Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Voice: First Season Winner

Well, for all of my spot-on predictions this season, I ultimately backed the wrong horse. Last night, Javier Colon (not Vicci Martinez) was named THE VOICE. Even with a 75% chance of a woman winning, a man emerged victorious, officially proving that American Idol and The Voice have the same voting audience.

Ah, I keed I keed. You won't hear any conspiracy theories or "It's not fair!" shouts from me. Congratulations to Javier. I hope that one of the perks of his new title is that, everytime he walks into a room, a faceless singer has to intro him with the show's lame theme song, "THIS IS THE VOICE!" Seriously, they need to get a new theme for Season 2.

Luck was really on Javier's side last night because, not only did he emerge victorious, but he also got to sing with Stevie Nicks. Sure, her voice isn't quite what it used to be, but she'll always be one of my favorites. And she still has an incredible sense of harmony. The way she can mold her voice to fit with whoever she's singing with is amazing.

Although Blake Shelton is very sweet, and his reaction to seeing wife Miranda Lambert and protege Dia Frampton performing together gave me the warm fuzzies, I'm not sure they really fit together that well. Their duet was just OK for me. I have no idea why Beverly McClellan was paired up with Ryan Tedder. Was that her choice? It was an odd one. They actually sounded pretty good together, but I would have rather seen her paired with, say, Lady Gaga. Or maybe they could've gotten Bob Seger! He has a new album he could be promoting. As for Vicci's duet with Pat Monahan, I'm not even going there. I mean, I love Vicci but I hate Train. And that song about soy lattes and deep fried chicken is the worst.

So, Javier gets the Universal recording contract, but what will happen to the three runners up? I have a feeling that they will fare far better than American Idol runners up usually do, even if we've gotten less face time with them than we normally do with Idol contestants. It helps that these music biz hopefuls have a lot of experience (and fans) under their belts already and that they haven't been completely broken by months of very Brady group sings and soul-sucking Ford commercials. And oh yeah, they're a lot more talented than most Idol cast-offs. Honestly, I can't remember an Idol finale that was as evenly matched as last night's Voice finale was...and there were twice as many singers involved. I truly felt that any of the final four could have won and all of them deserved it. Like anyone, I had my favorites (Vicci and Beverly) but I have no problem with Javier taking the crown. In fact, the only issue I have with the guy is his name. It just sounds like an answer to the question, "What's that bewitching scent you're wearing?" "Why, Javier cologne, of course."

I can bring home the trophy
Buy a fancy Rolls Royce
And never never let you forget I'm The Voice
'Cause I'm the winner

*You probably need to be over 30 to know what tune to sing this to.

Yeah, I'm like the Weird Al of commercial jingles. Interestingly enough, that took me 45 seconds to come up with and it's still better than most of Tuesday night's "original" songs. "Original" belonging in quotation marks even more now that I've learned that Vicci's "Afraid to Sleep" is actually a decade-old Dido song. And here I was giving a lot of the songwriters the benefit of the doubt because I was thinking that they had to quickly cobble together songs and push them out the door in time for the Finale. If picking obscure existing songs was an option, there's no good reason why the one picked for Vicci should have sucked so much worse than the other three...or why anyone's songs should have sucked at all!

Anyway, for all of my initial hesitation about this show, I really enjoyed the first season and am looking forward to the next. I'm even looking forward to seeing more of Adam Levine—something I never thought I would say before The Voice came along. Of course, I still wish he'd disband Maroon 5 and stop writing ridiculous lyrics about the joy of banging, but I do so enjoy looking at him.

For more recaps of The Voice, visit SirLinksaLot.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Voice: Final Four Face Off

OK, you've got me. Despite my earlier protests, this is a full-fledged recap.

Last night, the final four contestants made their bids to become...THE VOICE. The three runners-up will get to keep their identities and probably get recording contracts anyway.

Each contestant sang an "original song" (not their own creations, but ones written by pop tunesmiths who are not named Kara DioGuardi, thank God) and a duet with his/her coach. And now, for all three of you who were up all night wondering what I thought of these performances, here are my rankings...

1. Dia Frampton
Original Song: B / Duet: A / Overall: B+

Even though the original "Inventing Shadows" sounded like a watered-down throwaway Coldplay track, she did a decent job with it. I agree with Christina and Adam that the silhouetted voguers behind her were just distracting (and stupid). If Blake wanted to get all literal with the whole shadow theme, he should have hired Silhouettes from America's Got Talent. However, Dia's performance with Blake was the best duet of the night. Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" was the perfect choice for them, and they showed off some terrific harmonies. It was good enough that I could overlook the cheesy Men In Black wardrobe styling.

2. Vicci Martinez
Original Song: B / Duet: B / Overall: B

So, I know Butch Walker produced Vicci's original "Afraid To Sleep," but I'm not sure who wrote it. I hope it wasn't Cee Lo because it was HORRIBLE. Seriously, it sounded like it took 10 minutes to write. I mean, it wasn't "No Boundaries," but it was pretty pathetic. Still, Vicci's powerhouse voice overcame the cliched lyrics and she turned in a memorable performance. And even though Cee Lo's Mad Max-esque staging of their "Love is a Battlefield" duet (not to mention that he seemed to be suffering from a sore throat) threatened to divert all the attention from Vicci's vocals, she sang the shit out of that song.

3. Javier Colon
Original Song: B / Duet: C+ /Overall: B-

OK, so you're noticing that I'm pretty much giving everyone a B for their original song. That's because these songs were obviously churned out very quickly and their crappiness shouldn't be used against the singers themselves. Javier's song, "Stitch By Stitch" was probably the most radio-friendly of all of them, and he gave a very solid performance. His and Adam's voices meshed together quite nicely on "Man in the Mirror" (no surprise that two guys with high voices can do well with a Michael Jackson tune). However, I am so sick of that song that I was practically willing myself to fall asleep during the performance.

4. Beverly McClellan
Original Song: B+ /Duet: D+/Overall: C+

I broke my original song B streak for Bev not because "Lovesick" was all that fantastic (it was a bit Velvet Revolver Lite), but because she gave a spirited performance and, as always, she sounded amazing. As for her duet of "Beautiful" with Christina, well, that was just sad. It wasn't really Beverly's fault, as she sounded fine, but Christina's concern about getting her own share of glory notes turned the could've-been-pretty acoustic arrangement into a big ol' mess.

So, who's gonna win this thing?

It pains me to have Beverly ranked last because I would love to see her take the prize, but I really don't see it happening. And as wonderful as Javier is, I don't see him winning either. You have to remember that The Voice has roughly the same audience as American Idol. And if Idol history has taught us anything, it's that gays and minorities do not get the votes, even if they have the voices. Sad and stupid, but true.

That leaves Vicci and Dia. Vicci has been one of my favorites from the beginning. I generally like Dia and think she has a very cute-indie-girl voice, but I hate the way she constantly gasps for air. And even though her original song is getting the most iTunes downloads and I have her ranked slightly above Vicci (based on last night's performances), my gut feeling is that Vicci is going to win.

*google google google*

Wait, what's this? Vicci's gay, too? Ohhhhh crap. How am I just finding this out now? (Maybe because it doesn't matter?) Well, this may swing the vote in Dia's favor, but I'm sticking with my gut. Since I didn't know Vicci was gay, maybe all those voters out in the cornfields didn't realize it either. She's winning.

I've been doing pretty good predicting this show thus far, so tonight we'll see if my final decision matches the rest of America.

For more recaps of The Voice, visit SirLinksaLot.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Battle of the Netflix Stars #11

Bout #11: Battle of the Bad Movie and Its Documentary


Troll 2

Best Worst Movie

Director:Drake Floyd (aka Claudio Fragasso)Michael Stephenson
Star Power:None, unless you count "the rich man's Craig T. Nelson"None, unless you count "the rich man's Craig T. Nelson"
Plot:The Waits family plans a summer house-swap with a family they've never met from the farming town of Nilbog. Little Joshua Waits is visited by the spirit of his dead Grandpa Seth, who warns him about vegetarian goblins who, instead of eating easy-to-come-by vegetables, magically turn people into plants and eat them. When the kid finally realizes that Nilbog spells Goblin backwards and that all the very strange local residents keep trying to feed them weird green food, he tries to convince his very stupid family that they're all in danger. Now an adult, the actor who played Troll 2's young Joshua Waits attempts to gather the cast of one of the worst movies ever made. Since the cast members are either no longer in the movie business (if they ever really were to begin with) or actors still trying to shake the ghost of this résumé killer, they're amazed by the huge cult following that has built around their little movie. As we follow cast members to midnight screenings and conventions to watch them get a taste of belated fame, we being famous for something terrible better than not being famous at all?
Pros:Has nothing whatsoever to do with the original Troll; wonderfully campy and/or laughably terrible performances; ridiculous dialogue; a $10 special effects/costume budget; supposedly straight male characters who like to sleep naked together...I mean, what's not to love??Manages to poke fun at Troll 2 without being cruel; Stephenson's on-screen dad, George Hardy (the aforementioned "rich man's Craig T. Nelson"), is a completely charming "leading man"
Cons:Well, it IS a bad movie. Not everyone will love it. And viewing really requires a MST3K atmosphere; it's probably not as funny if you watch it alone. So if you're one of those people who doesn't like to crack wise to your friends during films, you should probably skip it.Over-the-top scene stealer Deborah Reed (The Goblin Queen) was nowhere to be found!
My Thoughts:Ever since I saw the infamous "OH MY GOD" clip on YouTube, I had been dying to see this movie, and it didn't disappoint. What a perfect storm of bad movie-making. As I later found out in the documentary, Claudio Fragasso barely spoke English, so the cast couldn't even understand his direction most of the time. Plus, he insisted that the actors (most of whom weren't really even actors—one was the local dentist and one was on a day release program from a mental hospital) read his awful dialogue verbatim. Hence, amazing lines like "Go away, monster!" and "You can't piss on hospitality...I won't allow it!" In the New York Times review of this doc, I discovered that Michael Stephenson and I share the same view of that annoying term, 'guilty pleasure', when he said, "If you like something, what are you guilty of? Either you like it or you don't." That's basically what his documentary is about: the people who made Troll 2, and the (long-delayed) throngs of people who unapologetically love it. It doesn't matter if they like it for the "right" or "wrong" reasons, although Fragasso makes it clear that his movie was good and anyone who thinks otherwise "knows nothing." While it's nice to see, thanks to B-movie lovers everywhere, underdogs finally having their day, not all of the newly-famous Troll 2 stars have happy endings: Stephenson's on-screen mom, Margo Prey, lives her off-screen life as a delusional recluse, while Robert Ormsby (Grandpa Seth) can be found slumped in a chair, defeatedly announcing that he's "frittered his life away." But overall, this award-winning doc is both an interesting look at how movies can bring people together and a commentary on the lure of celebrity.
Final Grade:B+A

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sonic Sunday: The Soundtrack of My Life (1975)

Continuing (after nearly a two-month break) along on this Quantum Leap-esque stroll through my own musical lifetime, here are some of my faves from 1975.

1. "Golden Years," David Bowie
Don't let me hear you say life's taking you nowhere, angel/Look at that sky, life's begun/Nights are warm and the days are young/There's my baby, lost that's all/Once I'm begging you save her little soul

This has been my favorite Bowie song for as long as I can remember. Those backing vocals are the bee's knees.

2. "Jungleland," Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band
The street's alive as secret debts are paid/Contacts made, they vanish unseen/Kids flash guitars just like switch-blades/Hustling for the record machine/The hungry and the hunted explode into rock'n'roll bands/That face off against each other out in the street/Down in Jungleland

Best. Bruce song. EVER. I'm glad I got to hear it live (more than once) before the great Clarence Clemons left us.

3. "Night Flight," Led Zeppelin
I received a message from my brother across the water/He sat laughin' as he wrote 'the end's in sight'/So I said goodbye to all my friends/And packed my hopes inside a matchbox /'Cause I know it's time to fly

This was my favorite Zep song for a long time, and I still kind of think of it that way even if I lean a bit heavier towards "Out on the Tiles" these days.

4. "Monday Morning," Fleetwood Mac
Monday morning you sure look fine/Friday I got travelin' on my mind/First you love me, then you fade away/I can't go on believin' this way/I got nothing but love for you/Now tell me what you really wanna do/First you love me, then you get on down the line/But I don't mind

Even though I've always tended to go more for the Stevie Nicks-penned stuff, this Lindsey Buckingham tune has long been my #1 Fleetwood Mac song.

5. "Jive Talkin'," Bee Gees
It's just your jive talkin'/You're telling me lies, yeah/Jive talkin', you wear a disguise/Jive talkin', so misunderstood, yeah/Jive talkin', you’re really no good.

This song is just so freakin' funktastic. Even Beavis and Butthead like it.

6. "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)," Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
There ain't no more/You've taken everything/From my belief in Mother Earth/Can you ignore my faith in everything?/'Cos I know what faith is/And what it's worth

I remember first hearing of this song through Duran Duran, who released a live version of it as the B-side to "The Reflex." I also remember not liking it that much, but when I finally heard the original, I loved it. I guess that doesn't sound like something a lifelong Durannie would say, but it's true.

7. "Bohemian Rhapsody," Queen
Too late, my time has come/Sends shivers down my spine/Body's aching all the time/Goodbye everybody/I've got to go/Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth/Mama, oooh, I don't want to die/I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all

For a while after Wayne's World came out, I could NOT listen to this. I'm sure a lot of you were in the same boat. Thankfully, the massive overexposure this song suffered because of that opening scene (not to mention the terrible fate it suffered at the greasy hands of Constantine Maroulis on American Idol) didn't kill it for me completely. It really is a brilliant piece of music.

8. "Feel Like Makin' Love," Bad Company
Baby, if I think about you/I think about love/Darlin', if I live without you/I live without love/If I had the sun and moon/And they were shinin'/I would give you both night and day/Love satisfyin'

Paul Rodgers may not be a stud, but if he told me he felt like makin' love, I'd be like, "let's go." I mean, that voice.

9. "Some Kind of Wonderful," Grand Funk Railroad
I don't have to run around/I don't have to stay out all night/'Cause I got me a sweet, a sweet, lovin' woman/And she knows just how to treat me right/Well my baby, she's all right/Well my baby, she's clean out-of-sight/Don't you know that she's—she's some kind of wonderful

I guess you could claim that this tune doesn't belong here since it's actually a cover of a 1967 Soul Brothers Six song. But I'm not gonna let you screw up my list on a technicality. Besides, this is one of the few covers that trumps the original.

10. "After the Thrill Is Gone," Eagles
Same dances in the same old shoes/You get too careful with the steps you choose/You don't care about winning but you don't want to lose/After the thrill is gone

My favorite Eagles song is "New Kid in Town," but this is a close second. I guess I just like songs about how love is great at first, but always ends up sucking in the end.

Past installments:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Open Letter to Moronic Amazonians

Dear Amazon customers,

I'm sorry that you ordered a CD that didn't arrive, was scratched, smelled like feet, or suffered some other non-musical problem. But why don't you try taking your issue to Customer Service instead of giving the actual record a one-star rating? I can assure you that the artists who worked hard on their music and hope to have it reviewed objectively had nothing to do with the UPS truck tire-sized marks all over your smashed package.

Sincerely annoyed,


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Voice: Top 8 Non-Recap

While this post may seem like a recap, I must keep stressing that my musings on The Voice are not full-fledged recaps. They can't be. I can't give my entire life over to another karaoke TV show. I won't. These are merely, uh, recappish thoughts.

Still, I have to wonder if I shouldn't trade in my allegiance to American Idol for The Voice. Not because the caliber of singer is better (although in many cases, it is) but because the show makes me feel so damn smart. While my ability to predict Idol cast-offs has really started to slip over the last couple of years, I managed to correctly pick 7 of the The Voice's Top 8. And really, if Blake Shelton hadn't hit the pipe so hard last week, causing him to pick Xenia, I probably would have gone 8-8.

I have to cyber-pat Adam Levine on the back for not picking Jeff Jenkins, who couldn't sing a song without reminding everyone that his mother had died. Good for Adam for realizing that this is The Voice, not Pimp My Tragedy—a title that my niece, Miss T, recently came up with, which really should be a show. Believe me, there would be no shortage of auditioners. (Danny Gokey, Chris could be your second chance!!)

Speaking of Adam Levine, I have to just say that the most disturbing side effect of watching this show has been my growing attraction to him. I suppose if you do a search for Adam on my blog, you might find the word "turd" prefacing any mention of his or his terrible band's name. I guess I have to take it back for him. He seems like a nice guy—almost too spaced-out to be offensive—and I can't deny that he is pretty good looking. Plus, he has a certain smirky, self-effacing charm that I find extremely appealing. But I won't take anything back I've said about Maroon 5. Especially not after they (with some help from Xtina in a horribly unflattering shirt) performed their new single, "Moves Like Jagger," a song that sounded just like all of their other wannabe funk songs, which can be lyrically boiled down to Adam trying to convince everyone that he's really, really good in bed. Obviously, sex is a common theme in music, but you could even find more variety in AC/DC's catalog.

And now, my team rankings...

#1 - Christina's Team
I'm not a huge fan of Christina, her clown makeup and constant posing, but the girl picked a good team. Her two remaining contestants, Frenchie Davis and Beverly McClellan, are arguably the two best vocalists in the competition. It's a tough call for who will come out as the finalist. It kind of sucks that they're on the same team, because I'd love to see both ladies in the finals. As much as I love Frenchie (her "churchy" performance of the Vatican's favorite Madonna song, "Like a Prayer" was great), I have to give the edge to Beverly. She's obviously a fan favorite (earning the voters' save last week) and her performances always seem so genuine and effortless. But I'll just cover my bases here and say that the bald one will make the cut.

Frenchie Davis, "Like a Prayer"
Beverly McClellan, "The Thrill is Gone"

#2 - Cee Lo's Team
Before I even started watching this show, I wanted Cee Lo to win, just because I adore him. I'm not sure any of the judges' contestants can match Christina's girls, but Cee Lo has the best shot. First up was big, bad Nakia, whose cover of Adam Lambert's "Whataya Want From Me" wasn't my favorite of his performances, but it was still pretty entertaining. (I had to laugh when Adam Levine said that even though he never heard that song, it was probably better than the original. The image of 5,000 Glamberts simultaneously making glittery bitch-faces as they bang out angry tweets is pretty hilarious.) I feel kind of the same way about Vicci Martinez' performance of Florence + The Machine's "Dog Days Are Over"—it was an odd choice for her, and I don't think it really showed off the full power of her voice. But she was still entertaining. Again, it's going to be hard to pick a winner between these two because they're both deserving of a spot in the finals and are clearly both liked, but I'm gonna say that Vicci will prevail because she was the voters' pick last week and got the pimp spot this week. Also, Nakia has a great voice and seems like a good dude, but some of his stage moves (like, "I'm so mad, I'm gonna kick over this piano bench!") can seem a bit contrived.

Nakia, "Whataya Want From Me"
Vicci Martinez, "Dog Days Are Over"

#3 - Adam's Team
I think it's pretty clear that Javier Colon will easily take the final spot on Adam's team, unless boys hot for Casey Weston vote in droves. (And if this show has primarily the same audience as Idol, we all know that boys do not vote. At least not as much as girls and horny houswives.) I think Casey is a good singer and she did a good job last night, but Javier has a better voice, better stage presence and more experience. And he took off his hat to reveal a bald head. The baldies are IN IT TO WIN IT this year!

Casey Weston, "I Will Always Love You"
Javier Colon, "Fix You"

#4 - Blake's Team
If Dia Frampton doesn't get the final spot, the world has gone mad. I'm sure Xenia is a very nice kid, but she needs to just finish high school, take some more singing lessons and stop being so darn awkward. Yes, like everyone says, she has an interesting tone. But she doesn't sound different from everyone else, like Blake keeps insisting. She's like the musical baby of Zooey Deschanel and James Morrison, but with much less range. And neither of those singers have that much range to begin with. (Zooey, don't be mad. You're still at the top of my lesbian list.)

Dia Frampton, "Losing My Religion"
Xenia, "The Man Who Can't Be Moved"

Now, can someone please explain what that was on Christina's head last night?

For (full-fledged) recaps of The Voice, visit SirLinksaLot.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reality Roundup: AGT, TV, SYTYCD

Oh, those summer nights! I should have been out enjoying them this week, but instead I was lounging on my couch watching a bunch of reality rubbish. While I won't be doing full recaps of any of these shows, I will occasionally (maybe every week, depending on how boring my life gets) spew forth my jumbled thoughts.

America's Got Talent
So, last week's auditions in Houston and Minneapolis were pretty interesting. I mean, everyone loved the guy who dove into the kiddie pool, right? And then there was the Kinetic King (the best character never written into Fargo), the opera singer with the long blonde braids and, my personal favorite, Dani Shay, the girl who looks just like Justin Bieber (er, he looks like her). But this week, we were forced to go back to Seattle, a city that can produce talent like Jimi Hendrix and Pearl Jam, but apparently sucks when it comes to Vegas-style lounge acts. And while that's not necessarily a bad thing, it kind of makes for a boring hour of TV. I don't remember much of it except for Geechy Guy—the sweaty king of one-liners; Alaska—the dancer who may or may not have been a transsexual; and Art of Teknique—the cute little boy dancers.

So far, my favorite acts have been a couple of dance troupes: Silhouettes, who auditioned in Minneapolis, and Team iLuminate from the Atlanta auditions.

The Voice
If there is a complaint to be made about this show (besides Carson Daly's never-ending blandness), it's that the panel of coaches make the American Idol judges look downright mean. Seriously, they haven't had a bad word to say about anyone. I'll give Adam Levine a pass because, really, what the hell does he know? But Christina Aguilera? Say what you will about her, but the girl can sing. And my man Cee Lo Green? Come on! He needs to step forward as the voice of reason or something. He can't possibly think all of these singers are good. And Blake Shelton?? He seems like a good dude but HOLY SHIT is he a terrible judge of talent. His whole team was pretty mediocre to begin with, but when the fans saved Dia Frampton (who did give Team Blake's best performance last week) and the second save was left up to him, he picked Xenia??? Either of his two guys—neither of whom I had a strong feeling for one way or the other—would have been a better choice, primarily because neither of them sang in a frightened monotone while making robotic arm movements. Now, I'm sure that someone will swing by here and call me a bitch because, my God, Xenia is just a kid and I am just trying to break her down, but I promise you that I'm not trying to do anything but figure out what the hell Blake Shelton is smoking. Because I need some if I'm gonna have to watch this girl perform again.

I will give Christina props for making a good pick with Frenchie Davis—the only reasonable choice once Beverly McClellan got the fan save. We'll have to wait and see if Adam and Cee Lo also make the right choices for their teams next week. Cee Lo's final two should be Vicci Martinez and Nakia. The Thompson sisters could make it through because they're young and cute, which doesn't really make sense on a show called The Voice. Not to say that they didn't sing well, because they did. They're just no match for Vicci. As for Curtis Grimes, he's just straight-up terrible.

Adam's final two should be Casey Weston and Javier Colon, but I have a feeling that Middle America will be voting in droves for Jeff Jenkins because he mentioned two things that the voters love: Jesus and his dead mother. In fact, he's been talking about his dead mother since Day 1 and it's really on my nerves. Now, before you blast me for being a cold-hearted wench, you should know that I also have a dead mother. She died when I was four. But do I begin every blog post with a mention of that? No, I do not. Maybe if I did, I'd have four million followers by now.

So You Think You Can Dance
If there is one thing Nigel Lythgoe wants you to know about this season's Top 20, it's this: the girls are BEASTS. I guess they are, but there has to be a more appealing term to call them. I quite liked everyone on last night's show, although the duo that left me a bit cold was Ashley and Chris as the hip-hopping couple cheating on each other. The hip-hop routines are usually my favorites (I thought Ryan and Ricky's number was great) but this one was just trying to be too cutesy and it didn't seem like the dancers brought enough energy. So, if two people have to go home tonight, I think it should be them. I just hope Miranda doesn't get eliminated. I've gotta pull for her since she's a Pittsburgh girl! Well, if she had been terrible, I wouldn't be waving the Terrible Towel for her, but I thought she did a great job with the jive.

ETA: No one was eliminated. The judges love everyone.

I think everyone watching could agree that the best routine was the contemporary "statue" piece. Melanie and Marko were a beautiful duo, but the biggest props have to go to choreographer Travis Wall. It's interesting...I can't always see the difference between some of the other styles' choreographers, but I can always recognize a Travis number. He has a very distinct style. I feel the same way about Sonya Tayeh and Tabitha & Napoleon, too. Can't wait to see some of Nappytabs' work this season!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Nice One, Chief(s)

See that fancy little animated Kaiser Chiefs graphic over there in my sidebar? Well, this post is about that. But first I'm going to ramble on for a while.

So...does anyone buy full albums anymore? For those of you who still do, do you buy even half as many albums per year as you used to?

If you answered something along the lines of "probably not" and "no," congratulations! You're fully aware of the current state of the music industry. I won't hang this giant "Welcome to the Digital Age" banner on your front porch.

Like many of you, I lamented the death of the album. As a kid, one of my greatest joys was buying a new record, getting it home, putting it on, studying the artwork and liner notes, and memorizing the lyrics. When everyone in my high school started switching to the cool new medium—cassette tapes—I refused to give up my albums until they became too hard to find at record stores. I finally had to cave in and buy those stupid tapes, with their too-easily-cracked cases and unwieldy, accordion-style liner notes with the 2-point font. Eventually, I got used to them. Then CDs came along. Again, I was a late adopter. Again, I got used to the new way in which music was being delivered to my ears because, well, it was still being delivered. I even grew to love CDs almost as much as albums. While a CD case didn't feel as good as an album, the liner notes were once again easy to read, there was no flipping over and the discs rarely skipped. And then...the mp3s came along.

I like to think of myself as pretty adaptable when it comes to technology. But I absolutely bristled at the idea of music FILES. I didn't want magical sounds coming from my computing machine...I wanted something tangible. If I played a song that I liked, I wanted to be able to look at a glossy piece of paper that would tell me the lyrics, who wrote it, if that was really an organ I heard way in the background, and if the guy playing the organ was the same guy who played the organ on a thousand other tracks on a thousand different albums. (Yeah, it was probably Benmont Tench.) When it came to mp3s, I DID NOT WANT.

But of course, like everything else, I got used to mp3s. Then they became my world. I am a downloading fool these days, happy to give up the glory days of vinyl for the clarity, convenience and portability of mp3s. And of course, like everyone else, I see no reason to buy entire albums when it's easier and cheaper to just buy the songs I'm sure I like. Sure, I still buy full albums but that number is nowhere near the amount of vinyl albums and CDs I used to buy. Buying à la carte is just the way to go.

In this environment, how does an artist get fans to buy their full albums? Pearl Jam released a barrage of live "bootlegs." Radiohead started the whole "pay what you want" model. Plenty of artists have asked their fans to pick their singles or choose which tracks appear on their albums.

All of the above are good ideas, but I think the Kaiser Chiefs have come up with the most genius plan so far. With their latest album, The Future is Medieval, the band has decided to let their fans actually create their own customized versions of it—cover art and all. Through an app on the Kaiser Chiefs website, fans can listen to samples of 20 songs, pick their 10 favorites, choose the track order, create an album cover from supplied images and download their "self-produced" album. In an especially interesting twist, every fan-made album is housed in the Album H.Q. and available for sale to the public. Each album's creator will get back £1 for every one of their albums purchased! (PayPal will nicely do the currency conversion for you.) Oh, that reminds me...if you want to buy the new Kaiser Chiefs album, just buy the one I made. Not just to put money in my pocket, no! I want you to get the best ping for your pound! And I'm certain that my version boasts the best possible song selection and configuration. Or be nice and buy one of the celeb-made versions, which will benefit The Alzheimer's Society.

I haven't seen the sales figures (the album creator just debuted last Friday), but I'd be willing to bet that Kaiser Chiefs sell a lot more full albums than they would have had they released this record in the usual way. Obviously, they're not U2 or Lady Gaga, so they may not shatter any sales records, but this kind of creative approach to the artist/fan relationship can only help the industry.

So far, everyone I've talked to about this thinks it's a brilliant marketing strategy and an innovative way to bring the album into the digital age. Well, almost everyone. One blogfriend (let's just call him Nerds Nerds Nerds) took the opposite view, calling it a horrible idea and declaring, "If the album wasn't dead as an art form before, it certainly is now." What do you think, readers? Can fans have too much power? Can that power have a negative effect on artistry? Is this an example of too much business, not enough music?

I'm not really sure I see a downside...although I can't decide if the Kaiser Chiefs are smart or evil to only allow fans to make a 10-track record, because it forces them to buy two if they want all 20 songs! I'm leaning towards "smart" though, because the odds are that not too many people are going to like all 20 songs. And isn't that the whole point of this make the album YOU want?

For those who would rather just wait for the artist's vision, the band plans to release their version of the album at the end of this month, which will most likely include all 20 tracks.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

I must admit I can't explain any of these thoughts racing through my brain was everyone's Memorial Day weekend? Mine was fab. I thought I would probably have all kinds of awesome NYC stories for you but they pretty much all go something like, "Blah blah blah, and then I drank about 34 beers." Just know that it was great to meet up with all my old New York friends (including my ex-roommates, now Chicagoans) and that I've spent the last several days screaming inside my head, HOLY SHIT WHY DID I EVER LEAVE THERE?? But whatever. I'm not moving again. Moving sucks. I can wait until 2012, when the big tidal wave brings NYC right to my doorstep.

Sadly, I did not get to see Lady Gaga's GMA performance on Friday because I didn't arrive in the city until late afternoon/early evening. I didn't even find out about it until Thursday night. Even if I had known in advance, I would never have let myself be crushed by a bunch of idiots at 6 a.m. Instead, I listened to Born This Way in its entirety several times on the drive up and back and sang the shit out of it. I've been hearing a lot of conflicting reviews on that album but I think it's great fun. My favorite tracks are "The Edge of Glory," "Scheiße" and "Bad Kids." "Marry the Night" is the best song that never made it onto the Streets of Fire soundtrack. And "Judas," which I hated at first, has finally won me over. The biggest disappointment is probably "You & I," a song I've always loved live. It's still a good tune and certainly singalong-friendly, but I'm not too happy with Mutt Lange's standard "Pour Some Sugar on Me 'Cause Honey I'm Home" treatment. And people accuse Gaga of being unoriginal! Sheesh. Speaking of which, I have no problem with the Lady wearing her '70s and '80s influences on her sleeve. But even though I've defended her against the Madonna ripoff allegations (honestly, people, "Born This Way" doesn't sound nearly as much like "Express Yourself" as "Express Yourself" sounds like "Respect Yourself"), I can't defend "Fashion of His Love," which is practically a carbon copy of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." I have no idea what Gaga was thinking when she recorded that.

Some lovely commenters have suggested that I start recapping some other shows besides American Idol. While I appreciate that, if you're looking for some summer TV lovin' from me, it's probably not gonna happen. (But if Project Runway ever returns, look for my recaps over on Starpulse!) After losing months of my life to Idol, it always feels so good to be free. I suppose I could fire up the DVR but, because there's usually much more to do in the summer, I always forgot when shows are even on. Like, I kind of started getting into The Voice but I can never remember when it airs. Historically, I've loved So You Think You Can Dance, but I already missed this season's first couple episodes. I've never really been a fan of America's Got Talent, but I might give it a chance this time around. I won't be doing regular recaps or anything, but I might spew out some thoughts on it here and there. The premiere episode was rather entertaining but I have to express my disgust with the audience for booing Double Dream Hands guy off the stage. WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE WOULD BOO SUCH A VISIONARY?? Also, I have to express my disappointment that, during a totally spontaneous sword fight (that's not a euphemism for anything) between Piers Morgan and Howie Mandel, no one died or was severely maimed.

For those of you looking to trade in garbage TV for a garbage movie, here is a suggestion: Nature's Grave. On my first night back in NYC, my old Bad Movie Crew had the pleasure of screening this totally by accident. (One of our crew members thought he was buying a low-budget horror movie about birds from Blockbuster's bargain bin, only to find this disc hiding inside.) The lesson this classic film teaches us is that nature will totally kill you if you disrespect it, even in the smallest way. I will give the movie props for two things: the dog doesn't die and Jim Caviezel looks kind of hot (as long as his shirt's on) with frosted blonde tips. Also, it features one of the best line readings I've ever witnessed: grief-stricken Caviezel's "WHY YOU GO?" It really has to be seen/heard to be believed.

Apparently, Paul Rudd is filming a movie in Pittsburgh. I haven't seen him yet. Then again, I haven't gone looking for him. I must get on this. See, and you've been thinking all this time that his picture had nothing to do with this post. Even if it didn't, I don't need a reason to post a picture of that guy.


Who Does This Broad Think She Is?

My photo
I am a winsome muse who was sent to Earth to inspire an artist to turn a vacant building into the world's coolest disco roller rink. We fell in love along the way, and I foolishly gave up my immortality. When the disco craze ended and all the roller rinks were shut down, that lazy bum wouldn't get a job. We broke up and I was stuck on Earth with nothing to do and no one to inspire. So, now I write a blog.

What Do Others Think of BeckEye?

"You're like an idiot savant of terrible garbage entertainment." - Falwless

"You're my hero." - Candy

"Get yourself a life. Better yet.....eff off." - Ann Onymous

"There's no one like you." - Klaus Meine