pop pourri

Sunday, March 30, 2008


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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Jennifer Lopez - Get Right (Epic)

You may recognise J-Lo for her derriere. You may recognise J-Lo as a convincing federal marshal in Out of Sight. You may recognise J-Lo from a Japanese tour of Synchronicity in the nineties. You may recognise J-Lo for her catalogue of decaying celebrity relationships, especially that convenient one with Sony Records president Tommy Mottola. You may even recognise her for her pseudonym Jennifer Lopez.

Sony Records-labelled Lopez, learning from SAS close-quarters combat and Bush Administration fiscal policy, is a master of distraction. The cynic would lambaste the Bronx-born former-fly girl, who was known from an early age to be “quite good” at singing, but distraction on this scale requires quite some dedication; there is a hell of a lot to disguise.

She distances herself from the intravenously drippy Miami bounce of Get Right with skill. Just as you are about to question the copyright of the four-note sax riff (lifted from the theme tune to The Cosby Show for sure), or the bump ‘n’ coffee-bean grind of the so-ethnic-it-hurts instrumentation, you stop. You ears are diverted from the Mariah Carey-tribute trills and fuck-you-I’m-in-a-gang background hollers as you hold the CD packaging in your trembling, Latin-pop loving fingers and notice… free perfume.

Free perfume? A sample of J-Lo Glow? Fuck yeah! Right on! This song is AMAZING!

Co-writer on just two album tracks, but responsible for brand-management from the ground up, Jenni Lop knows where it’s at. Music ain’t just about the music, duh! It’s about the free shit you give away with the CD! Jennifer is challenging musicians and artists to leave their ivory towers and contribute to the business problems of the real world. Equally though, she is also challenging marketers to leave their business towers and engage with the world of musicianship. And when one thinks about it, whether we are talking Adam Smith's Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations or Noam Chomsky's Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, we cannot fail to recogni...

Free perfume with this CD?
God I love this Maceo & The Macks saxophone shit!
Booty 'n' shit! YEAH!

Sorry, what was I saying?

Usher - Caught Up (Laface)

method acting - definition
Method \Meth"od\, n. [F. m['e]thode, L. methodus, fr. Gr.
meqodos method, investigation following after; meta` after +
"odo`s way.]

1) A technique used in acting in which the actor tries to
identify with the individual personality of the specific
character being portrayed, so as to provide a realistic
rendering of the character's role. Also called the Method
,method acting, the Stanislavsky Method or
Stanislavsky System.

omg, rite, dis album is woah nang! seriosuly, if u aint bought it yet? eh, hello? wot da fuk is rong wiv u? lol, yer newayz al im sayin iz go out n buy it! usher is so hot!!!!! i love the rytm of the music yeah, and es sweet sweet xxx voice es well. he is propa fine and is loves songs r propa gud. keep brinin em out we want mor! usher is soooo fit so is es body.

serious tho, diz tune iz on! all of ushers songs r hot but diz tune iz da best so far. keep bringing the beats out baby u make me wanna grove! dis album iz da best thin eva! i luv all da songz bt my fav iz caught up i luv it coz me & my matez luv it, its a mad az album n i luv da song caught up! it's like daym! it's ma song 4 eva! my boo iz da best too n throwbackz aight..

he soo fine! did’t i say that alrdy? keep doing ur thing baby! and i love ur moves! omg! i love you and your album. i him soo mush i wld like him 2 help make me sing, liek inspirazional, pleas i want to be a star can u pleas make me be a star i can sing good like lil bow wow.

pop pourri (aged 12)

p.s. i think u r so fit n u will marry my mate lisa

p.p.s. and any of yall tryfalin hoes who want him yall cant have him, cause hes mine. neways usher is ssssssssooooo sexy, and oh ya i for got one more thing usher's album is the fukin best n if u dont liek it alot then u have problems (n dotn be puttin it on his website sayn that he suxs bc usher is the fucing best) cos he is way ahead more in life then you, n dotn be hatin on him hes jsu tryin to explian what happens to him in his life, so jus bac off.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

U2 - Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own (Island)

The second single to be surgically removed from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, (heralded by some as the third best U2 album ever), continues the album’s terrorism theme both lyrically and sonically. The album itself is unashamedly conceptual, charting the rise (album track Vertigo) of a young political activist called Mono as he threatens to enforce his brand of politics on the world (Love And Peace Or Else) before realising the actual terror of abject poverty (Crumbs From Your Table) and then becoming at one with mankind and finally, the universe (Original Of The Species and Yahweh)

Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own (nicknamed SYCMIOYO by old school-friend and occasional band member Cliff Richard, who incidentally mixed the album) refers explicitly to the general output of enriched uranium from an electrolysis and fractional distillation process, or more specifically the difficulty of achieving this process alone. Having already researched the outputs for gas diffusion, thermal diffusion, gas centrifuge, laser isotope separation, and mass spectroscope in the sleeve notes for 1993’s Zooropa, this is a natural progression for word-wrangler and ideas man Bono.

Self confessed riff-addict The Edge complements the leadman’s work perfectly by directly reflecting the transmutation part of Uranium’s U-238 into the plutonium isotope Pu-239 through echoey 3/16 tempo, 340-350ms delays. Add into the melee a bassline that plunges and mines for melody and the fission rhythms of Larry “Mullet” Mullen and you have an explosion capable of scorching the hearts, minds and faces of stadium-goers throughout the NATO enforced world.

Although appalling some with their extrovert glamorisation of arms and warfare, U2 defend themselves by organising world-wide tours every couple of days or so, the proceeds of which sustain two eighths of the third-world's tourist economies, although there are fears that if Adam Clayton’s knee packs up and just one tour is cancelled, some of these smaller countries might slide into financial ruin. Wannabe-journalist Bono prefers to deflect attention away from these matters however by talking of musical direction, saying on the band’s official website: “Now you've got punk rock starting points that go through Phil Spector-land, turn right at Tim Buckley, end up in alleyways and open onto other vistas and cityscapes and rooftops and skies. It's songwriting by accident, by a punk band that wants to play Bach.”

So that’s Buckley, Spector, Bach a continent of small countries and the humble music journalist that’ll be out of a job soon then? Thanks a lot, Bono.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Green Day - Boulevard Of Broken Dreams (Reprise)

Lead bawler Billie Joe Armstrong’s latest popcorn-rock antithesis to ‘burb boredom leads him defiantly down a wide avenue with a central, landscaped reservation containing trees and semi-deciduous shrubs, tugging at a haircut ravaged by years of peroxide abuse, and squawking with a maturity that appears to be developing quicker than one can net-publish tablature for the three chord hero.

Green Day is not all about Billie Joe though. He also has an entirely competent backing band. Without undertonist Mike Dirnt (real name Michael Pritchard) and avant-percussionist Tre Cool (real name Frank Edwin Wright III) layering warm rhythms like a benevolent, melodic and inebriated half-sister, Billy Joe would be nothing more than a straight-up, Nobel prize-winning poet. Billie Joe, punk to the core, has rejected poetry as a line of artistic enquiry, but when one burrows into his lyrics we find a depth matched only by the deepest paddling-pool. Not afraid to disagree with himself mid-chorus, the stumbling self-argument of “I walk alone/I walk alone/I walk alone/I walk a.../My shadow's the only one that walks beside me” shines with the confidence of a true bard.

While often Green Day are compared to more accomplished and mature acts such as McFly and Busted, it is to T.S. Eliot that one immediately turns. Like Eliot, Armstrong’s body of work shows the tribulations of a man discovering Christianity, and like Eliot, Armstrong refuses to compromise with the public or indeed with language itself, following his belief that lyric and song should aim at a representation of the complexities of modern civilization in language and that such representation necessarily leads to difficult, dense music and a slot on MTV Punk’d.

Music is what sets Armstrong apart from Eliot though. Eliot’s Four Quartets, as though addressed direct to Billie Joe, asks “Who is the third who walks always beside you?/When I count, there are only you and I together/But when I look ahead up the white road/There is always another one walking beside you.”

Oh T.S., your poor pathetic banker. Who is the third that walks beside you?

Even you T.S. should know that. It is, of course, none other than the pogo-ing, brat-riffing, derriere-revealing sound of the Green Day juggernaut ploughing across a tree-lined road and into the shop-front they call the Top 40. Shame on you…

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Hanson - Penny & Me (Cooking Vinyl)

Pay attention 7B! The common language is vanishing! It is slowly being crushed to death under the weight of verbal conglomerate, a nearly-speech at once both pretentious and feeble, that is created daily by millions of inconsistencies and inaccuracies in grammar and syntax! Or so Hanson would have you believe with their latest emotional-tap, neo-country comment on words and how we speak them, innit.

The tinny overflow of Hanson leaking from a personal stereo is a common sound in classrooms all over this land, but perhaps not as common as a good old grammatical debate. Through the medium of taut ballad and cheery American chorus, all Yield signs and denim crotch, Hanson are revitalising the argument through lyric; “But it's still Penny and I all alone beneath the sky/It's always Penny and me tonight.”

And I or and me?

The reverberation of still and always in those two lines form a vibration that dominates this three minute burst of angelic canteen-blues and confirms the twenty-something AOLTimeWarner veterans as being in a cerebral class of their own. Attacking the French notion of rime croisée, Hanson are unafraid to go straight for the playground jugular with their fly/by/try/high line endings. There is a subtlety about their work here, much more so than the rejection of the English language in their nonsense hit MmmBop which featured the instantly forgettable (hence the recollection here) chorus of “Mmm bop ba duba dop ba du bop ba duba dop ba du bop ba duba dop ba du” and laid the ground work for such seminal releases as Sigur Ros’ 2004 gibberish 12” Ba Ba Ti Ki Do.

So with Hanson - to bust traditional vernacular the fuck open - you gets what you pays for. In the history of modern English there is no period in which such victory over thought-in-speech has been so widespread. Clarke Isaac, Jordan Taylor and Zachary Walker are chronicling that change with the speculative fiction of a grand piano, a Gibson SG and a DW four piece (with Zildjians). These post-pubescents are moving semantic boundaries and you better stop talking at the back and straighten your tie, because they don’t mind sounding like Billy Joel french-kissing Sheryl Crow in doing it.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Killers – Somebody Told Me (Lizard King)

In their latest release, The Killers’ lead singer Brandon Flowers's lyrics explore his guitarist Keuning's problematic psuedo-Cure image through the idea that musically cross-gendered performers do not represent deviance, but rather a "gendered decency"; hence the guarded lyric “You had a boyfriend / Who looks like a girlfriend” (a lyric which according to some reports will be in next Christmas’ Queen’s Speech). Flowers - who is believed to spend hours in the mastering studio after the rest of the band making sure that a song sounds equally as good as both a polyphonic and a mono ringtone – is entirely unafraid to employ a new paradigm involving the sentimentality and hypergendered performance of eighties expressionism (which could, of course, be extended all the way back to Arabesque dancing traditions).

Unfortunately, readers unfamiliar with the gender-bending tradition in the mid-eighties’ puff-synth scene may be a bit lost here, since Flowers does not immediately describe Keuning's very "masculine" hair juxtaposed to his very "female" eyes; rather, we feel Keuning's own defence of his stage apparel through riffage and octave, consequently introducing various unanswerable questions about the nature of masculinity.

Philosophical insight aside, Somebody Told Me is a Ramones fuelled, Joy Division winged, Duran Duran aerodynamically-shaped Learjet of lament, pain and regret landing at a airport named Rock Stardom (RKSDM on your baggage tag). Through assimilation and recollection, the song characterizes contemporary society as an immense accumulation of spectacles in which everything that is directly lived moves away into a representation as telling as Flowers’ mock-English accent, which he recently attributed to accent-adoption as a result of being surrounded by Brits during a three month stint working at Las Vegas’ Gold Coast Hotel. A work ethic as well as an ear for a tune suggests a truly frightening prospect.

Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten (Phonogenic)

Natasha Bedingfield’s latest single, just the kind of ballad that the UK has missed since Belinda Carlisle slipped off the radar, acts from contradiction and conflict; that is to say from what is not, rather than what is. Through a conscious denial of all originality and songcraft, and a burst of fleet-of-foot pop, we find that within the Top 40 resides a positive, enduring nothing, which helps to reinforce the music world’s continuing reliance on this remarkable and essential artist. Bedingfield has grasped the defiance/existence axis with consummate ease for such a young adult girl woman and every second of this track (be it the drunk-gospel chorus, day-care/night-nurse rhythm arrangements, or the independent-school cigarette silk of the vocal track) urges you to notice its complicated beauty.

Rejecting commerciality by sounding like a Pepsi advert, lineage by retaining the family name, and image by looking like everyone else, it is within Bedingfield’s title that she really has the last laugh. Not only has she called the track Unwritten, she has also left the song exactly this. By taking the enormously brave step of refusing to complete the track to the standard expected of most professional recording artists she has opened up herself to a raunchy and defiant self-awareness, nowhere truer than in the Shakespearian, split infinitive twist of “we’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can’t live that way.” To make mistake after mistake in terms of key choice, melodic structure and lyrical flow is one thing, but it takes a real innovator to reflect upon them within the very medium that they have themselves undermined. Genius.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Jay-Z/Linkin Park - Numb/Encore (WEA)

The hybrid is a cantankerous beast. Never content to simply accept, it, as a direct result of non-conformity, wishes to act, to be the changer. However there is always the suspicion that Jay Z, Linkin Park and others of their ilk perpetuate an outmoded, nineteenth-century belief in music's ability to rise above the circumstances of political, cultural, and social change, to overcome, as an enduring continuity, the grand discursive web of racialist representations.

Certainly the critical interventions represented by these musicians warn us against overemphasizing the blues muse in contemporary pop (hence the emotional arrow of the lyric "every step I take"), but at the same time, however, I think it is fruitful to recognize the importance of the blues modality in conjoined black/white culture. It is, indeed, true that the romance of folk authenticity has been extremely influential in shaping how we think about race, but against the backdrop of edgy chainsaw riffs, throaty vocal dares and stacked organic beats we must ask, “is the romantic authenticity disparaged in Numb/Encore identical to the in-group consciousness upon which revolutions were founded”? If yes, then fuck me, this is good. If not, well, it’s back to the drawing board for nu-metal's baggy-trousered philanthropists.

Kylie Minogue - I Believe In You (Parlophone)

Rumours about Kylie’s ambitions have been flying around inside industry corridors for a while now, and the diminutive antipodean steps up to her own defined mark with this lazy drone-beat full of gentle contortions, beautifully lacklustre vocals and searching excesses. You’d be forgiven for thinking stoned Takemura, trance Aurilie or punchy Ambulantche. Despite being forgiven though, you would still be wrong. And Kylie, 67, hates wrong (not a beat is missed in the entire song) as much as she hates ‘insignificant’, ‘unimportant’ or ‘annals of history’, so much so in fact, that at a recent sighting in the National Gallery, London she was rumoured to have spent an unhealthy amount of time asking after the prices of Constable's work so that she might structure her work in much the same way. And it fits. Not only is one of the single’s bonus tracks a Skylark remix, the undulating, soaring synth melodies are a clear attempt to capture the sky's beauty in aural paint.

As Kylie herself said recently in an interview with Smash Hits, “Skies must and always shall with me make an effectual part of the composition. It will be difficult to name a class of pop song in which the sky is not the 'key note,' the standard of 'Scale' and the chief 'Organ of Sentiment' ... The sky is the source of light in nature—and governs everything." Kylie, who appears in public only through a clever illusion created by mirrors, has always had an interest in the sky and this latest release reflects a wider concern in the Top 40 with atmospheric effects and contemporary developments in the pollution debate, a debate that will rage against the second verse of “I don't believe that beauty / Will ever be replaced / I don't believe a masterpiece / Could ever match your face.” If tears were award ceremonies, then Kylie’s legacy looks as bright as the morning sky.

Nelly and Christina Aguilera - Tilt Ya Head Back (Universal)

This new world collaboration, full of disco glimma and seething dancehall pheromone, doesn't simply redefine the grind-anthem, but challenges the basis of artistry itself, reaching out for a Burroughsian Third Mind and retreating with a fistful of originality and dissected form. If you've never heard Aguilera and Cornell Haynes Jr. (Nelly) perform to this ascension before, it's because they haven't.

Mistakenly seen by some areas of the music press to be a homie homage to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (and thus an indictment upon gang violence, similar to the one found in the song's tome-of-death repetition of “hustle for me”), the song lends itself more reliably to an interpretation whose boundaries are willing to include those post-modern bastilles previously occupied by Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition and Barthes' Mythologies. As Nelly howls the line "I jus wanna get to know ya", we can be in no doubt that he is transcending hip-hop's standard walkways and proving that through art, and particularly juddering, spunk-jazz, monolith pants-rap such as this, knowledge ceases to be an acceptable end in itself, and perhaps there is more to the subjective prison that Nelly calls "ma situation" than bitches.

Saturday, November 20, 1999