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Archive for the ‘Pop’ Category

Do TV Commercials Ruin Good Songs? (Yeah, Pretty Much)

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This week I was planning to write about Chicago pop-experimentalists, Walter Meego (the cool guys in the glasses), whose first studio album, Voyager (Sony 2008), was released last month. (Yes, Walter Meego is actually two people. No, neither one is named Walter or Meego). Unfortunately, an unexpected monkey wrench was thrown smack into the middle of my best laid plans.

Here’s what happened: I was watching some soccer on TV over the weekend when a new Heineken commercial promoting their idiotic “Beertender” home mini-kegerator came on. I guess it might not be so idiotic if Heineken didn’t taste like unfiltered Dutch canal water. But it does. So as far as I’m concerned it’s idiotic. Anyway, the song featured prominently in the “Home Bars” ad spot in question (watch the ad here) brought an instant scowl to my face. “Those Heineken beer-Nazi sonofabitches,” I said to no one but the television, “they jacked my fucking song — already.” The song was Walter Meego’s “Forever,” which just happens to be my favorite Walter Meego song. (Listen to it here).

Sonofabitches.

Now, it was ruined. Forever. “Forever” was ruined forever. Or so I felt. My favorite song from a relatively new and largely unknown experimental pop group (what the hell is experimental pop anyway?) had been reduced to nothing more than another cheap cog in the beer world’s mega-marketing wheel of death and societal detriment. Weren’t alternative/indie musicians like Walter Meego supposed to tell advertisers to fuck off when asked to use their songs anyway? What gives?

At first I wished that I had just never seen the commercial. That would’ve made everything okay. Unfortunately my Men In Black “Flashy Thing” has been broken for years. (Except when it comes to finding my keys). So that option was out.

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I Believe the Expression I’m Looking for is…..Ho, Sit Down!

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I guess it was only a matter of time, right?

Sadly the wondrous glory of a blissfully long Memorial Day weekend was darkened almost immediately as Tuesday, May 27th marked the digital release of no-talent-ass-clown for-hire, Lindsay Lohan’s first single off her forthcoming album called…..oh wait, she hasn’t been able to think of a name yet.

That’s okay, Linds, thinking’s hard.

But judging by the sounds coming from the new single, unoriginally entitled, “Bossy,” singing’s even harder.

After listening to “Bossy” a few times and doing some light poking around (and by that I mean research, not the other thing) I realized several things. First, Lindsay’s record company, Motown Records, spent what can only have been a shit-ton (to borrow an expression from Roswell) of money on the making of this track. “Bossy” is written by none other than Shaffer Smith (aka Ne-Yo), who is among the most in-demand songwriters for pop/R&B crossover records, and whose words don’t come cheap — they seem to virtually guarantee a hit record. (Evidence: Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable,” Rihanna’s “Unfaithful,” “Take a Bow,” and “Hate That I Love You,” Mario’s “Let Me Love You,” and his own “So Sick” and “Sexy Love.)”

Motown spared no expense on the production of “Bossy’s” synth-heavy pop/R&B crossover beat (a formula that’s been working well lately), luring fellow hit-guarantors (and frequent Ne-Yo collaborators) Stargate to do the heavy lifting. The Norwegian duo (no, seriously, they’re two dorky white boys) headed up the production end of nearly all the above-listed singles, along with 2007’s Beyonce/Shakira duet “Beautiful Liar,” Jordin Sparks’ “Tattoo” and Mariah Carey’s most recent single, “Bye Bye.” Fresh off successful productions from Ne-Yo’s Year of the Gentleman, Mary J. Blige’s Growing Pains and Usher’s Here I Stand, Stargate are commanding nearly top-dollar for their radio-friendly, pop/R&B sound.

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Sam Sparro – Complex or Confused? (Part II of II)

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(If you haven’t read last week’s post, “Sam Sparro – Complex or Confused? Part I of II,” click here to backtrack to it before reading Part II below).

First let me start by apologizing for taking so long to get you guys Part II of the Sam Sparro story.

Frankly, I blame the drugs.

(And Hillary Clinton).

That being said, buckle up for the longest post of all time. But I’m throwing in links to all the songs, as well as a few pictures to make up for it. Okay, here we go………

So I realize that giving up Sparro’s excellent first single, “Black and Gold,” as an introduction to his music is a little like having sex on the first date — I gave up the goods without making you work for them. But as is often the case after people have sex on the first date, I wasn’t merely placated or satisfied by hearing “Black and Gold,” rather my appetite was whetted, and I was left wanting more. (Um, more Sam Sparro, that is). If anything, “Black and Gold” succeeded in roping me into the house of mirrors that is Sam Sparro. Now, I was trapped.

But how does the rest of his first album hold up in comparison to its lead single? Does it pale or do the other tracks back it up? Exactly what kind of music does this kid make anyway? And what of the God references? Was “Black and Gold” a one shot deal that just happened to be about Sparro’s search for God? Or would I discover the world’s first “Electro-soul spoof-disco-pop mixed with religious-funk-house” album, with lyrics wrought with religious references and questions at every turn? Because while I like to consider myself as having an eclectic and wide-ranging musical taste — and with apologies to the elder Mr. Falson — Christian Rock just isn’t among my preferred genres, nor do I plan on making it one.

Well the truth is, Sparro’s self-titled album is, not surprisingly, much like he is — it’s a true reflection of himself. Not an exact reflection, that isn’t what I mean. But an honest reflection, a real one. Shrouded in mixed signals yet entirely open to interpretation. Questioning, yes, but only in his authoritative and ever-urgent voice. Bouncing from one genre to another, with only ambiguous connections in between. Serious and introspective in one moment, then bubbly and ridiculous in the next. A God-fearing man of faith who also happens to smoke mad weed. Maybe. Who hides his pain behind fun, friendly, and sometimes silly dance tracks. In other words, Sam Sparro the album and Sam Sparro the man are both, well…..consistently inconsistent. Complex and confusing. Unsurprisingly surprising. (Now how’s that for confusion?)

But that isn’t to say there’s no meat left on the album’s bones after “Black and Gold.” True, it is quite easily the best track on Sparro’s album — I’ll tell you that right up front. But that’s largely due to its accessibility. The track just somehow works, and you don’t even have to think about why. And though three different listeners might put “Black and Gold” in three different genres of music, none of the three would find themselves saying, “What the fuck am I listening to?”

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Sam Sparro – Complex or Confused? (Part I of II)

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Sam Sparro is an intriguing character. Everything about him seems not exactly mysterious, but at least somewhat cloudy: his name, age, heritage, sexuality, religious influences, musical pedigree, lyrics, intentions, and sense of humor are all cloaked in one way or another. Even his album cover is a bit disguising.

And then there’s his music.

Don’t even try to define that.

House?…Soul?… Spoof?…Funk?

Electro?…Disco?…Religious?…Pop?

Electro-soul spoof-disco-pop mixed with religious- funk-house??? It’s enough to make you crazy.

Or maybe it’s just plain fun. Because when you get past Sam Sparro the man, and instead just focus on his music, things can get extremely enjoyable. But whether or not Sparro wants his listeners to ignore his upbringing, lifestyle, and motivations in order to just hear his music is up for debate. Though I think he’d like us to be able to understand him, I’d still love the chance to ask him how he feels. But there is one thing about Sam Sparro that is neither mysterious nor cloudy, complex nor confused. In fact it’s not even remotely questionable:

“Black and Gold,” the first single off Sparro’s just-released eponymous first album (Island 2008), is absolutely and completely undeniable. It is currently sitting at Number Two on the UK Singles Chart, bested only by the musical atrocity that is “4 Minutes” from Madonna and Justin Timberlake. (What? Bitter? Who, me? Nahhhhhh.) Sparro’s voice is remarkably dark and soulful, especially for a young, white, hipster-looking kid. He sings with a tinge of yearning and palpable sense of urgency — when Chaka Khan first heard Sparro sing years ago she’s said to have exclaimed, “Damn! That white boy can sing.” — and the accompanying beat is utterly infectious. It seeps slowly into you, and doesn’t leave easily.

Now I’m not claiming “Black and Gold” is a great song, or even a good one, though I happen to think highly of it. It’s just that you can’t deny it. It’s insistent. Kind of like “Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn and John — you may not even like their music (I don’t) or the song itself (meh), but there’s just something about it that ropes you in a little bit no matter what you do. The same is true of Sparro’s “Black and Gold.” You don’t have to be a loyal customer of whatever kind of music it is that Sparro is selling, you just can’t help but buy in, even if only for a second.

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Written by Jonathan

April 30, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Who the F**K is M. Pokora?

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At this point in time, that’s still a good question for most of us. Unless of course you happen to live in France. In which case you already know exactly who this guy is. And you’ve probably seen his nipples. Many times.

Huh?

Okay, let me start by saying it’s not an easy task to find a picture of M. Pokora (né Matthieu Totta, aka Matt Pokora, bka M. Pokora — something about lawsuits — don’t ask, it’s the French) with his shirt on. Kind of like Matthew McConaughey. The guy seems allergic to shirts. Or maybe it’s that shirts are allergic to him. Either way, he’s just that kind of, um, artiste, because what he really is…well, what he really was… is a French pop star. In fact, Pokora even got his pop start in 2003 on a dreadful Euro TV show aptly named, Popstars, which sounds like a gloriously hedonistic mash-up of American Idol and Diddy’s Making the Band: Part 47 on MTV.

In other words, just a level of awesomeness that us Americans cannot even fathom nor comprehend. (Oh well, our loss.)

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