he tells me. Still, he relished the moment he was famous enough for people to recognize him. "I was hoping to feel that it was difficult for me to be at the mall, because I was being recognized. Fuck the mall. That was the best moment of my life," he explains.

Anybody see CSI last night? Mayer was on and it was during his "concert" that one of the detectives got drugged (on her way, presumably, to getting raped). This will soon be part of a series I'm developing for Fox entitled, "When TV Guest Spots Go Horribly Wrong."

It's a different kind of entitlement Mayer suffers from. It's not the entitlement people of wealth or privilege often have: that life should be easy and that success should be delivered on a silver platter. His form of entitlement is more rare. It's the feeling that he deserves fame, was destined for it, in fact, because of his immense talent. (As he says, when talking about his music on Continuum, "It's very important for me to listen to it and go, 'Wow, this is who you really are. If you got lucky, you got lucky way too much for it to be luck.' ") Such self-adulation may explain why Mayer feels above the trappings of fame. He doesn't need celebrity to remind him how great he is.

Seriously. Did the producers of CSI tell him that was going to happen? Because how on earth do you say yes to that? 'All right John, here's what we're going to do. You're going to be playing your new song, everyone's going to be having a great time and then one of the lead characters is going to get raped by, presumably, one of your fans. Sound good? Great. Let's do this.'

Mayer's big, famous life may feel fated to him, but he doesn't seem to be enjoying it much. "I'm at this point in my life, and have been for quite a while, that I'm doing so well that most anybody I meet at a party would only be, at best, somebody who doesn't bring me down. I don't meet people who can give to me. I've been given so much and have been blessed so much that for me, if I go to a party, I am the celebrity at the party. I'm not going to meet a celebrity at a party. And for me to have a good time is so rare. The chances of meeting someone you can learn from are far smaller than the chances of meeting someone who will take from you."

Tighten noose, insert head. Miss Hampson, if you'll do the honours of the final shot...

I have only thing to say to that: Jessica, honey, run as fast as your stilettos will let you.

I'd pay good money to see the e-mails Hampson received in response to this.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

'Entertaining Though Vaguely Offensive'
It's all I've ever wanted to be.

Further Polaris commentary from Chromewaves, For The Records, Pop Candy, From Blown Speakers, You Could Use Me, My Indie World, Rock Snob, Torontoist, blogTO, Brooklyn Vegan, Stille Post, ilXor, The Globe and Mail and Chart.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback
Montreal Mirror music editor and jury member Rupert Bottenberg on the shortlist: “Welcome to Canada. Everything starts and ends in Toronto, apparently."

(Rupert will surely find solace in the fact the Canadian Idol winner this year is from Quebec. And the runner-up is from Newfoundland.)

Polaris Prize winner Owen Pallett, in the same story, about what the award means: "I always feel like Canadian critics, especially, have for a long time, been hesitant to get behind something and say, hey this is really great. It's just part of the Canadian mentality. I think the best thing about the Polaris prize is it's maybe going to set a precedent for people to actually get behind our artists."

In case you were wondering, here are some of the local critics failing to get behind Final Fantasy's records:

Now: He Poos Clouds, 4 out of 5
Now: Has A Good Home, Best Toronto Record Of 2005
Eye: He Poos Clouds, 4 out of 5
Eye: Has A Good Home, 4 out of 5
The Star: He Poos Clouds, 3.5 out of 5
The Globe: Has A Good Home, 3.5 out of 4
The Globe: He Poos Clouds, 3.5 out of 4

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Thin Is In
The lights! The cameras! The socially awkward music writers! The questionable haircuts!... ladies and gentlemen, the indie rock event of the year... the inaugural Polaris Prize ceremony. Fifty years from now those of us who were there will be able tell our grandkids about it. We'll have forgotten who won by then, but will surely remember how little there was to eat.

For those of you who weren't lucky enough to enjoy the comedic stylings of Jian Ghomeshi, I offer this diary. And, for the right price, an authentic un-used drink ticket from tonight's festivities. Get your bids in now!

7:47pm. Cross paths with Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew in the rain-soaked line-up to get in. Kevin feels strongly that his band has no chance of winning. In fact, he doesn't want to win because he doesn't want to get booed. Ah, the entirely predictable backlash. So necessary.

8:04pm. Settle in at the bar and take stock of our surroundings (my running mate for the evening is Shanda Deziel, an editor at Maclean's who is cited by Wikipedia as one of the most famous people to ever come out Leamington, Ontario). As someone else points out, the place is sort of set up like a wedding with round tables everywhere, each with a bottle of champagne. Maybe if we clink our glasses, we can get Drew and Brendan Canning to make out.

8:15pm. Ghomeshi gets things going with a few jokes about Ben Rayner and how Broken Social Scene has a lot of members. Every so often he puts his finger to his ear and claims that he has some breaking news to pass along. I know it doesn't sound funny now. But trust me, it was even less funny then. In fact, for a few seconds near the end of his monologue, it was so bad it was almost good. That moment passed quickly.

8:19pm. From his table, Drew hurls an unknown object in Ghomeshi's direction.

8:28pm. K'Naan takes the stage. Why don't he and k-os get along? They have almost exactly the same taste in headwear. Isn't that enough to bridge the gap?

8:37pm. Amanda Bynes was apparently at the Canadian Idol finale the other night. Learning this, I raise the obvious question: Is Amanda Bynes hot or not? The consensus is cute, but not hot. Just so you know.

8:45pm. A writer from Hamilton, introducing Sarah Harmer, gives a shout out to "North Burlington." North Burlington? Is Burlington so varied and cosmopolitan a metropolis that it must be divided into sections like that? Are people from North Burlington profoundly different from those in South Burlington? Is there some kind of rivalry there? Please explain.

8:47pm. "Ladies and gentlemen, the mountain herself, Sarah Harmer..."

9:01pm. J.D. Considine introduces Final Fantasy and describes himself as "chuffed." I can honestly say I've never felt "chuffed." I'm totally missing out, aren't I?

9:10pm. Final Fantasy brings out his own Harajuku Girls.

9:15pm. Rayner and Josh Ostroff offer their best impression of two grade eight students doing their language arts class presentation on why Metric is their favourite band. It was an impression, right?

9:17pm. Why aren't more people in the indie rock community riding Alexisonfire's collective jock (to use a crude sports term)? Aren't they exactly the sort of success story that we generally get all giddy about? Is it the yelling? Are they too loud? What gives? Along with the Hidden Cameras, they'll be on my ballot for next year's Polaris.

9:23pm. Adam Radwanski, in his farewell performance as the Post's music critic, introduces the Deadly Snakes, who just recently broke up. Andre Ethier on the fact the band was nominated but no longer exists: "Maybe it's a burn on us. Maybe it's a burn on you."

9:30pm. The best game to play while lurking at any indie rock gathering: Guess who is banging who. Endlessly entertaining.

9:35pm. In the video for their nomination, the New Pornographers try to start beef with Broken Social Scene. If this were the Source Awards, somebody would be getting stabbed right now. Since this is an indie rock award, everyone just smiles earnestly instead.

9:37pm. A.C. Newman says he wants Final Fantasy to win (foreshadowing!).

9:41pm. Wolf Parade take the stage and agree Final Fantasy should win (more foreshadowing!). They also ask that Rogers, the award's primary sponsor, pick up their bar tab from the previous night's boozing. (Remarkably, the Rogers executives in the building actually agree to do so. Your cable dollars at work.)

9:50pm. Cadence Weapon performs. I learn that there is absolutely nothing more entertaining than watching a bunch of white people over-compensate in their appreciation of hip-hop. Now throw your hands in the air. And wave them like you just feel really, really bad about that whole slavery thing. (This is not a shot at anyone in particular. Or Cadence Weapon, for that matter.)

9:54pm. Malajube finishes the night's performances with arguably the most enjoyable five and a half minutes of the evening (though, I must say, the evening was mostly enjoyable). Like a cross between the Verve and Sigur Ros, though somehow without sounding anything like Radiohead. The best part: they're named for a rare frog disease. I haven't heard their record and have no idea what they're saying, but I'm officially a big fan.

10:11pm. The jury has made its decision... Ghomeshi takes the envelope... ladies and gentlemen, your inaugural Polaris Prize winner... Final Fantasy! Lots of applause and whatnot... Somewhere Carl Wilson sheds a single tear of joy... Owen Pallett walks on stage and accepts a large, novelty cheque... everybody's happy.

Post Script. The best scene came shortly afterwards in a side room where Pallett was at the centre of a rather large press scrum, during which he dismissed at least one question as too "boring." Other than that disagreement, he seemed a media darling.

From what I've heard, the voting ... (Oops. Apparently you kids weren't supposed to know how the actual voting went down last night. In fact, I'm not even supposed to know. And apparently my discussion of the details has caused some furrowed brows among the organizers. I wasn't part of the actual jury so was not sworn to any kind of secrecy, but I agreed this morning to keep the details to myself... at least for now. If I get the sense that such details are getting to be common knowledge among music critics though, I'm not sure I can justify keeping such information from you, the great unwashed. Anyway.) ... The first word a juror used to describe Final Fantasy's He Poos Clouds afterwards was "interesting" and that about sums it up to me. I don't feel much either way about his music. It's... interesting...

... Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to dig my old French textbooks out of storage and start studying.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Speaking Of
The Hidden Cameras: Now not gay enough.
This Counts As Irony, Right?
Music is good vibe.

For years parents have worried about sulky teenagers hiding in their bedrooms, stereo blasting. But listening to music can effectively improve a teenager's mood and does not leave them brooding and depressed, new research has found.

The University of Melbourne study contradicts long-held fears that music corrupts teenagers, and that aggressive music can fuel angry behaviour. Instead, the study has found listening to music such as heavy metal can actually make young people happier...

Ms O'Grady said the study's aim was to disprove stereotypes that music brainwashes young people.

"The motivation behind the study was to show the importance of how adolescents listen to music, and not what they listen to," she said. "You can't make blanket stereotypes because of one or two examples of people listening to music such as Marilyn Manson before they commit atrocities."
Pay Your Cable Bill, Feed An Indie Rocker's Sense Of Self Worth
This evening, in addition to listening to Robbie Williams' Greatest Hits, I will be attending tonight's inaugural Polaris Prize ceremony. In addition to stuffing myself full of hors d'oeuvres and indie rock elitism, I was going to live blog the festivities, but some dodgy wi-fi means you'll have to suffice with a diary. I know, you're heartbroken.

I have no idea who's going to win. Aside from the French-language entry, I'm not sure there's anybody you can easily discount. My personal favourite, Broken Social Scene, probably won't win because I suspect there are enough people on the jury who don't generally like them and, after that, enough people who liked the previous record more (I feel like I'm in the minority in liking the newest record most). Metric might also be undermined by a better-loved previous record. The New Pornographers probably have a good chance because no one realizes they actually fail at their stated purpose (1).

If I had to bet, I'd say Final Fantasy wins. If only because I know at least one jury member who will be supporting him and won't let any of the other jurors leave until they agree. Failing that, I'd guess K'Naan comes closest to getting consensus.

Anyway. Like any good music blogger, I've already moved on and will be actively campaigning tonight for the Hidden Cameras to win the 2007 Polaris.

(1) I almost posted something about this before: they're basically the Ebola virus of rock bands. Remember Ebola? It was supposed to be the next great plague. They even made a movie about it. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman and Rene Russo. Anyway, it was the greatest plague that never really killed all that many people. It essentially failed to justify its own existence. And the New Pornographers are basically the greatest pop band that isn't actually all that popular. Essentially: how great and catchy can a pop band's songs really be if they fail to be popular? Somebody write a college paper about that.
Actually The Benny Hill Analogy Doesn't Work. This Time.
While we're myth-busting (1) here, let's get another thing clear: Robbie Williams' distinct lack of success in the only country that really matters is not the result of a profound cultural schism. This is not a question of greatness being lost in translation. This is not somehow the fault of the American revolution. No, the truth is somehow scarier than that.

With all due respect to Kazzer, Robbie Williams is the great, lost pop star of our generation. To use a crude sports term, the man is a genetic freak. Some sort of perfect Chris-Martin-Justin-Timberlake hybrid (though he existed, in the pop culture sense, before both). If Timbaland or Jay-Z had ever feigned interest in him, he would have even rendered Timberlake's creation unnecessary.

Alas, he lost his marbles, cut a gratuitously weird video and blew his one chance at North American stardom. But it was never that he was British. If James Blunt - arguably one of the least attractive pop stars in recent memory - can get on Oprah, almost anyone can (3). In fact, I suspect that, to use a crude sports term, Robbie just never wanted it enough. If he'd really wanted to, he surely could have been set up with some major American actress or another, been introduced to, at the very least, Jermaine Dupri and subsequently lost all traces of his accent (4). All that's easy enough to do.

But what's seemingly obvious is that Robbie got his fame (5), got his money, found a sufficient supply of groupies and said to himself, "Sure, I could be making babies with Gwyneth Paltrow right now, but, you know what? I think I'm satisfied." This is not necessarily a bad thing. Save for the fact that when you're, say, a pop star or a professional athlete or anything that other non-pop-star, non-pro-athlete people aspire to be and consider to represent a charmed existence.

This is, instead, the least acceptable thing he could have done. You can do a lot of things and still be accepted as great. If you're so inclined you can even marry your 13-year-old cousin. In fact, you should probably at least consider marrying your 13-year-old cousin because, God knows, there are probably at least a few people who would like to do same (6) and they will surely, if quietly, admire you for enjoying the sort of reckless freedom they can only dream about when they're not attending NASCAR races (7). If you're trying to conquer America and your choices are: A) Stop trying or B) Marry your 13-year-old cousin, the correct answer is rather obvious.

Simply put, the people who aren't listening to you don't want to feel like you don't care about their lack of caring. This - not recreational drug use, not an inability to hit a mid-range jumper - is what gets most pro athletes in trouble and, subsequently, dooms Robbie Williams. Granted, it's a fine line. You have to be able to act like you don't care what anyone thinks of you, while simultaneously demonstrating that you physically need people to pay attention to and secretly long to enjoy your level of privilege. This is, for one, why Shakira has done as well as she has - because it's so obvious how much she wants it (never mind how much others want her to have it).

The only thing that can save Robbie Williams now is a distinct lack of Robbie Williams. So long as he's more or less alive and more or less in control of his own legacy, he will more or less undermine himself. But once he's out of the way, or at least faded from memory, other musicians and various influential writers can make up for his own lack of trying with their own efforts to reassess, reappreciate and reimagine. Suddenly, Robbie will get the benefit of the doubt. Of course, his hopes of conquering America will have past, but he'll probably end up with the best reviewed record of 2025. Especially if he's dead, or at least near-death, by then.

And that is the second rule of pop music: time renders all mistakes forgiven. Be it marrying your 13-year-old cousin or, worse, not caring enough to marry your 13-year-old cousin.

(1) Arguably my favourite show on television. There, I said it. Why isn't this show a hipster favourite on par with Iron Chef or Flavor of Love or Celebrity Mole Hawaii (2)?
(2) What do you mean Celebrity Mole Hawaii wasn't a hipster favourite?
(3) Not quite enough is made of Blunt's improbable success as that rare creature, the truly unattractive pop star. Spare me your Ashlee Simpson jokes.
(4) If you can find a copy, go listen to Coldplay's Blue Room EP, one of their earlier recordings. Note that the singer sounds British.
(5) Albeit non-American fame and, therefore, not really fame at all.
(6) Yes, yes, there's a joke there about some southern state or another. Feel free to make your own.
(7) All right, there you go. Satisfied?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Get Ready To Blame Marilyn Manson Again
If this really is the website of the alleged gunman in yesterday's shooting spree at Dawson College (and The Star is apparently willing to make that wager), his listening over the last week included Megadeth, Subway to Sally, Soul Asylum, Marilyn Manson, Lacuna Coil, Crematory, Mudvayne, Alice Cooper and Judas Priest.

I'm not sure if I'm pointing this out because it's actually relevant or because in the next few days it's probably going to be made to seem relevant.

1:08pm EST... The site has predictably been taken down, but there's a decent overview here. As I recall, the song he was listening to yesterday when he last posted a couple hours before the shooting was Megadeth's A Tout Le Monde. The lyrics to which go like so:

Don't remember where I was
I realized life was a game
The more seriously I took things
The harder the rules became
I had no idea what it'd cost
My life passed before my eyes
I found out how little I accomplished
All my plans denied

So as you read this know my friends
I'd love to stay with you all
Please smile when you think of me
My body's gone that's all

A tout le monde (To all the world)
A tous mes amis (To all my friends)
Je vous aime (I love you)
Je dois partir (I have to leave)
These are the last words
I'll ever speak
And they'll set me free

If my heart was still alive
I know it would surely break
And my memories left with you
There's nothing more to say

Moving on is a simple thing
What it leaves behind is hard
You know the sleeping feel no more pain
And the living are scarred

The music video is here.

2:11pm EST... Dave Mustaine explains the song's intended meaning.

"It's not a suicide song. What it is, it's, you, it's when people have a loved one that dies and they end on a bad note, you know, they wish that they could say something to them. So this is an opportunity for the deceased to say something before they go. And it was my impression of what I would like to say to people, if I had say, 3 seconds to do so in life before I died I'd say to the entire world, to all my friends, I love you all, and now I must go. These are the last words I'll ever speak, and they'll set me free. I don't need to say I'm sorry, I don't have to say I'm going to miss you, or I'll wait for ya. You know, I'll just say I loved you all, good, bad and different, I loved you all."

6:16pm EST... Reuters name drops Marilyn Manson.

The Goth sub-culture is often characterized by black clothing, pale makeup and body piercing. Many of the users write about being alienated from society, and while musical tastes vary, shock rockers such as Marilyn Manson are popular.

As does CP.

Gills list of favourite music groups is a who's who of heavy metal: Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson, Iron Maiden, Danzig and Metallica, but only the "old stuff."

But they've got nothing on AP, who nicely use Marilyn to link Dawson College with Columbine.

He also maintained an online blog, similar to Klebold and Harris, devoted to Goth culture, heavy metal music such as Marilyn Manson, guns and journal entries expressing hatred against authority figures and "society.''

I guess it's probably time to point out that Klebold and Harris didn't actually like Marilyn Manson.

(Though Marilyn did feel moved to defend himself.)

8:47pm EST... Three cheers for the Saskatchewan education system and the death of fact-checking.

After the Columbine killings, national debates raged over what role pop culture played in the shootings.

"Let's just hope that there's not a big media outpour against video games and music," said Park, remembering the uproar in '99 over violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto, graphic television programs and movies, and singers such as rocker Manson, who the two Columbine killers listened to.

8:58pm EST... Wikipedia covers the misconception here. And, for the sake of discussion, here is Dave Cullen's Columbine Navigator.

10:04pm EST... An older version of Kimveer Gill's page is available here and his journal is here (and the comment thread for his last post is actually, in between the usual nonsense, a pretty interesting read).

10:17om EST... Megadeth is actually slated to play the Bell Centre in Montreal on Sept. 27. (And we all know how well it went when Marilyn Manson - WHO KLEBOLD AND HARRIS DIDN"T ACTUALLY LISTEN TO - tried to come even close to Littleton.)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Who The F--- (No. 1)
Admitting your ignorance is the first step to healing. Or something like that. Right? Anyway. Every so often I find myself digging around Billboard.com - usually for the purposes of mocking Chantal Kreviazuk - and come across a chart-topper of which I was previously unaware. For one thing, I don't receive nearly as many free CDs as I used to. For another, much of my attention is now claimed by the mysterious world of hip flexors and groin pulls. So I'm not nearly as ashamed of my ignorance as perhaps I should be. In fact, I think I've decided to turn my ignorance into a semi-regular feature here through which I will explore my limitless lack of knowledge. With any luck we'll all learn a little something. If nothing else, I'll learn something and you'll just have to indulge me.

... is Danity Kane.

I understand why no one respects Making The Band. The first season produced O-Town, arguably the goofiest boy band of an era in pop music that was, even without Liquid Dreams, remarkably goofy. But at the same time, the lack of respect given Making The Band makes absolutely no sense.

For instance, has anyone stopped watching Survivor because Richard Hatch turned out to be a deadbeat? Does it matter that the Amazing Race's various winners haven't yet fostered a better sense of understanding between America and the rest of the planet? Was Paradise Hotel any less a landmark moment in television history because it involved not a single character with any redeeming value? No, course not. These shows are judged only on their entertainment value. And, in that regard, Making The Band deserves its place among the greats of the Reality TV Era.

The first edition - starring Lou Pearlman and the aforementioned O-Town - was as biting an expose of the pop music industry in the late-90s as has yet appeared on television or in print. Sure, yeah, there was plenty there for 12-year-old girls to love too, but this show didn't sugarcoat much. It was everything that was supposed to be ugly about the music industry, plus some other stuff you hadn't even considered before. And it was all on network television (at least the first season... then it moved to MTV).

Despite introducing the term "morpharotic " into the popular lexicon, O-Town quickly disappeared and Puff Daddy replaced Pearlman for Making The Band 2, forming a kiddie Wu-Tang Clan called Da Band. MTB 2 was basically all about exploring/exploiting racial stereotypes. In MTB 1, a bunch of wussy white guys tried their hardest not to cry, while Pearlman smiled creepily in the background. Diddy takes over, the kids get blacker and the next thing you know fists are flying and rappers are narrowly avoiding incarceration. It all probably set race relations in America back 30 years. But then it was all sort of satirical. Sort of. Vaguely. Like a really long Chappelle Show sketch that didn't claim to be a joke. Long story short, Da Band was last seen wandering the streets of New York pleading for spare change to buy cheesecake.

Unfortunately, at least to my knowledge, Making The Band 3 has yet to be aired in Canada. And that, I believe, accounts for my ignorance of Danity Kane - the latest heir to the MTB legacy. Apparently, Puffy was again in charge this time around, but opted to go with an all-girl group. I can only assume that the resulting episodes provided any number of lessons about the modern state of feminism, gender politics and artistic expression. And, of course, epic cattiness.

Being the pop music mastermind that he is, Puffy suggested they call the band Trust. Strangely the girls opted instead for Danity Kane, which is apparently the name of a comic book character one of the girls created. (The girls, by the way, might also own some of the greatest individual names in the history of pop music: Aubrey Morgan O'Day, D. Woods, Shannon Rae Bex, Dawn Angelique Richard, and Aundrea Aurora Fimbres.) As was the case with MTB 2, Diddy apparently hated just about every candidate and, as per usual, there were at least a half dozen moments when all hope seemed lost. Somehow or another they got a group together. And, even more improbably, they convinced Timbaland and Scott Storch to produce tracks on the record.

I trust that this was all very entertaining because when Danity Kane's self-titled debut came out a couple weeks ago it entered the charts at #1, knocking off Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics and topping OutKast's Idlewild to become the first MTB-related record to ever claim the top spot. A week later they were topped by Bob Dylan's Modern Times.

We'll all feel bad about it five years from now, but the first single, Showstopper, isn't entirely without merit, while Right Now (there's a snippet at their MySpace site) sounds suspiciously like the title theme to an early-90s soft porn (or so I would assume). (The video for Showstopper can be seen here. The girl in the passenger seat may or may not be wearing a terrible wig.)

Anyway. Aside from ensuring themselves at least passing mention in the next Dylan biography, Danity Kane also became just the third all-girl group to reach number one this century - Destiny's Child and the Dixie Chicks each having done it twice. Maybe it's just me, but I find that sort of surprising. And you can feel free to bring up this fact the next time you want to argue about the long-standing sexism of pop music.

In the mean time, I'd like to think that Danity Kane at least somewhat redeems Making The Band. And perhaps convinces the producers of Paradise Hotel that sometimes the general public is just slow to recognize genius.

(Shouldn't Danity Kane also reinforce the enduring relevance of MTV? I'll never really understand all the arguments about how MTV "used to mean something" and has, since moving away from music videos, ceased to be anything of great and true cultural worth. As if it was somehow any more a beacon of ground-breaking television when it was showing Pat Benetar videos 18 times per day. I'd argue MTV is even more impressive a force now - remaining relevant in the face of increased competition for the attention of young and malleable minds. And I'd go so far as to say there's much more to be learned from a few hours of Next, Laguna Beach, Two-A-Days and Sweet Sixteen then there ever was from even a hundred airings of Thriller. The early years of MTV may have more to say about music. But the recent years have had far more to say about the people who actually listen to the music.)

Friday, September 8, 2006

Full Disclosure
Just so you understand who you're dealing with here: I saw a press release today about Frankie J and at first thought it was about this guy.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

'A sweet, little, fragile flower'
Chantal Kreviazuk, speaking to The Globe, on her new record and the state of women in pop music:

What she doesn't want to be is a fame-chasing pop star, a sentiment perhaps not shared by her record company (Sony BMG). Not that Kreviazuk doesn't want to sell albums, it's just that she's not willing to compromise herself to do it.

"My mother was asking me about the album," Kreviazuk recalls. "I said, 'Mom, have you seen MTV? Do you know what's going on?' It's like, to get ahead in the entertainment business on a musical level, women are strippers now."

From 2002 through 2005, according to Billboard, the following female artists were responsible for records that finished among the five best selling for a given year: Pink, Norah Jones (twice), Shania Twain, the Dixie Chicks, Avril Lavigne, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey and Kelly Clarkson. It'd be interesting to know which of those fellow female artists (two of whom she has written for and prospered from) Kreviazuk would consider akin to strippers.

(The ten best selling artists at the midway point of 2006 included Mary J. Blige, Carrie Underwood and the Dixie Chicks.)

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Goodnight, Good Luck
Last night's episode of The New Music, aside from featuring Chromewaves, apparently marked the end of the Hannah Sung Era. She's walking away to help the children apparently. Very noble.

But, more importantly, MuchMusic has yet to name a replacement host for what used to be the network's signature show (younger readers may have to ask their parents about this) and the possible replacements are, shall we say, generally less than inspiring. Hey, we all want to help the kids, but surely Hannah could have considered the kids (and 20-something bloggers with little else better to do) who will still have to watch The New Music.

Before I offer my highly sought after endorsement, let's look at some of the candidates (assuming Much, which is currently tied up in a merger, won't be looking outside the company for a replacement).

Devon. My sneaking suspicion is that our boy Devon could be in line to take over the flagship - reward surely for agreeing to dress like a Disney on Ice character for the MMVAs. Last time I checked in he was hosting a MuchNews segment (the 60 seconds of gossip they squeeze in between Panic! At The Disco videos) and that's generally where they stuck Hannah and George before her - establishing them as serious journalists and keeping them separate from the inanity that prevails elsewhere. Of course, moving Devon to The New Music would mean shifting even more responsibility onto the formidable hair of our next candidate...

Tim. He's obviously got the music IQ. It's right there in his bio - "[A]nybody that lists Kurt Cobain, The Ramones, Michael Jackson and Madonna as some of the most influential artists in music history definitely knows his stuff when it comes to all things music." Tough to argue with that logic. Still, I'd like to think The New Music host should be able to regularly speak in full sentences.

Leah. The franchise. Absolutely irreplaceable. Carries MuchOnDemand (which long ago replaced The New Music as the most important program on Much) and is almost solely responsible for any male viewership that Much still enjoys. Take her out of her current role and the network probably crumbles by the end of the week. An icon-in-waiting.

Matte. Leah needs a sidekick.

Sarah. Definitely a contender. If Leah is MuchMusic's Hulk Hogan, Sarah is Randy Savage - technically more gifted, but forever over-shadowed and outdone. Shifting her to The New Music would definitely help her establish her identity a little more. But wouldn't she be better off just leaving Much to become a correspondent for The Hour?

Suffice it to say, the pickings are rather slim. But that's not to say that the eventual host will have won by default. At least so long as Much does the sensible thing and hires... drum roll please... Hannah Simone.

Now, we've already discussed Hannah's considerable virtues, but let's review, if only to further drive home how remarkable it is that they convinced this girl to be a VJ.

She was born in London, England and raised in Calgary, then moved to Saudi Arabia, which her family fled when Gulf War I broke out. In India she organized a charity concert for women and children living with AIDS. After completing a degree in international relations and politics, she researched a book for Lloyd Axworthy and became a human rights and refugee officer for the UN in London. Somewhere in there she tried her hand at theatre, taking on a lead role in the Vancouver production of the Vagina Monologues. Eventually she moved to Toronto, got a broadcast degree, worked at a radio station and became a Much VJ. She likes Gwen Stefani, has visited more than 100 cities across the world and, it probably merits mentioning, is rather nice to look at.

This girl should probably be in charge of the NDP or something right now, instead she's a VJ. Hosting MuchTopTens. It's probably fair to say she's being under-utilized.

So let's look at this one more time: The New Music, supposedly the smartest show about music on television and surely the smartest show on MuchMusic, needs a host. Hannah Simone, probably one of the most accomplished people on Canadian television and surely the most learned person at MuchMusic, is in need of something to do. I would never claim to possess the special gifts necessary to be a master of television production, but the answer would seem to be obvious, no?

Do you suppose the minds at MuchMusic need a memo? They must see this, right? We don't have to start a letter writing campaign on this, do we? (Cause, if we did, the appropriate e-mail address would seem to be info@thenewmusic.net.)

Surely MuchMusic won't screw this up. It's too obvious. And they wouldn't even have to change the personalized "Hannah S." towels in The New Music bathroom. This almost has to happen.

(Other possibilities to half seriously debate: Nikki Mah, Byron Wong, Frank, Ben Rayner, Michael Ignatieff, k-os, Douglas Coupland, Natalie Reid, Chuck Klosterman, Colm Feore and/or Robert Christgau.)

Sunday, September 3, 2006

'They were even allowed to style their hair the way they wanted'
My favourite part of the B4-4 story in Saturday's Post? The part about their epic feud with Len, of course.

They were celebrities, made celebrity friends and had celebrity problems. At the 2000 MuchMusic Awards after-party, the boys got into an argument with Marc Costanzo, lead singer for Ottawa's Len, whose song Steal My Sunshine was a 1999 hit.

''He said something really rude to us,'' says Ohad. ''He said something to piss us off, I can't remember what.'' Whatever it was, it struck a nerve with the group. ''We got in a huge fight with them, Ryan was gonna break his head. I almost beat the s--- out of him.''

On TV's Ed the Sock, Ryan threatened Len. ''He said something like, 'Trust me Len, you don't want to see me mad,' something like that.'' Ryan's comments were exactly the thing PG-rated boy bands have to avoid. ''We got a call from a record company the next day. Ryan got in trouble for saying that on live TV.''

Highly entertaining. Up until the point when we learn one of the B4-4 guys is living in a $5-million penthouse, working with Lou Pearlman and hoping to get his own reality show. Then things get a bit sad.

(Oh, and the other two? They have 4466 friends on MySpace.)
Jokes For Copy Editors
Beyonce's new record is entitled B'Day. Apparently because it is due for release on Sept. 4, her birthday. Fair enough.

But shouldn't she have opted for a hyphen instead of an apostrophe? Because, as it stands, couldn't her record just as easily be confused with a seemingly phonetic celebration of the "low-mounted plumbing fixture or type of sink intended for washing the external genitalia and the anus?"

Just saying.

(And that said, a confession: I'm hopelessly addicted to Ring The Alarm. Put the record in my rented Corolla - colour: gold - this weekend and couldn't get past track five. If I was still paid to do so, I'm not sure how I could ever offer a review of the entire album - I can only speculate that the album runs longer than five tracks and, having heard track five, I can't remember anything of the first four.)

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