In Rolling Stone‘s March 13, 2014, issue, the “Random Notes” section features this blurb: “Blood Bath For buzzy New York noise-punk band Perfect Pussy, music is in their blood – and vice versa! Their debut LP, Say Yes to Love, has a limited vinyl edition filled with singer Meredith Graves’ blood (they sold out immediately). So why’d she do it? ‘Because I’m not attractive enough to pose nude,’ Graves says.”

What the…? 

First, noise-punk? That’s not a thing. That’s just noise. Come on.

Second, Perfect Pussy? What, your music sucks so you have to be provocative with your “band”‘s name? What a gimmick.

Third, why fill the vinyl with your blood? Another stunt, another gimmick. Is this chick for real? 

Lady, forget these empty, trashy gimmicks, and go practice your instrument and write a better song. 

In a recent interview, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder said of today’s pop music, “It’s crap that people seem to like. And I don’t know if it has meaning. I don’t know if one of the pop songs of the summer has any fiber in it. People are consuming it, and is it healthy? … It seems like it has a really high fructose content.” 

Intentional or not, I think Vedder hit the jackpot with this comparison. People—and particularly Americans—are consuming record amounts of crap food, food with off-the-charts sodium contents, food with dangerously high cholesterol and fat counts, food with more high-fructose corn syrup, chemicals and other additives than natural, healthful ingredients. They are consuming junk.

And they are consuming junk when they listen to music and watch TV and movies. That’s why junky pop music, with little-to-no sustaining value, is topping the charts. It’s why illiterate programming (like all the Housewives shows and other such schlock) continually delivers record ratings. It’s why Hollywood keeps churning out formulaic, thoughtless drivel while independent studios are folding. It’s even why terrible shows like Rock of Ages continue to play while people walk out of the fantastic Annie Baker play, The Flick.

Do we care about what we put into our bodies? Is caring for what you’re consuming in danger of becoming a niche market of sorts? Am I being judgmental? (It’s possible. But Eddie Vedder said it first!)

The problem with all of the schlock is it doesn’t seem to heed Vedder’s fellow grunge-era rocker Dave Grohl’s advice, which is that whatever you put out should be you. It should come from your heart. It should sound like you. It should say something about who you are. That’s what expression is all about. Anything else is just a masturbatory exercise.

(Interview in Rolling Stone magazine, October 10, 2013, issue, interview conducted by Brian Hiatt.)

Storytelling

October 28, 2013

I was listening to Aaron Tveit’s live album, The Radio in My Head, which includes lots of standards and musical theatre songs. Tveit recorded this album live during a concert, a concert at which (by all accounts, I wasn’t there) simply stood and sang songs – no pyrotechnics and no back-up dancers. Truly, I’m sure it was riveting. 

So I started thinking about the difference between radio songs versus songs you sing and interpret in a concert: the difference is storytelling.

The great songwriters of yesteryear and the great ones of today told/tell stories in their songs. When you see them performed live, you don’t need bells and whistles. You just need a full orchestra and a great singer. Radio sings are not necessarily meant to be listened to with such focus and attention and they don’t tell stories. So when you see those songs performed in concert, you need a spectacle – you need lights and lasers and back-up dancers and smoke and mirrors and razzle dazzle. The Rodgers and Hart song “My Romance,” for example, is so simple – you don’t need anything to make you understand and feel it. Today’s disposable pop songs can’t say the same. 

And that’s a reason some people can’t relate to musical theatre these days – they’re not used to having stories told to them through song, and they don’t know how to focus on the music and lyrics, since they typically listen to music while doing other things. The music is just background noise. 

What a shame.

Odds and Ends

September 21, 2009

  • Eli’s coming, hide your heart ‘boys: G-men, way to show Big D what’s what. Eli loves a two minute drill (I think he loves giving me heart palpitations even more…) and the win we pulled out on Sunday was incredible. Go Giants! (Now if only the Yankees could clinch the AL East, I could rest easy.) 
  •  Health Care for Foo:  Chris Shiflett, the talented and affable guitarist for Foo Fighters, reacts to POTUS’s recent health care speech and attempts to Rally the Troops.
  • Are you watching “Glee?” It is the best new show on T.V.  A high school Spanish teacher, played by dream boat Matthew Morrison, takes on the thankless task of teaching/coaching glee club, complete with divas, footballers and other misfits. The show is ultimately about finding your voice (pun intended) in the high school caste system.  The bonus (as if Matthew Morrison wasn’t enough) is that fantastic musical numbers abound.  Many of them employ the old show-within-a-show device, as we watch the glee kids rehearse or perform (a rousing rendition of “Push It” was a highlight of the episode Showmance.) Others reveal the students’ inner feelings, including Lea Michele (brilliant as Wendla in Spring Awakening on B’way) tearing up “Take a Bow” (…not the Madonna song, as I thought when I read that song would be sung on the show.  It’s a Rhianna song and Lea kills it!) Some of the best numbers, though, are fronted by Mr. Morrison.  While I particularly liked his cover of Kanye’s Gold Digger (Morrison is a white boy so him rapping was fun and funny for a whole slew of reasons) I liked his version of 90s hits by Montell Jordan, Bel Biv Devoe and Color Me Badd quite a bit, (though I really like “I Wanna Sex You Up” for reasons it would be unlady-like of me to explain.)

Thrill: From the Vault, RS 690, September 8th, 1994

Top 10 Singles

  1. Boyz II Men, I’ll Make Love to You
  2. Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories, Say (I Missed You)
  3. John Mellencamp and Me’Shell NdegeOcello, Wild Night
  4. Babyface, When Can I See You
  5. Changing Faces, Stroke You Up
  6. Coolio, Fantastic Voyage
  7. Elton John, Can You Feel the Love Tonight
  8. All-4-One, I Swear
  9. Warren G, This DJ
  10. Ace of Base, Don’t Turn Around

Granted, some of those songs are awful (I’m looking at you, Ace of Base,) but they bring up delicious feelings of nostalgia, particularly of my youth-in-revolt-against pop phase.

Chill: Top 40 Albums [current – for the week of August 26th, 2009]

Number 3 – Third Eye Blind.

 Ugh. Gross.  First of all, they have a new album? Why? Second, and really the more important question, people are buying it? Why?? They’re so awful, I’d rather listen to Ace of Base. Stephen Jenkins – what a douche cougar. Meanwhile, Green Day dropped eight spots and Neil Diamond went from number two to six.  Music buying public, you’ve got some splainin’ to do!