Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Man with the Glove

Last night I was having dinner at Flat Top in the west loop (you know, the one right across the street from Oprah). For some odd reason, they decided to forgo their usual eclectic mix of music for one full album, beginning track to end. This is one CD that I actually own, but haven't listened to in quite a long time. The album playing that night was Dangerous. The memories that it brought back though are definitely worth reminiscing about. I started watching some of the videos and was reminded of a man that we all once loved, and all once admired. The King of Pop himself, Mr. Michael Jackson.

This is a man who once told stories.

I remember the first time I saw Thriller. I was five. I couldn't wait for the premier. I had been talking to my mother about it for weeks. The second those zombies popped up, I ran behind the couch and hid. I had nightmares for weeks, but I was completely mesmerized by the imagery, the story line, and that amazing dancing. You and I both know that anyone reading this has done the Thriller shuffle about as many times as they've brushed their teeth in the morning. It swept the nation (and still impacts us to this day).

The sad thing is though that what sweeps his reputation now is his outlandish, erratic behavior and a private life so thoroughly publicized. I do not condone any of what he has done. I do not judge him. But I miss him. I miss the story teller. I miss the performer. I miss the quality of music and lyrics like no other.

Because of this over-sensationalism of his personal life, we've all but forgotten about the amazing contributions he made to pop music. His full length videos told us stories about equality in our racial differences (Black or White), they pushed sexual boundaries and secrecy (In the Closet), and even took us all the way back to ancient Egypt (Remember the Time). There was never a dull moment. At the root of it all however, was wonderful music and amazing dancing.

These videos have withstood the test of time, as will MJ's unfortunate reputation. But it's good to reminisce about a love we all once shared. (Click on the links above for the videos mentioned)

And now, the full length video for Smooth Criminal from the Bad Album (9:36)

What I love most about this video is its' film noir feel and attention to detail. There is not one single feather out of place, no dance steps missed, and it is chock full of references to other videos and personal affects belonging to Michael Jackson. Be sure to watch it a second time and ignore him. Watch everything that is going on around him. You'll be amazed.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Yesterday, I spent the entire day doing my taxes. I hate this time of year because I always see how much money I wasted (drinking, eating out, dating men who just weren't all that into me, and did I mention drinking?) It's a good thing that I'm changing my old habits. Ask me again this time next year, and you'll find me quite the different woman. The taxes however will still be same. The need for money will still be there. And so will my love for that classic 70's super group ABBA.

My adoration of ABBA began when I was just three years old, dancing around with my drunk Polish family and friends in my living room, not understanding lyrics or worrying about quality, just simply having fun. With any party we threw, ABBA was always there. Now that I'm an adult, I'm still listening to them and still dancing drunk around my living room.

Their videos however are a different story. It was the 70's and disco was king. The concept of music videos as promotional material had just begun taking off, and it's in this era that we get the art form with its pure, unadulterated intent, simply showing off the band. There was no over the top hood-glitz or over-sexed girl groups (who only think they can sing). It was simply the band doing what they do best up on a stage.

What I love best about Money, Money, Money is the balance between Frida Lyngstad portraying the lyrical story and the shots of ABBA as a whole. They never focus too much on any one member. The few candid shots of the group (traveling in a car somehow implying that this is the way the nouveau riche lived) are interesting, but a bit out of place. The oddest thing comparatively to today's standards is the fact that coins and dollar bills were used in shots. Diamonds and champagne however, never go out of style.

So another day, another dollar, another blog post done. You'll have to excuse me now. Chiquitita and a messy living room are calling my name. Time to clean. Drinking and dancing to follow shortly.

(and to see all of ABBA's videos in their entirety, visit their official website which has been redesigned)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

For the Boys (otherwise entitled No Means No)

Dating in this day and age has drastically changed from the times when my mother was spending her Friday nights with my father. Even in the past ten years, there's been a radical shift in the way that people meet. The internet has changed everything.

Online dating sites are now a dime a dozen and I've got a profile on all of them. To tell you the truth, I don't get hundreds of men approaching me on a daily basis. I am not a skinny girl by any means, but I am pretty in my own little exotic way. The men that do approach me usually have a few things in common; They are drawn to some physical aspect of my pictures (my smile, eyes, lips, or other curvaceous feminine part). They are dorks in some way (trekkies, music lovers, history buffs -- I truly love men with brains), and 9 out of 10 times, they are desperate for anything that they can get. This last characteristic however, is where I draw the line.

I try to tell the desperate ones no in a nice way. Sorry, I'm not dating now or Sorry, our age difference is just too great. What I really mean though is that in no uncertain terms will I ever date you. Ever. I deserve better than desperate. Some of these men though simply can't take no for an answer. They keep writing back hoping for some glimmer of hope that I will respond in a different way. Maybe if they show me how wonderful and caring they truly are that I will change my mind. It's for these men that I post this video today.

One of the most classic girl groups of my generation is En Vogue. Without them, there would not have been a Destiny's Child, Pussycat Dolls, or Danity Kane (RIP DK). Winners of more MTV Music Awards than any other female group in history, they had raw vocal power, enticing harmonies, and appearances that were the definition of beauty. More importantly, their lyrics brought a woman's perspective to a male dominated music world.

My Lovin (Never Gonna Get It) is a perfect example of the classic girl-group video. There's great dance sequences, interesting wardrobe/hair/makeup, and a storyline unwrapped within the lyrical confines. The most unusual thing about this video however is that we never see a man's face. All the male dance sequences are shot in shadowed outlines, and the played-out narrative relationship is echoed through a somewhat creepy, latexed head-to-toe, dancer man.

The best part of the video (and song for that matter) however, is the "breakdown". The girls are singing in all their a cappella glory. The shots are quick cuts between the quartet members, reminiscent of the 50's & 60's girl groups that they were inspired by. It's classic and refined, just like the girls themselves.

Now, some twenty years later, En Vogue is (amazingly) still making music. Girl groups come and go with more ease than should be allowed, the latest tragedy being the breakup of Danity Kane (another insanely talented group of young girls). Lucky for us, En Vogue has stood the test of time.

And a bonus video (with someone you're all familiar with):

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Video for the Girls

I have never been a huge American Idol fan. (My parents are a different story and this somehow just doesn't seem right). I've had my eye on a few contestants from the current season; Adam Lambert and Danny Gokey, who are both wonderful singers and entertainers. My favorite though is Allison Iraheta who at 16 years old is blowing most of the competition out of the water. Her attitude and powerful vocals definitely are reminiscent of that famed first winner, Kelly Clarkson.

What exactly was it about Clarkson that rocketed her to stardom? It's true that she had an amazing vocal ability, but there was also something so very down to earth about her (which Allison also shares). Kelly connected with fans easily, both male and female, but especially with the young women who so readily sang along to her girl-empowering lyrics. This wasn't enough however to keep the critics at bay from her third album, My December. They panned it and dismissed her as quickly as they had vaulted her to this star status. Throw in some volatile weight issues and it looked as though Clarkson was headed to the great pop wannabe graveyard in the sky.

When I heard that she was going to release another album, I was scared. What kind of Kelly would we be getting this time? Sad, angsty Clarkson? Bubbly, pop Clarkson? The hard rocker Clarkson who kicked ass and took names? Luckily for us all, we got the Clarkson that we fell in love with. All I Ever Wanted is Kelly back to her pop roots, and her two newest videos are all that we could ever want from her. They tell great stories, they're light-hearted and fun (she even falls off the bar in the video for I Do Not Hook Up), and best of all, they showcase a singer who has bounced back from her own personal issues to return as the pop queen once more.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Kanye is a Bitch

Continuing on my favorite city trend from yesterday, Chicago's very own bastard son: Kanye West

As much as I absolutely love Kanye's music, I really can't stand him as an entertainer and persona in pop music today. Spin magazine called his album Late Registration "as ornate and bloated as (his) ego." Just this past week, he was immortalized on South Park, and we all know what happened at the Hurricane Katrina benefit.

As great as his music is though, what the hell happened to his videos? Homecoming is the perfect example of ego getting in the way of artistry. Kanye has always wanted to portray himself as "hood" (even though he grew up in the suburb of Oak Lawn), and he again fails miserably. Most of the video is shot downtown at the tourist traps that we all know and love (Millennium Park, and The "Bean"), but West also tries to put in his ghetto spin. There are shots of Carbini-Green (the most famous of ghettos in Chicago, but definitely not the most notorious) along with the DuSable Museum. We get it. You're black, hood, and proud -- but soon after, we get a shot of Marina Towers, one of the "whitest" apartment complexes in the downtown area. Does this make any sense whatsoever?

Just like the video for the Plain White T's 1,2,3,4, we have another black and white homage to Chitown (pronounced SHY-town for those of you non-Chicagoans). Kanye however, rather than being artful and bringing that great Midwest vibe, shoots himself in the foot by trying too hard to proclaim his domination over the city that once held him up on high.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


This first video has a very special place in my heart. It was filmed here in my city and most of it just ten blocks north of where I live. The bus you see in the very beginning is what I take everyday to get around (the #3 southbound to 95th). These are the streets that I call home.

The Plain White T's are a rock band, originating from Villa Park, Illinois (just outside of Chicago). They are best known for "Hey There Delilah", which received a Grammy nomination in 2008.

What I love most about the video is its simplicity. There was no huge budget. It was shot in black and white. These are real people in real relationships. The video is not trying to be something that it's not. This is what the Midwest vibe is about; Simply being true to yourself.

(sorry about the commercial before the video. Hopefully, I'll find a place to host these myself soon so I won't be tied to commercialized crap that we deal with on a day to day basis)


This morning I turned on the tv. The VH1 Top 20 countdown was on and I couldn't remember the last time I actually took the time to watch a show like this. I didn't think they even produced them anymore. Most of all though, I was shocked to see how much great music I've been missing. It's been said that radio is dead, but I never realized it till today.

So here is the small plot of cyberspace I'll be planting in, digging through music videos that are in some way meaningful, artful, or just idiotic. Welcome to the musical garden of my mind.

(and a special thank you to my friend and fellow writer Adam who gave me the inspirational nudge that I needed.)