Wednesday, July 1, 2009

bum bum bee dum, bum bum beedum bum

So, Shakira has a new single in anticipation of her latest English/Spanish album pair (the English half of which is due out this year). It isn't horrible, as far as bleached-Shakira goes:




However, it does make me want to listen to this song a lot more:



Shakira, you founded a successful NGO. You have two critically-acclaimed albums and have moved 60 million records worldwide. Your appearance on MTV Unplugged was the best thing that channel ever did. So why try and imitate a second-rate Beyonce?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

our butts will always be yours, MJ

I've treated this space sort of flippantly over the past few months, mostly because I'm still more or less attached to Livejournal...but I think it's time to take off the training wheels. Or is switching domains really not that serious? Anyway, what better way to restart than by reposting a reflection on MJ, the only pop artist worth paying attention to in life as well as in death, and whose career peak I sadly missed (thanks, mom and dad).


I'm not a dancer, and I grew up when Michael Jackson was a potential child molester rather than a man who could make girls faint just by walking into a room. I am a voracious consumer of pop culture, though, and so it was absolutely necessary to stop and dedicate last night/today to him. He certainly led a complicated, troubled life--there's no point in playing revisionist historian and ignoring that aspect, especially when the circumstances surounding his past are undeniably (and for better or for worse) what made him the artist who could make girls faint just by walking into a room. At one point in his career, he did begin playing an active role in feeding the media frenzy surrounding his celebrity. He was the first person to take advantage of tabloid journalism for publicity and certainly was among those who made "paparazzo" a viable career option.

I don't believe the molestation accusations leveled against him--in part because by 1993, his image had become such that it would have been easy for anyone to turn his actions against him--but it was more than obvious that he suffered throughout his career from his father's well-documented abuse. It's incredible, given his upbringing, that he could continue making consistently phenomenal music--and utterly change pop as we know it. As someone said elsewhere on the Internet, he was Fred Astaire, John Lennon and Elvis combined--a genius songwriter/composer, a beautiful vocalist, and an unparalleled dancer. Couch it in those terms and it's not surprising to see artists from every genre, not just pop or R&B, breaking down upon hearing about his death. Every single artist I listen to today has been influenced in some way by Michael Jackson's work. For that, if nothing else, I owe it to him to reflect for a minute.

But yeah, not a whole lot of people my age feel this way. Understandable, but I don't know...I feel like I missed out on something big. I'm not convinced that people are going to be this broken up about the death of a Backstreet Boy or a Jonas Brother.

Seriously--65 million copies of Thriller? Do the top 10 artists on Billboard even sell that much combined nowadays?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Autotune update

I'm making another exception.



This use of Autotune is just incredible.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Soulja Boy pushes for that 16th minute

via ONTD:

Soulja Boy is working on an animated series.





At first, I was mad because, you know, for me to make the amount of money that this loser makes in a week, I'd have to double up on selling my body for money and selling drugs on the street. Then I hit "play" on the video and it wasn't horrible. He could be my underage sugar daddy, if he wanted to.

Carlton Banks is in it, too! Poor guy can't get any work.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

stuff lucía likes: charles hamilton

I'm way behind the internet on this one, but DAMN.



Okay, so he's friends with Asher Roth, who sounds just like Eminem but with half the wit and three times the obnoxiousness (though he's really really nice to look at). But Charles Hamilton is straight-up AMAZING. His samples are always on point--his mixtapes feature everything from the standard (Kanye's "Stronger") to the most random (Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy"). This is my favorite one, though:


Stir of Echoes or Sleeping Beauty - Charles Hamilton

It's INCUBUS! I used to love Incubus. I love Charles Hamilton.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

guiltiest pleasures ever

1. "That's What You Get" - Paramore
2. "Breakaway" - Kelly Clarkson
3. "Teardrops on My Guitar" - Taylor Swift

Monday, January 5, 2009

what to watch for in 09: the return of ska!!!

I was looking through old CDs the other day (because just about the only thing I do when I'm home is wallow in nostalgia) and ended up listening to a Catch 22 song for the first time since I graduated high school. It was this one in particular (but the original, not the Streetlight Manifesto cover):



Now I'm convinced that a ska comeback would make the world immeasurably better.

Right now, popular music is dominated by two styles of music: a combination of this weird, barely-classifiable hybrid of pop-punk and emo, and ringtone rap. This definitely explains why Gym Class Heroes, who've managed to combine these two genres into one supergroup of ridiculousness, are so popular.



Why else would they be famous? (Let's not forget that they enabled Katy Perry to play not one or two but THREE singles on the radio. That in itself is a capital offense.) Since I'm pretty sure that none of these guys play a brass instrument--they're gym class heroes, not band geeks--a ska comeback would completely remove them from the music industry. Ska could function like a form of musical social Darwinism in that if you can't play an instrument at least semi-proficiently, you're done. Granted, social Darwinism wasn't too hot an idea when we used it to justify eugenics and all that, but you know it'd be hilarious to see Soulja Boy on MTV Hits singing to his girl about kissing him through his trombone.

A ska comeback would also get rid of all the hipster trash that's been littering our streets since, like, 2005. Skinny jeans wouldn't be out of the picture for practical purposes--it's easier to skank when you're not burdened by a flared hem. Nor would keffiyehs, since the houndstooth can easily be replaced by a checkerboard pattern. (It's cool, though, cause I like both of these trends.) But there'd be no better way to get rid of the apathy my generation is famous for than to remove the pretentious scenester from the picture. Ska is the anthem for change we can believe in!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Worst of 2008: Autotune

It's way too late to do a 2008 wrap-up post, I know--but with the music industry in danger of staying on this course, the topic bears discussing.

There are only a certain few people who should be allowed to touch a vocoder. Teddy Riley is one of them. Simply put, Teddy is a legend in the music business and a genius in the studio. Though it's not present in the video below, he popularized the use of the vocoder in early- and mid-90s R&B. For those of you not acquainted with the father of New Jack Swing, this is him remixing a song by another King:



(Yes, that is Iman in the video as Eddie Murphy's wife. I love Iman because she was ferocious in her own right before marrying David Bowie, but classy enough not to broadcast her ferocity all over reality television, coughtyrabankscough. But I digress.)


Stevie Wonder is another. If you're not acquainted with Stevie, we shouldn't be friends, but this is him singing into a talkbox (close, but not quite a vocoder) way back in the day:



Stevie Wonder has decades of cred built up; at this point, he can have as many Blue Periods as he thinks are necessary, and no one should say anything. Teddy Riley more or less invented the modern R&B sound, in addition to being the ear behind most of what Michael Jackson put out during the 1990s, so he likewise has a free pass.

But T-Pain, really? The guy who made "I'm In Luv Wit a Stripper" popular? He wouldn't be on the map at all were it not for Akon, another mediocre rapper/singer (whose voice, curiously enough, actually sounds like a talkbox). Digital enhancement--aside from crazy stuff like Kraftwerk and Daft Punk's "One More Time," or "California Love," where it's sprinkled here and there--is for people either too lazy or not talented enough to work at hitting the right note in the studio, so the fact that someone is actually making millions off of the technology kind of cheapens music as a whole. And, really, T-Pain represents everything that is wrong with modern hip-hop--the simplistic ringtone raps and the continued use of cliches like "bottles/Patrón in the club" being the least of the genre's recent transgressions. Interesting, given that some of rap's worst work in recent months (I'm thinking 808s and Heartbreak and Lil' Wayne's Dedication 3 mixtape) have involved T-Pain, Autotune/a talkbox, or both.

Wikipedia reports that T-Pain's next album will have a "Western feel," Tim McGraw cameo and all, and that there will be no Autotune. The fact that he's still a player in the music business at all is disheartening--but there's a silver lining! We're so far vocoder-less in 2009. I hope the coming year treats us just as well.