The song selection is unfortunately ballads-heavy, but you could do worse things with your time than watch some of the live videos for B. Valentine at AOL Music. (Thanks Chris!) posted by Mike B. at 3:40 PM
Thursday, March 24, 2005
I don't know why, but this entry (found via the Next Blog function) somehow seems to sum up the entire blogging experience in 2 short sentences. posted by Mike B. at 6:40 PM
Oh my gods, peoples, there are so many things I've got to say to you I'm like breathless. But here, lemme throw you one little tidbit, about the Pitchfork review of Ted's Kelly cover:
Some might say Leo's surrendering his ethics here by covering Kelly Clarkson; I'd say he's putting himself ahead of the pack.
That sound you hear is me banging my head against the cubicle wall, over and over and over again. Christ almighty.
Now, my response to this over at Hillary's involved the phrase "naked cultural capitalism." This is sort of interesting, at least to me, and I wanted to explain it a bit.
I think that at this point in history, all cultural production (which is to say, creativity intended for an audience) is involved in the game of cultural capitalism; even the old "we don't care about cred" line is, of course, just another stock option in the great cultural capitalism game. If there's a simple explanation for why we're attracted to "outsider artists," it's this; Henry Darger, no matter what you want to say about him, had at most a miniscule stake in the battle for reputation. It wasn't even that he didn't care, because not-caring is at least an acknowledgment of the existence of that marketplace and a conscious shying away from it.
The simple reality of the situation is that the creative impulse reconciles perfectly with the battle for reputation, status, perceived worth, k-rating, whatever the fuck you want to call it, because the more of that you have (and the kind, of course), the more people will be interested in what you're producing, which will not only give you the satisfaction of having an audience, but the economic ability and outside impetus to engage in more cultural production.
To put that in less abstract terms, while it might seem silly to be concerned with the reputation of a label or the hipness of a DJ, the fact is that if you're on the wrong label or the wrong kind of people listen to your music, it decreases your cultural capital and means that people's impression will be that you're something to actively not listen to, whereas being on a label with a good rep can get people to listen who might otherwise know nothing about you. The cycle of cultural capitalism is interest because at first there are all these little intangibles that will get you noticed and then broken, and then for a while the main factor is the size of your audience, and then once you reach a certain point all these other factors come into play.
So what I'm saying is that it's totally OK for you to play this game as a creative person; although you might dislike the term "cultural capitalism," that's basically the game you're playing, even if you're a socialist collective. You're trying to accrue a certain amount of cultural capital so you can do the things you want to do, and while that level you're trying to reach may be different for everyone, it's always greater than zero. This is what we do, in ways large and small, and it can actually be immensely rewarding and interesting--certainly watching certain popstars do it (Madonna, Britney, etc.) has been a great game for all of us, and there are certain other popstars, Eminem probably first and foremost, whose best art is precisely about this game; "Without Me" is like the best real-time salespitch you'll ever hear.
But critics like to do this thing where they take artistic gestures where maximizing cultural capital is probably an ancilliary concern and making it central, which is fine as a line of inquiry, but the assumption is that this was also the intention of the creator, which as we know, is a no-no.
I'm willing to give Ted the benefit of the doubt and assume that he really did this because he loves the song and thought his cover sounded good and wanted to expose more people to the original. And this is coming from someone who hates the damn thing! So to assess it as a horserace move, to try and pin down the skillful planning behind it, seems disingenuous. Not everything that touches pop has to be calculated, and in the final analysis, even the calculated nature of pop itself stems from a series of heartfelt, illogical gestures on the part of the artists and producers involved. At some point, whoever wrote "Since U Been Gone" just sat down with a guitar and whanged out that thing and thought, "Hot damn, that's good." To lose that particular moment in all our attempts to dissect indie-rock cred maneuverings--that moment when a secret turns into something beautiful, if you'll forgive me--is to lose sight, I think, of why we write about music. Cultural capital works in much more subtle and interesting ways than this. posted by Mike B. at 11:07 AM
Holy shit, people. Hillary was totallyright. Brooke Valentine's Chain Letter is so best I'm having a hard time coming up with words for it. There's "Taste of Dis," which is total disco, and "Playa," which is MJ to the max, and then there's the riot grrl (!) coda to "Ghetto Superstarz" which I can't even get into right now.
Basically, it's a crunk new pop album, and if that doesn't sell you on it, well...
Right now I just want to focus on one track, though. It's not necessarily the best track on the album, but it is very good. It's "Blah-Blah-Blah (Feat. Dirt McGirt)."
The thing readers of this blog should know about this song (besides the ODB guest shot) is something that I almost knew when the first synth hits come. I thought it sounded familiar. But then the beat came in, and in terms of beat and progression, it's exactly "Sweet Dreams My LA Ex," with the similarity being strongest in that little click that finishes up the beat, to say nothing of the fact that not a whole lot of pop songs have that particular swing to them.
So lemme put that together: it's "Sweet Dreams My LA Ex" except with the male being addressed (they're both about roughly the same subject) already on the track, and it's ODB. Now, his verse isn't his best ever, but it gets better as it goes on, giving us that particular combination of rage and helplessness and humor that's so appealing. And then the go into the chorus and he goes up into way-above-his-range mode to try and double Brooke on the "la la la la la la la"s, and it's this wonderful little moment of trying to be in sync with someone you feel you're losing but not making it. As she continues doing the chorus, ODB shouts in the background, "C'mon honey, just talk to me!" and as the song ends he's crooning a little bit more, out of tune and wobbly, but she's stopped, she's gone.
But I'm getting off track here: the point is, this is Rachel Stevens except with ODB. So thus, we have a song that was written for Britney about her ex, Justin Timberlake, but rejected, and picked up by a semi-famous member of a mediocre girl-pop group going solo. Except now it's being sung by a black American R&B diva with ODB. Which means that she's Britney and Rachel Stevens, and ODB is Justin Timberlake, which means that ODB sang "Cry Me a River" and did all those McDonald's ads, to say nothing of the incident with Ms. Jackson's titty, which, let's all be honest here, would have been even more interesting with Russell involved.
This is one of the things I want from pop: to make a kind of semi-real celebrity Marvel universe where there are all these stories behind the stories and histories and interlocking storylines, intrigue upon intrigue, and we all know what's going on, but then things shift, and fall into one another, and form new storylines, and characters are minor or major and fall or rise or get replaced.
But also, Brooke is like Rachel Stevens and Britney Spears in one, except she also calls in the guy to say his piece and utterly trashes him, and she (apparently) had a large hand in the musical portion as well. This is a major, major album, peoples, well worth your time and attention (plus, it's in new release this week, so cheap). It's certainly a whole bunch of things I love about pop wrapped up in one.
 Which I now notice others have pointed out. It is fairly obvious if you've spent as much time listening to the Rachel Stevens song as most of us presumably have. That thread has some other good descriptions of the album, and is well worth checking out. posted by Mike B. at 10:13 AM
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
I did buy a new release today, though, in addition to the aforementioned perusing. And it was, of course, Arular.
As you may or may not know, I was intentionally holding out on hearing the complete album until release day. I don't quite know why, but I think it had something to do with trying to experience it as someone who wasn't a rock critic would. As much as I could, anyway--obviously it's not like I've been on a MIA-fast the last few months. But I wanted to try and experience it in something like real time.
It was sort of weird listening to it at first, because I hearing it in ideological terms--paying more attention to the ideas and stances than the stuff going on. And while it is sort of interesting in those terms (you could chart the album as a series of rising and falling and splitting ideological throughlines), it wasn't what I'd been waiting to hear.
Luckily, the more I listen to it, the more that effect goes away. And while it's not quite as good as I'd like it to be--what is?--and it doesn't sound as good on headphones or computer speakers as it does booming out through a PA, it's still pretty fantastic. "Amazon" is menacing and sexy, "Hombre" is bratty and boppy, and "10$" should really be released as a single--that's some ass-clapping magesty right there.
Now I just sit and wait for a sunglass-wearing gang consisting of MIA, Diplo, Justine, Steve, and Richard X to come and rescue me from my job. Soon, soon. posted by Mike B. at 4:54 PM
Perused the new releases today (more shortly), and wondered if I should buy either the new Keren Ann album or the new Prefuse 73 album. Thoughts? Acknowledgments?
In other news, I wouldn't have to ask these things if Soulseek was working properly. Grr. posted by Mike B. at 4:09 PM
Monday, March 21, 2005
As you can perhaps tell from the atrocious prose below, the ol' brain isn't really up to speed today, so this'll probably be the last thing I put up until tomorrow. Which is tragique, because I do have Many Important Things To Say, but they will just have to wait.
I guess this is a normal thing, having something attributed to the site it appeared on rather than the person who wrote it, but it still kinda weirds me out; the consequence of doing this blog for so long, I suppose. And lord knows I've done it.
Anyway, for the record, I totally forgot to put a rating on that review, so that's more interpolated from the prose, but accurately. "A" sounds right. I'd give everything an A if I could. posted by Mike B. at 1:41 PM