Sunday, April 18, 2010

Confusing Business and Pleasure

The Coachella Festival was this weekend. Lots of interesting names were on the line up; Muse, MGMT, Gorillaz, Passion Pit and Vampire Weekend were just a few. The biggest name of all though was Jay-Z.

I saw his concert in Chicago last month and it blew me away. He was entertaining, interactive and simply put on a damn good show. At Coachella, the fans got a little something extra on the side, in the shape of his wife, Beyonce.

Now, being a fan of both of them, I had expected there to be some really great chemistry on stage. They are the it couple in the music scene today. So what happened?

They spent most of the time in this number halfway across the stage from each other which at first, is a smart move. They were equals. It isn't until four minutes into the song that we actually see them interact at all on stage. Now that I think of it, did they ever even touch each other at all?

So what's the deal? Why is the power couple so forced and business-like on stage? I understand, it's their job. As the media (and the world) is aware, they're very private people. But if I had a husband who had the same kind of career, being on stage together would have been a pleasure. I wouldn't be able to help myself wanting to be next to him and playing together in something so amazing. It would seem the natural thing to do.

Mixing business and pleasure isn't always a good choice, but if you're going to do it, you might as well do it all the way.

For more on the entire festival, see a write-up and some great pics here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Waiting For It

Sometimes, waiting is the right thing to do. I'm the type of girl who wants everything right here and right now. But I'm learning to be patient. And it's paying off.

I meant to write a post a few months ago about the Gaga/Beyonce collaboration on "Videophone". My first few viewings of the video really didn't impress me. I thought it was over done with references that had already been played out to their deaths.

Tonight, I changed my mind.

The dynamic duo have released another video for "Telephone" and it's dynamite. It explains a lot of what happened in the first video and the reason they were hitting up the campy, superhero stuff.

What I love most about the video though, is that it's a movie first. It's telling a story. It's rare to find artists who do these massive productions anymore, and of course, no one could ever compare to what MJ used to put out. But Gaga has done a beautiful job (Notice, I said Gaga, not Gaga and Beyonce).

Gaga is herself in this; wildly creative, sexy as hell, and the queen of drama. Beyonce however, falls flat. Acting is not one of her strong suits, sad to say. The only thing saving her is the creative team behind the video. The costumes are phenomenal, and the choreography could make a straight girl go gay for the nine minutes and thirty two seconds it takes to get through this. (Though, to be honest, I'm kinda tired of seeing Gaga's hoo-ha and ass. You've got a killer body. We all know it. Enough ok? Thanks.)

I wish I could go second by second to point out all the intricate details that I'm seeing, like the MJ reference as Gaga leaves the jailhouse. There is not a single detail that is wasted. The Tarantino references are what truly make the video (Kill Bill, anyone?) and what have now changed my mind about the earlier "Videophone" video.

I'm still not sold on all aspects of the video, but the Tarantino references (one from my favorite movie, Reservoir Dogs) now make a little more sense. I'm still not thrilled with the Betty Page Beyonce (and what was up with the 80's rapper Beyonce?) which were my initial reactions. Still, over all when looking at both videos, they make a nice set.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Helping Haiti

Last night, the "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon aired. It was amazing to see the list of people who came out to support the efforts put together by George Clooney and the execs at MTV. But some of the musical acts were lackluster and song choices depressing to say the least. I was disappointed. We all know that this tragedy is overwhelmingly sad, but as an audience, we needed to be uplifted. You want our support? Ignite us to give, don't drag us down.

There were a few stand out performances though. (Sadly, I can't embed all the videos because they play automatically. Please follow the links.)

Mary J. Blige was as composed and elegant as she always is. This is what a true diva looks and acts like. Her rendition of "Hard Times Come Again No More" showed her strength both as a singer and performer. Never overstated, but most definitely having the presence needed.

Jennifer Hudson also sang with as much gusto and prowess on the Beatles "Let it Be". It's a shame these two women have yet to perform together. That would be an amazing collaboration.

John Legend's "A Motherless Child" was beautifully scored with a string quartet supporting his haunting voice and delicate piano playing. Its wonderful to see that someone as busy as John (who is currently in the middle of a tour) take time out to do his part.

Christina Aguilera, with her trademark red lipstick and platinum blond hair, was vocally at the top of her game. The girl has vocal chords of steel. Her new ballad "Life Me Up" was a beautiful choice for the evening.

Does Sting ever age? It's kinda creepy. Thankfully, his voice isn't aging either. He sounds just as good as he did thirty years ago. His "Driven to Tears" was one of the few upbeat and musically interesting pieces of the night, that send a very strong message that we all need to heed.

And a few quick notes on what I believed to be some seriously poor choices:

Beyonce? What the hell were you thinking singing "Halo"? Hundreds of thousands of people DIED. We've all heard that song a million times over. You couldn't have found someone else's song to sing for once? That was a huge disappointment. HUGE.

Bruce Springsteen, I love you, really I do. But please don't ever sing that song again. Or any word that has the syllable "er" in it. I had to turn you off it was that bad.

Madonna, what were you wearing? You've always been on the cutting edge of fashion. Tonight? Not so much. And the vocals sounded truly forced. Thank god you had that chorus behind you. They saved it.

And most depressing song of the evening goes to my favorite artist, Dave Matthews. Along with Neil Young, he sang Hank Williams' utterly sad ballad "Alone and Forsaken". Hate the song choice, love the collaboration.

One of the most beautiful performance of the night though, surprisingly came from Justin Timberlake and his protege Matt Morris singing the Leonard Cohen classic "Hallelujah". This is where we see Justin at his best; quiet, subdued, emoting behind the piano. We see the performer that many have forgotten about due to his widely loved sex/pop appeal. The performance is beautiful to watch and listen to. This one deserves to be seen.

And on a personal note:
One of my dear friends from college, Jamie, lives in Port-au-Prince. The school where she was teaching is taking donations online through Paypal. See their website for more details. Her parents also have a mission there and are taking donations by check through the mail. If you'd like to support them, please contact me for information.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

RIP Teddy

I woke up this morning to find the news that Teddy Pendergrass has died. It's a sad day, not just for music but for the world in general. He was a talented (and did I mention sexy?) man who was also a great role model after suffering a paralyzing spinal cord injury. He kept singing and recording, and started a charitable fund to help others with the same circumstances.

While this video only has one picture, it's easy to see why he had such a strong pull as a performer. His voice is pure sex and the girls are constantly screaming from ecstasy.

What many people of my generation don't realize is that If You Don't Know Me By Now, made popular by Simply Red in the 80's, was actually first released by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, where Teddy was the lead singer. Take a look at this flashback from an old episode of Soul Train.

Man, I miss the Soul Train. Here they are again with Wake Up, Everybody.

Teddy also did collaborative work with amazing women. Here he is with Stephanie Mills in Two Hearts.

Before she became a legend (and tabloid train wreck), Whitney Houston also sang with Teddy. Hold Me from Whitney's first self-titled album.

RIP Teddy. You will be missed.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Death of Pop

I'm seriously in shock.

This article claims that "rookie pop singer Ke$ha's "TiK ToK" shifted 610,000 digital tracks for the week ending December 27, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That's the highest weekly sum by a female artist since tracking began in 2003, and the second-best overall after Flo Rida's "Right Round" sold 636,000 this past February. Coincidentally, Ke$ha was an uncredited singer on the track."

Is this some bad joke? The girl barely sings. I will admit that the chorus is slightly catchy, but it sounds like a bunch of other choruses that I've heard before. There's no originality and no talent. How did Gaga get beat by this little blond nothing?

Someone please explain. I'm seriously at a loss for words.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Real Boy Band

I used to have a thing for boy bands. Well, one in particular (Lance Bass will always make my heart sing, gay or not!) But here in the US, they have become a thing of the past as is per our lousy next bigger, better, louder, faster, one-hit-wonder custom. Lucky for me, the US isn't the only country putting out pop music.

I've spent time actually living in other countries. It's a sad fact to state that the US is completely wrapped up in their own music. When I lived in Germany, I heard French pop on the charts. I listened to German pop when I lived in Poland. Trust me, there are borders in Europe, but they are not quite as thickly defined as our own.

So where is the next generation of real pop coming from? Asia.

I've followed the Korean boy band machine that is Super Junior. They began as a 13 member all-boy super group. Due to their popularity (and smart business moves of their label) they have also been divided into smaller sub groups, simultaneously targeting different music industries and audiences. Super Junior KRY target a more mature audience using R&B ballads, Super Junior T use Trot music for their fanbase, and Super Junior Happy is all about the bubble gum pop. (You want to see real bubblegum pop? Check out their video for Happiness. It's so sweet it'll make you sick.) Super Junior M focuses on the Chinese market (they're actually the first international music group in the Chinese music industry to have members of both Chinese and Korean descent.)

What I love most about Super Junior is their simple style. They dance. They sing. Nothing is ever over the top. Story lines in their videos are never complicated or over-sexualized. Their music is fun and catchy. They are truly what pop is meant to be.

Here is the latest video from Super Junior M, Super Girl

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Hopeful Fallen Idol

Katherine McPhee...what the hell happened to you?

She was the runner-up on the fifth season of American Idol (sadly losing to Taylor Hicks). Her first single, Over It, did well on the U.S. Billboard charts, and topped the charts in both India and Asia, eventually going gold from digital downloads of the song. McPhee had stated however that it was not "[her] favorite song" and she did not want her "song to be something that [she] was a part of." The video, while cute and singer-centric, is nothing but a few boring shots of her in cute clothes, lamenting or following around her ex-boyfriend.

What I remember most from Cathering McPhee however was that she could sing. The girl had a phenomenal voice and a natural grace and ease to her stage presence.

Her Idol audition:

And who can forget this:

Now, this was all back in 2006-07. She released a video for Love Story which showed off much more of her R&B sound, and while still singer-centric, was much more fun to watch with its Tina Turner/French Beatnik throwbacks.

And here we are in 2009. McPhee has released a new single, Had it All.

What. The. Hell.

She looks like some coked-up blond model. The red lipstick is ridiculous. Her voice sounds like a hot mess. Where is the powerful singer we once knew? Is this new McPhee supposed to be pop or country? What kind of boring cross-over shit is her label making her produce?

'Tis a sad day indeed. The death of a career from McPhee.