[ Friday, February 20, 2004 ]
Three quick things on a snowy Friday...
1. Finally we have some honesty.
2. Judging by the new season, CHAPPELLE'S SHOW has now joined THE DAILY SHOW and reruns of THE OFFICE as the funniest thing on TV.
3. Just because I'm updating again doesn't mean I want to end the previous discussion, about pop radio. It's a good discussion, one which I want to continue. So keep on...
On the box right now: Courtney Love, AMERICA'S SWEETHEART. I couldn't resist. Loud, brash, rocking, ragged, somewhat sad, filthy rock and roll. Not great, but not bad either.
Dove With Claws [8:29 AM]
[ Thursday, February 19, 2004 ]
Somewhere along the line, recently, the normally hopeless morass that is pop radio became not only unembarrassing, but downright good
. This is not the way things used to be, of course. I very rarely listen to the radio, pop or otherwise, but the other day I did happen to turn on a Top 40-based station, the kind which usually drives me towards thoughts of homicide. Here's a sampling of what I heard, in about an hour:
Jet, "Are You Gonna Be My Girl"; OutKast, "The Way You Move"; Twista w/Kanye West, "Slow Jamz"; The Darkness, "I Believe In A Thing Called Love"; Sheryl Crow, "The First Cut Is The Deepest"; Alicia Keys, "You Don't Know My Name"; Jay-Z (w/The Neptunes), "Change Clothes"
Now, that's a pretty good slate of material, particularly for a random sampling in a compressed time-frame. More importantly, perhaps, the level of cheese was at a minimum (Ruben Studdard and Britney Spears being the only true offenders). What prompted this change? I've thought some about it, and, rather than try to come up with the reasons the radio sounds like it does NOW, I'm ready to set the blame for why it sucked so bad BEFORE. And the culprit...
...alternative rock. Now, before you all start hammering away at the keyboards to tell me I'm full of five kinds of shit, let me 'splain. The grunge/alterna movements of the early-90s created essentially two currents in programming. One was alt-rock itself, which for a while really did seem like it was going to take over the world. Now, some of the music that got a bunch of airplay, airplay which it otherwise wouldn't have recieved (like Gin Blossoms, Elastica, Dionne Farris, Hole) prompted by this packet of mini-revolutions was truly exciting. (I also don't include the major first wave of Nirvana, Pearl Jam etc. in this critique, so calm down...I don't mean to cast aspersions at that crew.) A lot of the music that got unearthed during the major labels' feeding frenzy for anything with flannel shirts, tousled hair and down-tuned minor-key angst, though, was simply bad, uninteresting stuff that was just as annoying to me as the worst boy-band confections.
And, speaking of that, there was this other trend. The counter-programming to the tide of alterna-rock that dominated certain strands of the airwaves was to go in the opposite direction. The happy, constructed, safe direction. With singer-songwriters dominating the alt movement, studio writers, musicians and producers were called into action to produce what became the newest wave of teen-based pop, which is basically a mixture of light hip-hop/R&B and club influences. When that stuff, from Britney and Backstreet to Ricky and the Baha Men, became ubiquitous is when I really remember beginning to hate the radio (and MTV, for that matter, which has also begun to redeem itself in my mind). Not that there weren't great singles being made by teen popsters (or that there wasn't other great stuff coming from hip-hop, rock et cetera), but pop radio's nadir was marked by the beginning of that brief madness, madness stimulated by the reversal of fortunes caused by the rise of alt-rock.
What's so great about what's happening now is that two strands of music that have always proven most fertile for the production of great singles have re-emerged as dominant. One is trad-rock, whether garage or metal, and the other is R&B/hip-hop. Great production, great songs, and an unpretentious attempt to kick out the jams means that I don't have to limit my radio usage to a few safe havens (WORT, WSUM) or to very brief snippets of the latest crazes. Costello was right about radio, and those truths still prove valid, but right now is the right time for a rediscovery of the joys of AM/FM. As Van Morrison says, "turn it up a little higher, radio, so you know it's got soul."
On the box right now: The Proclaimers, BORN INNOCENT. I know what you're thinking, but this is really a good record, high-energy roots-rock with strong songwriting and lively performances. I always liked "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," but this is the first time a Proclaimers album has impressed me.
Dove With Claws [8:40 PM]
[ Sunday, February 15, 2004 ]
White Like Me
So I study black history and culture, right, and I sometimes go and do presentations in classrooms, for middle-and-high-school students mainly, about issues in said history. I'm confident that I know what I'm talking about, and I'm usually well-recieved (or, at least, that's what they tell me), but I still have this nagging doubt that I'm gonna be found out. Well, "found out" may be the wrong words, since I don't know that I'm hiding anything per se. As I said, I'm confident in my abilities.
But I'm still a white guy. And white guys are still, by and large, deficient in qualities inherent to an understanding of the complicated nature of the American race problem. Now, my greatest asset as a somewhat educated and enlightened person is that I understand that, as a white guy, I am lacking in these areas, and am unafraid to admit it. I also like to think that the positive feedback I've gotten from associates I trust (of all races, both genders) has been honest and earned.
But I'm still a fucking neurotic, and I must constantly be reminded of two things: 1) I'm not an idiot (at least when it comes to this stuff) and, more importantly, 2) It's what I'm talking about, not what ancestry I come from, that really matters. As long as the story is being told by me in a relatively decent way, which I hope it is by now, it shouldn't be an issue.
But, maybe I'm just a phony. A jive-ass honky motherfucker. Oh well.
On the box right now: ST. VALENTINE'S DAY MASSACRE...more on that later.
Dove With Claws [9:32 PM]