As one of the seventeen people in the United states who actually liked “Human”, I was interested in what The Killers would come up with after four years off, but now I’m not sure why I bothered. “Runaways” sounds like a modernized mid-eighties Springsteen rip-off, like a Bon Jovi record without hooks but layered with serious intentions. Except Bon Jovi targeted the more pop-oriented Springsteen; these guys are aiming for Darkness On the Edge of Town, an idea even Springsteen himself couldn’t pull off completely (I still consider it his most over-rated album). The Killers now sound even more impoverished in the musical ideas department than they did when they were ripping off “Queen Bitch”.
Posts Tagged ‘David Bowie’
Javier Colon—”Stitch By Stitch”, #17
Dia Frampton—”Inventing Shadows”, #20
Adam Levine & Javier Colon—”Man In the Mirror”, #45
Blake Shelton & Dia Frampton—”I Won’t Back Down”, #57
Christina Aguilera & Beverly McClellan—”Beautiful”, #74
Vicci Martinez—”Afraid To Sleep”, #78
George Strait—”Here For a Good Time”
Strait has been coasting over his last few singles, but when you’ve absorbed as much craft as he has even coasting sounds more energetic, and certainly more intelligent, than most other country output. This isn’t a masterpiece—too much of it seems automatic—but it has moments, such as the opening line of the second verse, that seem like minor miracles. Strait may be coasting, but he’s coasting in style.
David Guetta featuring Taio Cruz & Ludacris—”Little Bad Girl”
For Guetta, not bad, but Cruz has done better, and Ludacris has done much better. I like the breakdown a lot, but have just about had it with Cruz’s phrasing. I only hope he doesn’t succeed in making pronouncing “air” as “ur” a trend.
“Moving To Mars”, #90
“Major Minus”, #92
Two obvious throwaways filling in the “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” EP, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s the best Coldplay I’ve heard: rough, grounded in real emotion, sonically striking (I even like Chris Martin’s croaky croon). Thematically, though, they’re old hat: spaceflight as a symbol of alienation and paranoid anti-establishment tropes, respectively. “Moving to Mars” may very well be intended as a tribute to Bowie and/or Elton John, and good for Coldplay if it is. If Martin managed to become as good a lyricist as Bernie Taupin, they might be worth listening to more often.
Iyaz featuring Travie McCoy—”Pretty Girls”
Iyaz is as forgettable as they come, and McCoy, usually a black mark on every record that bears his name, is less painful than usual, and therefore also forgettable. As for the song…uh, what was it called again?
Big Sean featuring Wiz Khalifa & Chiddy Bang—”High”
I have nothing against people getting stoned, honest I don’t. But when all they can talk about is weed, especially in a childish, aren’t-I-clever manner like this, I consider investing in paraquat.
This strikes me as both a nice idea and a bad one. It’s always fun to get together with friends and listen to music—I’m part of a local group that does this every month or so, where we all bring two song selections based on a pre-assigned theme—but there’s something off-putting about the way they’re doing this, especially some of their rules. No talking while the music is playing? Besides the fact that I know people who would never be able to manage this, this gives me the feeling of their gatherings being too regimented and not a lot of fun. Will you find yourself ostracized if you happen to make a brief comment during a fade out (“Dammit, you talked over my favorite segue!”)? God help you if you need to go to the bathroom, especially during the quiet parts. And then there’s the subdued lighting and the incense. It sounds too much like a mixture of some new age rite and and the worst aspects of a night at the symphony. There’s been a good deal of debate over the last few years about whether audiences should applaud between movements at symphony concerts, something that has been frowned upon by musical snobs for over a century, and now here’s a bunch of pop people saying that no one should be allowed to make a sound while a rock album is playing? It’s all too precious.
Worse, though, is the retro feel to the whole concept. Bowie. Pink Floyd. Led Zeppelin. Even throwing Kanye West and DJ Shadow into the mix this seems like a very backward looking crowd. Though I’m willing to buy into the concept of the ’70s being the classic album decade, there have been too many great ones made since then, and before, for their choices to look like anything but sour grapes and the whole idea looking almost Luddite in its approach. They make it sound as if, outside of their little group of cognoscenti, they’re being forced to listen to records piecemeal. I bet youth culture killed their dog, too.
I have to admit to being somewhat perplexed by all the fuss over Camille Paglia’s critique of Lady GaGa in London’s Sunday Times (behind a paywall, unfortunately). For one thing, I didn’t think anybody (at least among the punditry) paid much attention to Paglia anymore. Not that she isn’t worth paying attention to, but simply because Paglia herself hasn’t been doing much to attract any. She still writes a regular column for Salon, but she’s only written two books since 1995, one a monograph on Hitchcock’s The Birds for the BFI film series (kind of a 33 1/3 for films), and the other a collection of critical readings of poetry, neither the kind of thing to raise much notice in the public press. The long-promised second volume of Sexual Personae still hasn’t appeared, and though I assume she’s still working on it in some way, I don’t expect to see it until her literary executors finally get it out five or so years after her death—which could be a long time yet.
What perplexes me even more about the reaction, though, is that no one seems willing to admit that, though she gets a good deal wrong (her writing off of social networks is a terrible mistake, though it will still be a few years before it’s proven so), she also gets a good deal right. When she calls Gaga a sexless blank, she’s absolutely right, even if, as Kira Cochrane has suggested in The Guardian, GaGa does this intentionally. She’s also right that GaGa represents some sort of turning point in the representation in pop of sexuality. But Paglia’s negativity about this seems misplaced. GaGa may very well represent the end of the 20th Century’s sexual revolution, as Paglia suggests, but one revolution is always supplanted, or replaced, by another. The revolution that GaGa started, or is perhaps clearing space for, hasn’t yet cohered into anything that anyone could give a name, or even suggest a direction, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t brewing.
But it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be an improvement, either, which would make Paglia’s pessimism prescient. It’s interesting to see how’s Paglia’s attack on cell phones and iPods fits in with Cochrane’s references to the distancing effect of GaGa’s costumes. If the new sexual revolution adds up to nothing more than a world full of sexting and virtual bisexuality, then I want no part of it either. But I don’t think that’s going to happen, or what GaGa’s suggesting. I have no idea what’s going to happen, and neither, I think, does anybody else. It seems foolish to worry about it.
I also agree with Paglia that Madonna is a ridiculous comparison to make to GaGa. The roots of this, as far as I can see, have to do with the obvious musical influences (but then, name a dance-pop singer of the last twenty years who isn’t influenced by Madonna) and the fact that she changes her clothes a lot. But Madonna’s changes in image from album to album or video to video really was just a change of clothes: she was always Madonna and only Madonna; the force of her personality came through no matter what she was wearing, and her career through the 80’s was a steady climb in a single direction, focusing and refining the themes of her music until they reached their ultimate expression in Erotica. GaGa’s outfits, meanwhile, are a replacement for personality, an intentional façade that changes as rapidly as the settings of a dream, an armor, as Cochrane suggests, that allows her to face the world on her own terms for as long as she can keep it up. For the moment, at least as far as the public is concerned, GaGa has no personality.
Paglia trips up, though, when she downplays any comparison of GaGa to David Bowie. To me, the connection seems obvious. Like Bowie, GaGa is a rummager through the pop past whose music, at least at this stage of her career, is largely pastiche, but who is more than willing to name-check her influences and give them credit. When Paglia puts GaGa down for lacking avant-garde credentials, she forgets that Bowie’s own credentials, at least in his early years, consisted mostly of being a Velvet Underground fan, referencing his musical and cultural heroes in his songs, and wearing heavy makeup and a dress. The only thing avant-garde about his music was the limp-wristed wispiness of its sound, which made even the most blaring rock and roll sound somehow decadent and effete. And, just like GaGa, Bowie had no real public personality, just a series of parts that he played from record to record. Where GaGa will go with her music is anyone’s guess, but experimentalism is bound to happen once she exhausts her original inspiration, and there’s no reason to think she won’t turn to the avant-garde herself.
What’s oddest about Paglia’s criticism is that she either doesn’t recognize, or is unconsciously denying, the influence that her own work appears to have had on GaGa’s thinking. Considering their surface similarities, I find it impossible to believe that GaGa hasn’t had some exposure to Paglia’s work, if only through curiosity concerning a controversial woman who in many ways is just like her—both Italian-Americans from New York State (though Paglia grew up in Saratoga Springs, not in NYC), both precocious children steeped in Catholic ritual, art, and fashion, both tightly-packed bundles of energy (if I’m not mistaken, they’re even the same height: 5’2”).
When I first saw the “Bad Romance” video I thought of it as something taken straight out of Paglia’s dreams, especially the ending, where the woman’s sexual power causes the man, who thinks he own her, to spontaneously combust. I suspect that part of Paglia’s irritation with GaGa is that she’s seeing her own ideas reflected back at her, almost as farce, and worries that it casts her entire theory of culture in doubt.
It doesn’t. I know that it’s a fun game among some critics to write off Paglia for her occasional social and feminist faux pas (most of which occurred almost twenty years ago), but at the heart of her thinking is a serious, carefully constructed theory of art and culture which, if not always right (when Paglia infamously said that if women ruled the world we’d still be living in grass huts, she forgot to consider that if men had complete control over the world, we wouldn’t even have the huts), is right often enough to take seriously and approach seriously. That includes her opinion of Lady GaGa.
(HT: Bill Kennedy)