Nevermind The Posers

See ya in the pit.

2010 Grammys- Taylor Swift’s Day or Mayday February 5, 2010

By Gregory Swindasz

So the Grammys are all said and done, but the dust storm known as Taylor Swift has not yet settled.  Taking home the most honored award in the music industry has not helped the doe-eyed country phenomena, in fact, it seems to have only hurt her future.  As we all know, after the Kayne West MTV VMA embarrassment, Swift was on top of her game.  Even Obama called West a “jackass”.  We all felt bad for the cute young sacran-sweet blond from Tennessee.  Her teenage ballads remind us of a time when we were young and hopeful for our fairytale ending (“Love Story”) or of the vulnerable times of young lives (“Fifteen”), but no one, at least of those who I have spoken to, thought she deserved what she got – either at the VMAs or the Grammys.

With contenders like “I Am…Sasha Fierce” (Beyoncé) and “The Fame” (Lady Gaga), Swift’s “Fearless” did not seem to compare for Album of the Year.  As cute as the songs are, this was not game changing music that would go down in the anthems of American music history.  Songs like “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” or “Poker Face” had a bigger impact on the music world then “Fifteen”.

This is only one piece of the puzzle.  Her performance at the Grammy Awards (and really at any other live on-air performance) was less than stellar.  So much so it prompted CEO of Big Machine Records, Scott Borchetta, to say to the Associated Press: “This is not `American Idol.’  This is not a competition of getting up and seeing who can sing the highest note.  This is about a true artist and writer and communicator.  It’s not about that technically perfect performance.”  When the CEO of your record label has to compare the Grammys to American Idol to defend your seemingly undeserved victory, something is off, and it’s not just her pitch.

There is something off here.  Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Green Day and so many others gave perfect and amazing performances.  Beyoncé whipping her hair around as she bounced up and down on her knees, Gaga singing with Sir Elton John, or even the triumphant claim by Will.i.am at the end of the Black Eyed Peas performance “Welcome to the future” is what the Grammys are all about.  I’m sorry Taylor, if you’re going to win Album of the Year, at least sing on key.

There could have been something else here.  I remember hearing a few months ago that Swift was what the young people wanted, so the music industry was going to give it to them.  If giving Swift this highest of honors was in some way a shot at reclaiming sales lost to piracy, then that truly is the furthest thing from honorable.  Personally, I don’t believe that’s true.  We will all just have to watch and see how things go.  There is something off here, maybe it is just her pitch or maybe we will never know.

 

The 52nd Annual Grammys…A Fresh Perspective on a Time Honored Tradition

By Angela Blasi

So this year was my first time actually sitting down and watching “The biggest night in music”.  I have to say I’ve heard a lot of hype about the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, along with shameless name dropping that made me want to tune in.

Kicking off the show was the amazingly talented Lady Gaga performing her hit “Poker Face”.  I’m a huge Lady Gaga fan, I have no idea why, but I like her more and more every single time I see her.  This evening only helped strengthen my obsession and respect for her as an artist.  When the twin pianos, adorned with mannequin arms stretched towards the ceiling, rolled down stage to reveal both Lady Gaga AND Sir Elton John, done up in dirty futuristic fashion only the two of them could pull off flawlessly, the precedent for the evening had been set.  More-so, being able to hear her live vocals as well as watching her play piano, I was truly able to gain more insight to her as a talented musician and song writer.  It was a stellar performance in which the legends of the music industry passed the torch to its brightest and most talented.  And I must note, Lady Gaga rarely took her eyes off Sir Elton John.  I can’t blame her.  To be that young with all her success and already sharing a stage with nothing less than a musical god, I wouldn’t tear my eyes away either.

I could highlight each performance, but with three hours worth of material to cover and my penchant for detail, we could be here awhile.  So, I will talk about what stuck out most for me.  First off, Green Day’s performance of “21 Guns” off their latest album 21st Century Breakdown with the upcoming Broadway musical ensemble providing harmonies and vocals.  This brought the music of Green Day to a level I could have never thought possible.  Now, please understand, I’ve been a devout fan of this trio for the last 16 years of my life.  To wrap my mind around the fact that I’ve grown up listening to Green Day is phenomenal.  Say whatever you want about the band or their music,  they have become a solid punk rock legend in the world of music, in addition to winning another Grammy later in the night.  They have never disappointed me with any live show and their performance this evening solidifies their place as truly talented artists that had the power and longevity to change the face of the music industry forever.  Oh, and you can bet I’m going to buy a ticket to the Broadway show ASAP.

Taylor Swift is another name worth talking about.  I’m not necessarily a country music fan or a Taylor Swift fan, but the girl is definitely a rising star.  I think what I love most about her is just how genuine she is about all her recent fame.  Maybe it’s because she’s just so young or the country background, but she maintains a graciousness and sense of reality often lacking in many young success stories.  Her acceptance speech in which she says she’s accepting an impossible dream was brief, but eloquently stated.  I’m not about to buy a ticket to her show or even her album, but I can’t deny that the girl is actually talented.  Not to mention her performance along side Stevie Nicks was fantastic.  Go Taylor Swift.  I think she deserves her success and I hope she achieves great things in her career.

Now, when Beyoncé broke down “If I Were A Boy” and suddenly started singing Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know”, I couldn’t help but be disappointed.  Not by Beyoncé’s performance, but at the fact that Alanis herself didn’t pop out from behind a curtain somewhere to join in on the vocals.  It wasn’t bad, but the 90’s kid in me really wanted to see that.  Personally would have loved the hell out of it, but I think she did the song well and it flowed seamlessly in and out from her own music into Alanis’s smash hit.

I had to laugh at the brief moment when the Grammy director fell asleep and let Justin Bieber and Ke$ha take the stage together to remind the audience they could vote for the song Bon Jovi would be performing later in the evening.  Standing, or rather staggering, a good three feet above Justin Bieber, Ke$ha stood in all her white trash “you’s nothin’ but a ho” glory.  And Bieber, well, he managed to say “Beyoncé'” instead of “Bon Jovi”, stating that “Beyoncé is always on his mind…sorry Jay”.  If I was Jay-Z, I would have smacked the kid upside his head just because he’s a tool (really no other reason).  Up until that moment, I had the running thought of “wow, these are some seriously talented artists and it’s great to see some of the music industry’s most powerful voices and artists in one place”.  As a musician, it’s inspiring to see.  But then these two took the stage and I thought “wait…what the fuck are they doing at the Grammys…they sure as hell don’t belong here”.  At least it wasn’t more than 60 seconds.

So it’s 10:30pm now and a lot has happened over the course of the evening.  I feel as though I’ve gotten my fix with the things I wanted to see.  The rest of the night is pretty damn good, from Bon Jovi to the Michael Jackson tribute.  The Zac Brown Band was amazing and worth mentioning too.  I loved their harmonies, vocals and the level of musicianship alongside another legendary country artist Leon Russell.  This performance was nothing less than impressive and moving.  You know what?  That brings me to the main thing I’ve noticed over the course of the evening.  All night it was a beautiful blend of old and new.  The artists that have carved their place in music history forever seamlessly integrated with the very voices and faces they single-handedly inspired.  I think the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards illustrated just how far music has come, where it’s going, and the fact that everything new grows out of something old.  Without our musical forefathers to break ground for all that is subversive, non conformist, controversial, trendy, or done to pay homage to the true beauty of being passionate about the music, we wouldn’t have new artists to award and milestones to celebrate.

They just better not give Ke$ha a fucking Grammy next year.

 

The 52nd Annual Grammy Awards…Some Thoughts. February 4, 2010

By Tina Teresi

  • First off, I think the Grammy Awards should be offered as a Pay-per-View special or something.  Only the most popular awards get aired on national television while the rest are given out preceding the televised event.  I don’t think the masses even know they give out Grammys for Instrumental, New Age, Jazz, Gospel, Bluegrass, Blues, Folk, Hawaiian, Native American, Latin, Cajun, Reggae, Metal, World, Children, Musicals, Soundtracks and Classical music.  I feel that if you’re winning a Grammy, it should get aired on national television, regardless if it’s trendy or if the recipient is present.  If it was on Pay-per-View at least I’d be able to fast forward the awards/performances I have zero interest in.
  • To the voting members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, please consider airing these categories next year (thank you for adding Best Comedy Album this year [Colbert Christmas, The Best Gift of All], that was cool of you): Best Electronic/Dance Album (The Fame, Lady Gaga), Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance (“Working On A Dream”, Bruce Springsteen), Best Hard Rock Performance (“War Machine”, AC/DC), Best Metal Performance (“Dissident Aggressor”, Judas Priest), Best Reggae Album (Mind Control, acoustic, Stephen Marley) and Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package (Neil Young Achieves Vol. 1- 1963-1972).
  • Taylor Swift’s Fearless took home Best Country Album, I have no problems with that.  What I do have a problem with was her acceptance speech.  She thanked her record label for letting her write her own music.  Way to call attention to an ongoing problem with the major labels out there, Swift.  Hear what Dave “The Klone” has to say about it here.
  • I was not thrilled with Beyoncé’s performance, felt like I’ve seen it before.  And why would she cover ‘You Oughta Know’ by Alanis Morissette?  That was a terrible idea.  Beyoncé did not have the right attitude for the song.  If she was smart, she would have had Morissette on stage and performed it as a duet.  Morissette can kick Beyoncé’s musical ass any day of the week.  That’s right, I said it.
  • The Best New Artist award went to the Zac Brown Band this year.  I would have liked to see it go to The Ting Tings or MGMT instead.  Win some, lose some.
  • I loved that this year the Grammy Awards provided a countdown time with the ‘coming up’ announcements right before a commercial break.  There’s nothing worse than blindly waiting for your favorite artist to take the stage or accept an award.  Well done.  I also loved the commercials.  Watching the Grammys for me is like watching the Super Bowl for others.  You root for your favorite artist/team to win, some people have a party around this event, the commercials are great, you know it cost tons of money to produce it and there are performances.  It’s just a coincidence that there is only a week in-between these two events .
  • The Record of the Year award went home with Kings of Leon for Use Somebody. I’m just happy they won because I’d have some serious beef with the NARAS members if it went to Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Black Eyed Peas or Taylor Swift.  Kudos to Kings of Leon for giving a cool acceptance speech, they told it like it was: “Not going to lie, we’re all a little drunk, but happy drunk”.  They thanked the usual people- their fans, families, God, and their label.  “Whoever else I forgot, I’ll buy you shots afterward”.  I’m still waiting for my shot Nathan Followill.  😉
  • Worst performance of the evening goes to Jamie Foxx singing “Blame It” with T-Pain, Slash and Doug E. Fresh  I felt like it was a variety show, just too much going on at once.  I hate auto-tune.  It can  instantly turn anyone into a rap star, and I think it’s used too often (Jamie Foxx, did you add T-Pain’s Auto-Tune app on your i-Phone?).  If you need to use auto tone, you probably should not be on a stage.  Then Slash walks on stage and a piece of me died.  They could have used any guitar player, (a line of guitar is the only thing that can save a monstrosity of a song like this), but why Slash?  What do you think?  Did Slash take the gig because, well, a gig’s a gig or do you think he likes this song?  Or maybe Jamie Foxx just likes being surrounded by famous people.  I mean, have you seen the video for “Blame It”?  Ron Howard, Jake Gyllenhall, Samuel L. Jackson?
  • What a monstrosity Taylor Swift’s performance was!  I don’t know what the big deal about Taylor Swift is anyway.  I’ve never liked her voice nor thought she was talented enough to be the country pop star that she is today.  How embarrassing to perform with your so-called “idol” and be singing off-key.  Swift is 20 years old and with this performance, proved that she’s not talented enough or ready for the Grammys.  Never mind Jamie Foxx, Taylor Swift just took the worst performance of the evening from you.
  • It’s hard to believe that Bon Jovi has never performed at the Grammys before; it’s even harder to believe they limited his song selection to three choices so that the fans could vote.  I imagine that if I were in a band as awesome as Bon Jovi and performing at the Grammy Awards for the very first time that I would want to choose my entire set list.  They start with “We Weren’t Born to Follow” then joined by Jennifer Nettles for “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” and finish with fan’s choice of “Livin’ on a Prayer”.  I like how no one told Jennifer Nettles to get off stage after her song.  The fans voted on the song, not on her sharing the vocals.
  • Best Rock Album, what a misleading bunch of nominees.  I had no problem with Black Ice by AC/DC, Live From Madison Square Garden by Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood or the winner 21st Century Breakdown by Green Day.  My problem was with someone placing U2’s No Line On The Horizon and Dave Matthews Band’s Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King in the Best ROCK Album category.  I’m not a fan of U2 or DMB and most certainly would not consider them in the same genre of rock as the other nominees.  Congratulations Green Day, let’s hope 21st Century Breakdown really is the Best Rock Album of the year, and you better knock on wood, find a four-leaf clover and rub a rabbit’s foot that your musical isn’t a flop.
  • Honestly, I think the rumor of Taylor Swift winning Album of the Year because of the Kanye West incident at the MTV Music Awards was true.  After her horrific performance with Stevie Nicks, how could anyone believe she deserves this award?  Granted, I’m not a fan of the other nominees this year, but anyone would have been a better choice than Swift.  Deep down, everyone knew she didn’t deserve this award, even her.
 

Shovelware, A Rant January 22, 2010

by Daniel Petrino

In the PC/Gaming world, there’s a phrase applied to software that is more prolific in its quantity rather than quality: shovelware. From Wikipedia:

Shovelware is a derogatory computer jargon term that refers to software noted more for the quantity of what is included than for the quality or usefulness. The term is also used to refer to software that is ported from one computer platform or storage medium to another with little thought given to adapting it for use on the destination platform or medium, resulting in poor quality.

“The metaphor implies that the creators showed little care for the original software, as if the new compilation or version had been indiscriminately created/ported with a shovel, without any care shown for the condition of the software on the newly created product.”

As the musical landscape transforms and evolves into a medium where genres are bent, crossed and synthesized into something completely new, I find more and more of what I’ve come to call Shovelpop. Don’t think I’m about to go on a rant about pop music; I like pop music – GOOD pop music. Nearly every artist on today’s Top 40 has some pop element to their music if they’re not straight up pop. There’s a large swathe of pop music that I consider “good,” but there’s more and more Shovelpop being pushed onto the radio than I can take. Let me start with some of my favorite pop music:

The Cardigans – EVERYONE knows them for their pop monster “Lovefool,” aided in no small part by its inclusion in 1996 soundtrack from Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The first thing I think of whenever I hear “Lovefool” is Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in their iconic roles.
But can anyone else name any other song The Cardigans released? Does “My Favourite Game” ring a bell? Did you know they did an absolutely heavenly cover of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man?” Did you know they’ve put out six studio albums? SIX! The Cardigans are one of my favorite examples of good pop music. Each one of their albums has a totally different feel to it while retaining the soft pop sound that makes them unique and an absolute pleasure to listen to. Their last album, Super Extra Gravity, has some fantastic photographs within its CD booklet pages, not to mention great songs like “I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer” and “Don’t Blame Your Daughter (Diamonds),” the latter having one of the oddest and macabre music videos I’ve seen in quite some time.

Robyn – Tina and I did a Music Swap of Robyn’s latest pop offering, and while she wasn’t overly impressed, I’ve loved Robyn’s self-titled return to the music world since I heard the first single, “Konichiwa Bitches.”
Robyn’s new sound is somewhere between electro-pop and rap, between aggressive female re-establishing herself as an artist and fragile, sensitive woman. You’ll never hear the playful, piano-banging “Jack You Off” or vulnerable “With Every Heartbeat” on the radio, but it’s better than half the pollution that clogs the airwaves. Her music videos are a must-see! Oh, and be sure to listen to her sing on Royksopp’s track “The Girl and the Robot!”

Katy Perry – So “I Kissed A Girl” may seem a little gimmicky, but damn if it didn’t establish her as an artist to watch out for, and she delivered. Her music is infectious, aggressive and great to dance to. She’s almost the new, pop version of Alanis.Le

Lenka – Lenka’s self-titled debut is sweet without being saccharine. Her music is light pop fare, but her voice is delicious, especially when juxtaposed with some of her darker songs. “Trouble Is a Friend” is absolutely haunting; “The Show” is positively sparkling.

The Pipettes – A female pop import from the UK, The Pipettes are reminiscent of female pop trios of days gone by. Catchy, upbeat pop beats coupled with a harmonizing trio of ladies provide such pop gems as “Pull Shapes” and “Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me.”

Kylie Minogue – She’s the fucking queen of pop overseas. “In My Arms” and “Love At First Sight” are my favorite Kylie songs.

La Roux – She falls in a similar vein as Robyn, but her music is a little more 8-bit electro-pop. “Bulletproof” and “Quicksand” are definitely standout tracks.

Lady GaGa – What can I say about her? She’s the Princess of Pop to Madonna’s Queen. Not an overly huge fan of some songs on Fame Monster, but I enjoyed most of The Fame.

Pink – For an artist who consistently releases popular singles, I feel like she doesn’t get the credit she deserdigansves. “Humble Neighborhoods” is an amazing song.

September – She had a minor hit a couple summers ago with “Cry For You,” and although she never quite took off in the US, she’s a monster in Europe with a handful of albums. And if you question her voice, look for the acoustic version of “Cry For You” on YouTube. It will break your heart.

Okay, so what about Shovelpop? What music did I endure to set off this rant. Jessie James and Kristinia DeBarge happened. If you’ve never heard of either of these ladies, count yourself among the lucky.

Jessie James takes her musical cues from such ladies as Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill and Miley Cyrus, except she’s less talented and more of a whore. She’s toured with the Jonas Brothers and Kid Rock. She’s worked with some pretty big producers of both pop and country music. Unfortunately her voice is better suited to a karaoke bar somewhere south of Nashville. My left toenail is more exciting than listening to her music, and her music videos are essentially softcore porn set to her own Shovelpop. She should be a stripper.

Kristinia DeBarge is WORSE than Jessie James. At least James has a country feel to her music, whereas DeBarge’s music is just a fucking mess. Screws and washers in a glass jar would create better music than the repugnant shit DeBarge “sings” over. And her “dancing” bears closer resemblance to a striptease than any “dance” I’ve ever seen. It looks like she developed early and discovered the way to get what you want is shake your rack in the faces of everyone…which is probably how she got a music deal. She comes from a musical family – her father, James DeBarge, was the youngest member of the group DeBarge – so that explains how she got a music deal.

Listening to these two “artists” is like nails on a chalkboard, and it’s clear that their music was shoveled down to whoever put it on the radio. Even Britney’s “3” is a fucking mess. It sounds like a mesh of everything else she’s ever done, so either her producers are getting lazy or they’re running out of Frappucinnos to lure her into the studio.

Even though I like Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK,” it’s an atrocious song. Is it dancey? Yes. Is it catchy? Absolutely. Does it sound like one of the drunk bitches from Jersey Shore did the vocals for it? Totally. She’s like the inebriated, trashy version of Lady GaGa, Amanda Lepore and September; she sounds like she’s singing with either bubble gum or a dick in her mouth! I don’t know why I act like I’m surprised by what I just typed. Take a look at the track names on her album and you’ll know what you’re in for. I swear she ripped some of this stuff from The Donnas, whom I LOVE. Remember Flo-Rida’s monster hit “Right Round?” Ke$ha did the female vocal. I’m sure she’s no stranger to poles, both metallic and phallic iterations. Oh, and when I refer to Ke$ha “singing,” I mean slurring, because she’s clearly wasted on every track.

Has everyone heard the Taylor Swift wannabe Orianthi? Ugh. It feels like anyone who kind of vaguely sounds like another popular artist gets a record deal, puts out some crappy single and BAM, more Shovelpop fodder for the masses.

And what the hell does Justin Bieber have to sing about? Growing hair under his armpits and using deodorant?! He doesn’t know what love is! Does he know what a vagina is? Does he even know where babies come from?

You might notice an absence of Miley, The Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, etc… They are part of the Disney Corporation. They have teams of marketing and PR people ready at the drop of a hat. They’re produced, packaged and sold…they’re kind of like the music version of High Fructose Corn Syrup…they may seem innocuous, but little does anyone realize they’re slowly eroding the standards of good music…like how HFCS erodes nutritional value, and that shit is in EVERYTHING. High Fructose Pop Music…I’ll save it for another rant.

It’s just upsetting when you see bands who are insanely talented, but don’t have record deals because record companies are more concerned with making a quick dollar off some carbon-copy prostit-tot than actually getting good music on the radio. At least commercials have slowly been bucking the trend, featuring good artists like Ida Maria, Cage the Elephant, Passion Pit, Kenna and Phoenix to sell their products.

I can only pray the new year brings some new music over the radio waves, or I’ll listen to less radio in 2010 than I did in 2009.