Saturday, November 29, 2008
Not, "staying cozy and warm at sporting events." What the hell?
This has to be sponsored by some sort of cult. I'd be scared as hell to see a bunch of people rolling deep in their snuggies.
In other news, that sage green would work wonders for my complexion.
In any case, here are a few of my faves from Karmaloop.com. Though I'm more partial to the two on the right, the one on the left is for those of you who aren't afraid of a little color.
If you're afraid of full-on flannel, you can always cop an accessory or two. A flannel scarf over a solid shirt is always a winner, gloves are nice too. But don't over do it. Contrasting patterns is hot, looking like a walking crossword puzzle is not.
Also, despite the fact that I found these shirts at Karmaloop, please believe I'll be taking my ass to Target to find the look for less. The shirts pictured here run for about $75-$100. I've been able to grab a couple that are just as fly for less than 30 bucks at Target. If you're really feeling yourself, you can always go to Macy's, where I saw a couple of nice Rocawear and Sean Jean shirts running for about $80, but again, that's not really necessary.
Don't be scared to embrace your inner-flannel, it's a classic look that you won't regret while sifting through pictures of yourself 20 years from now.
By the way, Karmaloop.com is a nice place to visit if you're looking for something a little different to add to your wardrobe. But be careful not to just shop for what's trendy...that shit won't be in style next year, and you'll have a closet full of $100 clothes that you won't know what to do with. Ask my Aviator Jacket and skull & bones all-over hoodie.
Also, check-out my cousin's blog, because I definitely jacked this fashion trend post idea from her.
Nickelodeon has always had some of the most random, nearing-inappropriate cartoons on television, at least in terms of programming geared toward children. Though I never too much messed with Ren & Stimpy, as they were a bit too disturbing for my liking, for the most part I loved Nick as a kid. Rocko's Modern Life and Rugrats will always be my favorites, but I was down for Doug and Angry Beavers too, maybe CatDog on a desperate day. As I've grown older, my tastes have matured more toward the teen sophistication of Disney Channel shows (shout out to Kim Possible), but nothing can touch the sometimes unsettling weirdness of Nickelodeon animation.
The Mighty B! is a testament to that weirdness. Though it's not nearly as darkly-comic as some of Nick's earlier creations, it has a mature humor about it that makes it more exciting than most any other cartoon currently on television. Don't get me wrong, thought-provoking pathos it is not, but it does manage to blend a bit of sly social commentary with its hilarious absurdity, to make its brand of animated slapstick a little more substantive than one might expect off-hand. Or perhaps I'm doing too much in trying to analyze it, and the shit is just funny. Whatever the case, the clip above is only a sample of its brilliance.
Oh, and Back at the Barnyard is amazing too.
But this guy does a better job of it. I agree with the majority of the review, except the Robocop portion. Ya'll know that's my shit.
No more Kanye posts until at least after Christmas. Dude ain't paying my bills.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Most people recognize how stellar this video is; without question, Janet is killin it. But as a song, Pleasure Principle is sorely underrated. Whereas Janet's singles usually seem wrapped in the glow of love, Pleasure Principle is one of the rare instances where listeners have the chance to hear Ms. Jackson direct an ex to the left. And, despite the obvious scorn that motivates the verbal send-off, Janet manages to weigh confidence and aggression ("I'm not here to feed your insecurities"), with just the right amount of naiveté ("I wanted you to love me") to give the record plenty of the charm listeners had come to expect from her after the runaway success of Control.
Also, believe it or not, in 1986 people actually thought Janet could sing (a notion I still support today), as she had yet to retreat to the whisper register that many began to associate with her at some point during the 90s, and Pleasure Principle supports that theory. Janet sounds comfortable, albeit non-threatening, throughout the course of the song, but it's on the ad-libs that surface near the song's end that she really shines (or at least flickers).
Still, it's clear that even at 20 Janet knew her vocals alone wouldn't pay the bills, as the album version of the song is remixed for the video, leaving less room for song, and more for dance; a smart move. In fact, I would argue that Pleasure Principle, along with Rhythm Nation and If, has done the most in establishing her contemporary pop-cultural identity as a world-class performer. Even today many people can't help but to remember her slinging that near-mullet around in a deserted garage, wearing different shades of denim and standard 80s kneepads, while delivering what is perhaps the most approachable dance routine of her career.
Although, contrary to reports from Janet herself, I don't believe she actually performed that infamous back-flip from the top of those crates. Something about that editing seems as suspect as that Billy Ray Cyrus wig she's rockin.
I've also included a live performance of the song. Emphasis on live; Janet rarely gets enough credit for sounding as good on stage as she does on record.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
What's Weird is that I like Rihanna. I've been down since her Pon de Replay days. If It's Loving That You Want was my summer anthem right after high school. My first year of college, I was feeling Unfaithful and We Ride like I was the sideline ho in question. Back then Rihanna was an upcoming artist and experiencing inconsistent spurts of success. Fast forward to 2008, and this chick is dangerously close to attaining pop music relevancy. Come again!?
Rihanna is fly, yes. I'm not one of those listeners who believe that every pop star has to be a vocal power house to be a respectable artist. Talent does not rest solely in a five-octave range, in my opinion at least. That being said, Rihanna is not talented, and this AMA performance proves that, hands down.
Perhaps it's because the announcer introduced her as having had "the most #1 singles of any female artist this millennium," paired with the fact that she managed to beat out real artists (MJB, Alicia Keys) for awards in two categories is what has me so upset. A fucking sequined eye patch and fly haircut does not a performance make. Nor should it a career make.
Rihanna is all image, and no substance. I have yet to see a performance where she exercises any little bit of stage presence, or vocal tact. Her VMA performance of Disurbia earlier this year was embarrassingly un-listenable, and even worse than that was the fact that she turned what could have been an interesting set into one of the lamest routines of the night. The same can be said for her performance of Rehab at the AMAs. Those vocals runs that she attempts toward the end of the song are terrible, and the fact that she had the nerve to crouch toward the ground in a fit of pseudo-emotion only adds insult to injury.
As I've said, not every female artist needs to be the next Mariah, but what Rihanna lacks in vocals she doesn't even try to make-up for in presentation. Chick will not dance, at all. The fact that she has a handheld mic and live band at most performances baffles me. Yes, live vocals and instrumentation would be impressive from most any other artist, but in this case, I'll pass. With Rihanna, I want pre-recorded, lip-synch ready, heavily choreographed, shamelessly over-the-top spectacles; that way I can forget what a waste of time she actually is.
I'll still be listening to Take a Bow, Rehab, and most of the rest of Rihanna's pre-maturely extensive catalogue, because the songs are good. Still, I'll keep wishing someone else was singing them. Think of the swagger Monica could've added to Take A Bow...
I will say, Umbrella was all her own. Chick killed it.
That being said. Bookmark Me. If you're a blogger, add me to your watched list, or blogroll. Tell your friends. Do whatever necessary to help me, help myself. I'm majoring in English, this blog might just be my career climax...
Thus ends my shameless self-promotion.
I LOVE this shit.
Let this post serve as warning that I love Britney, and while I'm sure that some people will go hard on me for disliking Beyonce, and praising Ms. Spears, I'm cool with that. The two aren't comparable in my opinion, and that's a compliment to both.
That being said, Womanizer was awful. Circus is not.
I debated about even posting this, as 112 hasn't been hot in quite some time, and I thought more than a few people might find themselves googling the group before reading this. If you need a refresher course, go here, here, and definitely here, and you'll see why 112 was easily one of the best male R&B groups to surface in the 90s. Though they were never as popular as Boyz II Men in their heyday, for a group that spent almost a decade on the Bad Boy roster, they did pretty well for themselves. I mean, Diddy can't even get a hit on that label. That being said, the group probably peaked sometime around 2001 with Peaches & Cream, but even at their commercial and creative low, they were better than their Making the Band replacement any day.
So imagine my surprise at hearing a solo single from one of the group's lead singers, Q, floating around online. Though I managed to convince myself that the track was just a random occurrence, something one of the boys was doing in their spare time between recording with the group, soon other tracks began to surface from other members, and the next thing I know I'm watching another 112 alum, Slim, in his own music video, promoting his solo album. What the hell?
This is all wrong, for so many reasons.
First, how many of you can put faces to the names I referenced above? Exactly. No one knows 112 individually. That was true even at their peak, and now that the group's recognition has waned in recent years, it's even less reasonable to think that anyone will be able to reference their solo efforts back to their group success. Slim might have the benefit of possessing the most easily recognizable voice in the group, but the rest of the guys…not so much. And even when you hear Slim's new single, So Fly, chance are you're going to first assume that 112 is on the comeback trail.
That brings me to my second concern: even if you know who's singing, you'll wonder why they're singing alone. Nothing on Slim's new album, Love's Crazy, and nothing that I've heard from Q is anything different than they could have done with 112. In fact, it all could have been better with the rest of the boys. What made Slim's voice stand out in 112, a nasally falsetto-based wine, treads dangerously close to annoying during the course of his solo album, and Q just doesn't bring anything exceedingly interesting to the table at all. What's worse is that the material isn't even bad. Slim's album contains what is arguably some of the most solid R&B material released this year, but suffers from lackluster, play-by-the-numbers delivery. 112 had the ability to carry their pitch-perfect harmonies seamlessly from the dance floor to the bedroom, and Slim just can't make that transition alone. And really, what's the point of trying it on your own if you're only going to expose your shortcomings without offering anything new to compensate for them?
It made sense for Beyonce and Justin Timberlake to go solo, for obvious reasons. Bobby Brown didn't flourish until after he'd left New Edition, and Babyface held it down post The Deele. But just like T-Boz had no business touching herself (though that remix was hot), and Sisqo should have avoided unleashing the dragon, Slim, Q, and the rest of 112 needs to hug it out, and make it work.
But just in case they don't, check out Slim's album, because even the absence of 112 is better than the presence of most of the other shit on the radio right now.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
This one might catch most of you off-guard, but I don't care, because I know that once you've experienced the magic of Klymaxx, you'll be as consumed by this mid-80s girl group as I am.
Let's make it clear that I love all things 80s; it's almost a problem. The ladies of Klymaxx serve as a perfect example of how deep my passion for the Reagan-ruined decade runs, as they had very well began to fall off around the time I hopped on the scene in '86. By the time I developed any consciousness of the world around me, they were no longer a relevant part of it, but I've still managed to uncover their legacy.
If you've yet to Klymaxx, please run through the video above, I promise it's so worth the next 4 ½ minutes of your life ( don't worry, it takes a lot longer for the ladies to get you off on wax, as the album version of this song is closer to 7 minutes).
In both song and video, Meeting in the Ladies Room is pure perfection for so many reasons. From the very start, the video radiates with an aerosol-laced 80s funk that instantly makes it too authentic to be campy. From the Soultrain line that carries you into the club (can you spot the fanny pack?), to the spoken word intro that greets you at the door, ("I'd hate to become a BW: a Basic Woman") you know from the start that these chicks are so sincere w/ it. The video only gets better from there, as our BW randomly runs through the rest of the club, sporadically dancing and working that tapered and crimped bob like it's on payroll.
At first it seems easy to label the song itself as too silly to be taken seriously, but I'd beg to differ. Meeting in the Ladies Room is a masterpiece of self-awareness. These ladies realize the absurdity of the song's subject matter, and they're having as much fun with it as we are. The song is infectious, with a pop-and-lock drawl that makes it infinitely danceable, and taken as a 5-minute escape from reality, Ladies Room is as necessary as a night out after a long week.
Some moments that made me Klymaxx:
- Why is ol'boy randomly shirtless and break-dancing in a chair, for the entire video?
- Is this chick really rocking a wig made of Christmas Tinsel?
- Oh gosh, she just adjusted it in the mirror.
- Looking at the guys in this video, she might have a meeting in the men's room…cause I'm not sure any of these dudes are checking for the ladies.
- "Don't slap me, Cause. I'm. Not. In. The. Mood." (This chick reminds me SO much of my mom…)
- I'm sorry, is that a mermaid mannequin…seriously?
Please tell me you're in love.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
That being said, the one song that I'm thoroughly impressed with from her latest effort, I Am… (I refuse to acknowledge Sasha Fierce, as Beyonce's ego does not deserve its own separate entity…she can keep her ass back in 2004 with MiMi and Damita Jo) also happens to be the one song no one else seems to be feeling. Ave Maria is easily the best Beyonce has sounded since harmonizing with Destiny's Child. The song is subtle, vulnerable, and exudes an honesty that is absent from most any other song in Bey's catalogue (save Listen). I like it, a lot, and that's hard for me to say in reference to Ms. Knowles Mrs. Carter.
The rest of I Am… is more of the same: full of B'Day leftovers and boring ballads in the vain of Dangerously in Love. I can't help but to notice that releasing this set as a double disc, separated into ballads and dance numbers, is an indirect way of saying, "I don't know how to create an album that flows together, evenly and consistently, so I'll put 5 songs on two cds!"
PS. Sorry Miranda, I love you!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Part of the reason I wanted to avoid writing about this issue is because I don't feel as though I have anything new to offer to the same old argument. Still, as we celebrate the election of our nation's first black president, I can't help but to wonder why we're not more upset about the lack of progress that America has made elsewhere. Every African-American celebrating the significance of a black man assuming presidential office should recognize that the same social and political significance that gives us pride in relation to the election of Barack Obama, should shame us in relation to the passing of Proposition 8.
Blacks can be conservative. The implications of the treatment of homosexuals in America go far beyond political lines. Blacks can be religious. Gay marriage isn't a religious issue. However, blacks can't afford to be discriminatory.
Refusing gays the right to marry in the United States undermines their citizenship. While you certainly can't, and shouldn't try to, force any religious group to recognize same-sex marriages, the constitution is a document that governs all American citizens, regardless of religious affiliation. Marriage is not just a social institution, but also a means of obtaining several rights and benefits that should be afforded to all Americans without prejudice. If gays are expected to pay taxes and be civically responsible in other ways, then the right to marry is certainly an expectation for which they should hold our nation accountable. In the United States, equality is not something one should have to earn; it's the birthright of America.
Why can't African-Americans see that the same oppressive agenda that keeps gays from marrying today, kept blacks relegated to second-class citizens just a few decades ago? More than that, the same hate that we allow to prosper now always stands a chance at refocusing itself later. Once you've overcome the tyranny of oppression, you don't ignore it as it attacks someone else. Instead, you use the progress you've earned to assist in another group's battle, until equality is a reality.
We have to recognize that diversity goes far beyond skin color, and that none of us are safe until all of us are safe.
PS. Watch the clip above in its entirety. Janet and Ashanti are SO rocking the same wig.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Well, more or less, the answer has come down to two well-deserving, if not obvious, choices. One with Amy's depth, the other with her charm, but both falling a bit short in her shadow.
Duffy first came to my attention earlier this year, after I had been avoiding Mercy like the plague. Something about the vintage feel of the song's first few seconds, and Duffy's near-jazz vocals made me think the song would be a little too old-school for me. It wasn't until the ballad Warwick Avenue that I fell in love with her. The song is simple enough, but as heart-felt as anything from Back to Black. Duffy approaches the song with a subtle confidence at first, but loses composure as the second verse closes. By the final bridge, tears are imminent as she laments the end of a relationship, and is finally forced to let go of any lingering optimism that the union will see better days. In Stepping Stone, she reclaims the stride that heartbreak took from her, confidently informing a former lover to "take it all, or leave me alone." Of the 10 songs on Duffy's Rockferry, only two are worth skipping. With Syrup and Honey she takes on a pseudo lounge singer persona that doesn't particularly compliment the rest of the album, and the title track is simply dull. The rest of Duffy's Rockferry beams with a satisfying blend of charm and sincerity that makes it easily one of the best albums of the year.
What 19-year-old Adele lacks in charm, she makes up for in depth. Listening to her debut album 19 can be daunting. At times the writing is a little too self-sorrowful (I'm making that a word), and her vocals aren't the most inviting. But, 19 remains an enjoyable listen, if only because it's tremendously relatable. There's a sense of loss that resonates throughout 19 that most anyone who's ever left something or someone behind can approach with empathy. Lead single Chasing Pavements is good, but it's the album's second single, Cold Shoulder, that sees Adele at her best. I often tend to relate music, especially soul or R&B, to every-day life, and taken as reality, Cold Shoulder is perhaps the bravest plea for love gone stale that I've ever heard. In it, Adele confronts a lover who has obviously lost interest, admitting that "when you look at me, I wish I was her." That's the sort of confession that takes a lot to admit to anyone, and it's that same vulnerability that makes the song as heartbreaking as it is enjoyable. By the song's climax, Adele leaves the listener wondering if she is indeed the main event, or possibly singing the song from the perspective of a woman who's grown tired of playing on the sideline, "Time and time again I play the role of fool, just for you." The rest of 19 is full of angst ridden confessions and sorrow drenched vocals, which don't necessarily make it fun, but fulfilling none-the-less.
Oh, and Leona Lewis is boring…vocally…visually...generally. Boring. But Better in Time might be my shit.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
With 808s & Heartbreaks, Kanye is taking a risk by playing it safe. The general consensus surrounding the use of auto-tune to supplement vocals in contemporary R&B and Hip-Hop is that it's nearing played-out status. What T-Pain saturated the market with four years ago has progressively become a crutch for artists desperate for a hit, or a vocal cover-up. How T-Pain managed to ride the vocoder wave to pop-culture relevancy is beyond me, but of late, other artists are finding it harder and harder to gain guaranteed radio play with a little vocal distortion (Who's really checking for Ciara's Go Girl?). Keeping all of that in mind, why would Kanye find this as an appropriate time to release an album entirely consisting of auto-tune use?
Publicly, Kanye has very much established himself as a trendsetter. From music to fashion, and wherever else he places his finger, the man has a way of making most anything his own. That's why it comes as no surprise that even as he uses the auto-tune device on his latest single, Love Lockdown, it still manages to standout from most anything else on Top 40 radio today. While I'm not necessarily a fan of Love Lockdown in particular (dude is really singing, like, for real), the handful of other songs that I've heard from 808s & Heartbreaks stand as some of Kanye's best work to date.
Easily the standout of the bunch, Heartless sees Kanye tauntingly responding to the wrath of an ex over a beat that's slick enough to ease you from the car-ride, right into the club. The writing is as stellar as the production, as Kanye effortlessly illustrates the pain accompanying a break-up with a seamless balance of bluster and vulnerability. Robocop opens with a taste of 80s-tinged electronica that provides the backdrop for the rest of the song's effectively clunky production. Though the beat becomes a bit cluttered toward the bridge, it is salvaged by a smooth transition into the much more aurally-welcoming chorus. Like Love Lockdown, Kanye sings his way through Coldest Winter, but there's an air of desperation in his voice that gives the latter a sense of candor that makes it infinitely more personable than the former. The strain that rests in Kanye's vocals throughout the song loans relevance to the sentiment of its lyrics, as he wonders if he'll "ever love again."
Unlike other artists, Kanye's use of auto-tune on the four tracks above doesn't hamper their appeal. His reliance on the device is a reflection of his fascination with it, and an artist has to follow their inspiration. While some might argue that 808s & Heartbreaks looks to stand as a regression for Mr. West, I see the effort shaping up to be much more of a reinvention.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Still, after the show I couldn't help but to wonder why Janet's career has had such a rough time in recent years. She's one of very few established pop artists in the industry right now, who just can't seem to catch a break. Discipline, her latest effort, opened at number one on the Billboard albums chart, yet people were quick to point out that her sales numbers were well below those of her hey-day. Since the Superbowl incident, Janet has been hung out to dry, and it really surprises me that more people haven't really stopped to think about the principle behind her downfall.
So much of the criticism surrounding Janet is in response to her sexuality in relation to her age. Too many news writers and music reviewers go after Janet for being just as engaged with her sexuality at 42 as she was at 25; but I'm not sure there's a problem with her refusal to conceal her randyness. It's no secret that we live in a society that assigns an expiration date to women, so that what was sexy when you were in your 20s is deemed desperate and un-appealing by the time you're 35; but why is a woman supposed to pack up her sexuality, throw on a cardigan, and start birthing babies as she begins approaching 40?
While I'll admit that Janet sometimes teeters the line between sexy ("Anytime, Anyplace") and trashy ("there's no place warmer than my mouth"), she still has every right to be respected as a sexual being. R. Kelly's been riding the same bump n' grind shtick for his entire career and no one has asked him to tone it down as he moves into his 40s. No wonder our society has produced mass amounts of overly-botoxed and desperately insecure middle-aged women, who think that the only way for them to remain sexy is to remain youthful.
Age is a reality, and perhaps we should stop setting our women up for failure. The same women that we appreciate in their 20s will eventually greet their 40s, and they shouldn't be expected to simply turn off the switch on their sexuality. While a woman's worth is certainly weighted on more than just her sex appeal, that worth shouldn't be depleted as she ages simply because she refuses to ignore her sexual inclinations.
Janet's catching flack because she refuses to be objectified, by engaging her sexuality on her own terms instead, and that sort of agency pisses people off. Over the span of her more than 20-year career she has covered racism, sexism, domestic abuse, and gay rights, among other things. At 42, why can't she have a little fun?