1. howtolistentomusic:

    Zoe Saldana gives a rare performance in which a very good-looking woman also comes off as a legitimate bad ass.

    Apparently for Ian Murphy, attractiveness and bad-assery are mutually exclusive. Good luck getting a date with that attitude.

    World’s worst movie critic strikes again.

    From the get-go our heroine is a reckless, irresponsible party girl who deserves about as much sympathy from the audience as a Kardashian throwing a fit in a ritzy boutique. And her predicament, while horrifying, is not one that elicits any sort of empathy. The drug in question makes her supersmart, a great fighter and pretty much six X-Men rolled into one. Yes, it cuts down on her lifespan, but so did her lifestyle prior to the incident.

    Yep, Lucy totally deserved to be turned into a drug mule by her evil boyfriend. After all, she parties!

    And there’s not even any gratuitous nudity.

    Note to filmmakers: if you’re gonna inconvenience Ian Murphy with your artistic vision, throw in some boobies! It’s only fair right?

    Ugh. I demand better from my local alt weekly.


  2. Obviously part of their success if that teenage girls are never going to stop enjoying clean-cut heartthrobs. But there’s more to it than that, One Direction created a, now much copied, new model for boybands. Instead of the brooding, moody pin-ups of the 90s, they are carefully crafted jokers who appear to be self-deprecating and self-aware while at the same time taking their fans to the cleaners.

    Wait what? Both *Nsync and the Backstreet Boys were self-deprecating and self-aware and they both had a penchant for pranks and jokes. Sure in BSB’s case their playful side rarely manifested in the music itself, but *Nsync’s second album was called No Strings Attached and its driving conceit was that the boys were marionettes. Or “puppets.” Get it? They were puppets. How can you miss this?

    In my early teens boy bands were my thing (I used to idolize Nick Carter), but I can’t remember a time when they were uniformly moody and brooding. Earnest maybe, but that’s a different thing entirely.


  3. "One is left with the strange impression that Friendship is both too specific in places where it doesn’t matter and too underspecified in places where it counts the most.”

    This review takes some cheap shots at Emily Gould but this is a good summary of the big problem with Friendship.

  4. So Michael Jackson(’s estate) released a new single recently. Maybe you’ve read about it? Hopefully not because the song’s coverage was almost universally terrible and in dire need of a history lesson. Take this piece by Eric Sundermann, where he wrote

    One of the reasons I was never truly attracted to Michael Jackson’s career was because I felt like, despite all of his accomplishments, the further he got into being the King of Pop (post-Thriller), the more he abandoned what got him there—which was, simply, his incredible voice. That’s the Michael I love. That free-flowing, beautiful soulful voice that led the Jackson 5. The shining soul he’d consistently put on display before he added all the hiccups and grunts and whatever the fuck other noises he’d make between verses. He carried this glorious confidence that still, to this day, has not been close to replicated.

    which isn’t just wrong, it’s flat-out backwards. 

    Noisey was the worst offender, but much of the writing on “Love Never Felt So Good” had a similar undertone of “this is stripped-down, authentic, ideal Michael Jackson,” which is fucking bullshit. It’s true that if you take away his spectacle, you’re still left with an extremely gifted performer. But as Jonathan Bradley wrote in the comments here, contrary to what some elitist snobs might tell you, the charts are full of gifted performers at any given moment. So Michael’s lasting legacy and defining genius was the spectacle.

    We all know Off the Wall as a classic, but did you know that at the time of its release, Rolling Stone refused Jackson’s team’s request for a cover story? This seems unthinkable now, knowing what we know about how singular a talent the man was, but it’s true. (Well, according to Wikipedia it’s true, though the source seems easy enough to confirm.) Off the Wall wasn’t a commercial or critical flop by any means but there was still a glass ceiling preventing Jackson as a performer from really breaking through. Thriller, the blockbuster that remains the best-selling album of all time, would eventually correct this, but even Thriller and its brilliant something-for-everyone approach got off to a rough start. In fact at the time

    MTV rarely aired music videos by black performers, and when they refused to show “Billie Jean,” CBS Records president Walter Yetnikoff went ballistic. “I said to MTV, ‘I’m pulling everything we have off the air, all our product. I’m not going to give you any more videos. And I’m going to go public and fucking tell them about the fact that you don’t want to play music by a black guy.’” “Billie Jean” was promptly put in heavy rotation, and neither Jackson nor MTV ever looked back. ( - from Blender magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born” issue, October 2005. “Billie Jean” was #1.)

    By the time the video for “Thriller” came out, MTV had embraced Jackson as his blockbuster success largely fueled theirs (and vice versa). But there’s still a palpable sense of “okay fuckers, I dare you not to play this one” written all over the project. 

    This is what peak Michael Jackson was all about. His spectacle—the music videos, the choreography, the outfits, the highly distinct, instantly identifiable vocal style—didn’t come about because he had a shallow tendency of stuffing his performances with frivolousness. It emerged because he existed in an environment where merely being extremely fucking talented wasn’t enough for a black performer. All this “extra” stuff was a nuclear arsenal aimed directly at a white establishment that recognized Michael’s talent but still sought to keep him in his place.

    So what is one really saying when they present pre-spectacle Jackson as the ideal? Basically they’re the ignorant white person that says stupid shit like “I wished I lived in x era. Things were so much better then!”

  5. katherinestasaph:

    Lena Fayre, “I Am Not a Man”

    A bit of a career retool for Fayre, both in bio (thank god / now I feel less like a dick) and in music. “Love Burning Alive” was fervently felt teenpop that didn’t totally fly with the teenpop crowd, though it deserved the breakout slot over crap like Shawn Mendes. ”I Am Not a Man” is brooding, Broods-ing pop that, improbably, was co-written by Liz Phair (relief to see Funstyle didn’t get her totally blackballed). A decade ago this would mean sounding like The Matrix or Katy Rose — which might’ve been good — but this is the sort of dignified, spacey work Phair did better, and it suits Fayre’s voice better, I think. If I were awarding points, half would be for the opening line, which makes a weird sort of perfect sentence: “I am not a man, I feel more like chemicals.” 

    I just discovered Lena, like, Saturday, which is apparently late; Katherine and Maura are ON IT. But yeah, this is great. I wrote “like Lisa Germano producing for Banks” over on Twitter though Katherine’s comparisons are probably more apt.


  6. So that link isn’t working but the whole site seems to be down? Did you all click at the same time or what


  7. Zoe Saldana gives a rare performance in which a very good-looking woman also comes off as a legitimate bad ass.

    Apparently for Ian Murphy, attractiveness and bad-assery are mutually exclusive. Good luck getting a date with that attitude.


  8. groovesnjams:

    Promises" by Ryn Weaver


    Well, here’s one way to pre-empt a forthcoming backlash. Ryn Weaver’s “OctaHate" appeared seemingly from nowhere (though as Katherine St. Asaph recently noted, no one actually comes from nowhere, and if she hits a certain level of success I look forward to learning how Weaver was Kelli-Leigh’d/Lizzy Granted at some point.) But she was pushed to prominence by a significant number of co-signs, from the song’s list of collaborators to the number of artists who promoted her on Twitter.

    It’s telling that even in a time when music criticism has largely chosen poptimism over authenticity, enthusiasm for “OctaHate” quickly turned to suspicion - to discussions of how the song was a mess because of the number of writers who worked on it (as if this was atypical), of how much money must have been spent to get those tweets posted (same), of how something must be wrong with “OctaHate” because it sounded so polished and yet no one had vetted Weaver’s credentials prior to its release.

    I didn’t love “OctaHate”, and yet I found the bile rising every time I read about it as the week went on. We should be past this, really. Context aside, almost no one would dispute that it takes money and effort and promotion to break a new artist - yet calling those things out overtly or via dog-whistle is still a reflexive tack that critics take, a cheap way to score cynical points without thinking too hard about a song. It’s high school “punk” all over again: ideas that pop success can only be earned by following a unicorn’s path.

    Which brings me to “Promises,” a song that might as well be sui generis: not only have I yet to read a single mention of Weaver’s collaborators on this song, I’ve seen multiple sites resort to recapping “OctaHate“‘s personnel in a desperate attempt to fill space around their Soundcloud embeds (Weaver mentions that Michael Angelakos and Benny Blanco produced on her Twitter, but apparently no one has noticed this.)

    It’s a smart move on Weaver’s part, since any mention of another partnership would only feed into negative reactions. It allows her to showcase another side of herself than “OctaHate” did, and to ensure that she’s actually showcasing herself, rather than her professional relationships. Where “OctaHate” was pounding, bouncy, “Promises” is rolling, horizontal: Weaver’s vocal leaps and trills a few times, but the song drives directly at its endpoint where “OctaHate” threw curveballs. The main thing the songs share is a surfeit of hooks, something that should serve Weaver well as she works to build a career - provided that  she can get listeners to actually focus on them.


    Clearing the air around “OctaHate” frees me to admit I’m not big on Weaver’s voice. She sings through her teeth on “Promises” and that vocal is fed through a filter that makes her gnashing sound like it’s pouring from some post-apocalyptic radio. It’s not an awful strategy, Regina Spektor has used the same to the sort of success Weaver aspires.

    Angelakos is undeniably a part of the production team on “Promises.” This is a Passion Pit song in both arrangement and instrumentation, the minor variations on his established style are the Hal Blaine with a twist drum pattern and Weaver herself. In all the crosstalk around Weaver’s credentials I’ve not seen anyone mention what an opportunity she is for Angelakos. He’s struggled to keep his band functional and suffered bi-polar episodes on tour. Through Weaver he’s gifted a fresh voice and a stable setting for his songwriting and producing. Weaver hasn’t exited the gate with a sound that’s uniquely hers and in absence of that fully formed persona there’s speculation and outright dismissal. She’s proven her speed dial is stocked, let’s give her an album before we backlash.

  9. There are certain melodies/riffs/beats that seem to have been created by a wind farm for all the infinitely renewable energy they provide. "Sickfit" by Kitty and "Earthquake" by Leona Naess are two examples off the top of my head. These are songs I can play over and over again without ever tiring of them. 

    "Just Kids" progresses with very little variation on the original few bars, putting so much trust in the melody that it’s clear that someone involved, whether it’s a producer or an exec or Alex & Sierra themselves, hear it as a wind farm-type song. That’s cool, but for me, while the melody is extremely memorable, it doesn’t quite have the self-sustaining magic of that top tier of catchiness.

    The remarkable thing about “Just Kids” though is just how singular it sounds. Now obviously your mileage may vary, but to me, the song doesn’t feel like it belongs to anything. A reading of its “coding” turns up nothing besides useless generalities. There’s no identifiable producer or songwriting hallmarks. There’s no era signifiers that place the song in a particular time frame (including pop in 2014). And while its influences are clear enough if you’re looking (early ’00s teen pop, Maroon 5’s brand of not-quite-soft-or-hard-rock, the twee thing Alex & Sierra were originally positioned for), the song doesn’t feel particularly indebted to any of them.  

    So while “Just Kids” may not quite reach the top tier of catchiness, it’s a sort of catchiness that carries virtually no baggage. This blank-slate, allegiance-free, plopped-from-a-vacuum quality makes the song the freshest thing I’ve heard in quite some time. 

    It’s my favorite song of 2014 so far. Shame that It’s About Us is almost certainly going to bomb.

  10. BUT YOUR EYES DON’T COME OFF BLAKE! GEEZ. And I mean, if we’re gonna expand removables to also include non-removables the line doesn’t even work. Do you want to take off your hands, Blake? How about your lips? Or your penis? Didn’t think so.

    That said, I still think this song’s centerpiece line largely works. The formula is there; it’s the logic that fails to live up to the big revelatory “GET IT?” moment that the structure practically gift-wraps, but that structure is strong enough to sell the line anyways


  11. Coming up: Demi Lovato


    Thank you, Elisabeth!

    We’ll stay in the golden fields of contemporary American pop next week and talk about Disney alum Demi Lovato.

    Your host for the week is Brittney T., who is an elementary special education schoolteacher in Georgia. You can follow her on Tumblr here.

    See you tomorrow.

    — Hendrik


  12. gretchenalice:


    -via The Literacy Site

    But…there are actually more public libraries (~16,000) than there are Starbucks (~11,000) in the US.

  13. Katy Rose, center, with her Chicks With Attitude tourmates. From left: Nina Persson, Charlotte Martin, Liz Phair, non-musician mystery person (a Maybelline representative, I’m guessing).

    I was only 19 at the time and not even close to having my shit together, but one of my biggest regrets is not finding a way to make it to this show.

  14. So there’s a new Katy Rose song. The upload date says April but I’ve been shit at keeping up lately so I just discovered it days ago. 

    Katy who, you ask? Well, in the early-to-mid aughts record labels scooped up every “edgy” young female musician they could get their hands on in an attempt to cash in on the success of Avril Lavigne. There was Fefe Dobson. Skye Sweetnam. Ashlee Simpson. Amy Studt. Sarah Hudson. Lillix. Bonnie McKee. Alexandra Slate. Etc.

    And then there was Katy Rose, whose debut album Because I Can (2004) was the best the lot ever produced. Despite this, and despite a huge promotional push that included a memorable appearance on TRL, a “Next Big Thing!” article in Blender magazine*, soundtrack placement in the movie Mean Girls**, a nationally televised commercial campaign for Cingular Wireless, and a coveted slot opening for the incomparable Liz Phair on tour, Katy’s career never really took off. While her first single, "Overdrive," was put into regular rotation on MTV, I only saw her second, "I Like," once, on Fuse’s Oven Fresh. And at the time, I watched a shitload of music programming. (Incidentally, the only available copies of “I Like” on YouTube were ripped from that same source.) 

    In 2007, Katy released Candy Eyed. Though I liked the album, its more playful, experimental nature left me feeling a bit cheated. Since then, Katy has occasionally jumped on social media to promise her fans new music in the near future, but she’s done this so many times with nothing to show for it that I stopped putting faith in these announcements long ago. The “real” sequel to Because I Can became my Detox, my Smile, my Chinese Democracy, though relief occasionally arrived in the form of leaks of unreleased material.

    But now it’s 2014, and there’s a legitimately new Katy Rose song, with a music video and everything! “Do It Again” isn’t the best song I’ve heard this year. Katy’s poetic ambitions have dimmed a bit, and she’s picked up some of contemporary pop’s worst tendencies, including monotonous repetition and filler “oh oh”s. But the song has a killer bass line, and the general sound is this great balance between the grungy and the ethereal that is so distinctly, satisfyingly Katy. 

    The video comes with zero context, so I’m not sure if a new album is on the way. But hopefully it’s a sign of more to come.

    (* Of course, back then there was like three or four of these articles per issue, but still)

    (** “Cady, do you even know who sings this?” “Um, the Spice Girls?” “I love her. She’s like a Martian!” OH YEAH? WHY DON’T YOU NAME THE SINGER, REGINA GEORGE? GO AHEAD AND THINK ABOUT IT, I’LL WAIT)

    ***Update*** The music video has been taken down. Here’s an audio stream.

  15. Fifth Harmony at The Majestic Ventura Theater, 2-12-2014

    Fun night.